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My Letter to Democratic Party of Japan

Dear DPJ,

I’m sure you’re thrilled you finally managed to take the majority in the Diet. I’m sure you’re happy Aso resigned. I’m sure you’re ecstatic you put your man in charge of the country.


But seriously, must you hire twenty sound cars to blast how great you are at 9:00 a.m.? One car after another it was propaganda after propaganda loud enough to terrify my hamsters. Please, winners ought to be more gracious.



No Dumb Bonds

Before I begin: This post is not about politics. I’m talking about this from a purely financial point of view. Numbers. If anyone leaves comments with political hate-talk, they will be deleted with extreme prejudice.

As we all know, Americans don’t save much. That’s one reason why we have to borrow so much from China, Japan, etc., and it’s obviously a bad thing. In addition, many people are unable to retire due to a lack of sufficient money to fund their golden years. So in order to make it easier for you to save, Obama is proposing several measures. One of them is this:

In a second move, Mr. Obama said the Internal Revenue Service will allow people to check a box on their tax returns and receive their tax refunds in the form of United States savings bonds. White House officials said about 100 million families get tax refunds each year, and the average refund is about $2,000.

This wouldn’t be a bad idea…if U.S. savings bonds actually offered a decent rate of return. According to the US savings bonds website, the interest rates as of September 2009 range from -5.56% (this is not a typo — the website really says that the rate is negative) to 1.5%. So the government gets to keep your federal tax refunds for years and pay you almost nothing. (You know the Chinese demand more than 1.5% on their money.)

If that’s not bad enough, with the current rate of inflation, the value of your money will decrease. If you’re making 1.5% on a bond and the inflation rate is 4% (let’s just say), then your money is worth 2.5% less every year you leave it in the bond. So by saving, you actually lose ground.

The best way to encourage saving is not “allowing” people to put their tax refunds into some savings bonds that pay a nominal and virtually worthless rate of return. It is by raising interest rates and making saving (i.e., delayed gratification) worthwhile.

But I doubt that’s really going to happen. If everyone saves, who’s going to increase consumer spending, the all-important gauge of economic activity in America?

Post-Election Bliss

status: I’m reading Fire in Fiction. It’s actually better than I expected, much more readable than Writing the Breakout Novel.

Yesterday Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (which BTW is neither liberal nor democratic) finally lost its grip on Japanese politics. Mind you, it’s taken…something like fifty years, but who’s counting?

Of course not everyone’s happy about it. There have been sightings of angry drunken old Japanese men screaming, “Change in bad! Any country will tell you that!”

Gad, I love this country.

P.S. I’m loving the post-election silence. No more annoying sound cars, just the dulcet tones of construction drills at 9:00 in the morning.

Usain Bolt’s 9.58 Sec 100 Meter Dash

The man is incredible.

I Think the School Girl Makes Everyone Else Uneasy

Forbes reported that the immigration case involving Noriko Calderon is making Japan uneasy. I’m not sure if the reporter has any clue.

The facts of the case are very clear and cut-and-dried:

  • The Calderons entered Japan illegally using forged passports.
  • They stayed in Japan illegally, again without any proper documentation. They never made any effort to get visas or anything.
  • They had a child (Noriko) in Japan.
  • Japan does not automatically grant citizenship to people born in Japan. So as far as the Immigration Bureau is concerned, Noriko is not a Japanese citizen, despite her Japanese first name.
  • Once the family got caught, the laws had to be applied to be fair to all law-abiding citizens and immigrants in Japan.

The Japanese immigration officials made several concessions and gave the family two options:

Choice A — the entire family returns to their home country.

Choice B — Noriko can stay in Japan and finish her education. She has a relative in Japan. But her parents must return to their home country. Usually deportees cannot return to Japan for five years, but the Ministry of Justice will waive the no-entry-for-five-years rule so that they can visit their daughter.

Some people seem to think that it’s totally unfair that the family gets deported. But the Japanese immigration laws are very clear on the consequences of entering the country illegally and/or overstaying your visa. I’m not sure why people, esp. foreigners, think that the government should let the entire family stay just because the couple had a child in Japan. The last thing Japan wants is a flood of illegal aliens entering Japan on forged passports and having kids so that they can all live in Japan.

Besides, the consequences of allowing the couple to stay and the implication of the decision would be felt everywhere in Japan, esp. for immigrants like me. Japan will most likely increase random ID checks for foreigners so that they can identify and deport illegal aliens as efficiently as possible. I may not even be able to deliver a baby in Japan unless I can prove to my doctors that I’m a lawful immigrant. Furthermore, since the Calderons came to Japan on fake passports, etc. it may take longer to pass through immigration & customs at the international airports and seaports. And the Immigration Bureau will take longer to issue visa renewals, etc. to legitimate immigrants because it may need to check every passport’s authenticity, etc.

All these things will increase the administrative cost, which will be passed on to Japanese citizens and legal immigrants via higher taxes and visa processing fees. The family was able to petition through numerous courts and legal due processes in Japan. Isn’t it about time they accept that they need to pay the price for their actions?

Cheap Gas and Green Cars

Now gas is dirt cheap again in the States. I heard that it’s going for $1.50 / gallon. This is great for many of us short-term as we ride out the current recession. But it’s a disaster if we let the cheap gas lure us into complacency and not innovate green technology, such as solar power, etc.


Because as long as we depend on oil as our primary fuel, we’ll always be at the mercy of the OPEC nations. Take a look at the following list of member countries (* denotes founding member):

  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Ecuador
  • Iran*
  • Iraq*
  • Kuwait*
  • Libya
  • Nigeria
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia*
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Venezuela*

How many of them do you suppose is our ally and promoter of human rights we hold so dear? Not many. We worry about things like gender equality in countries like Iran and Iraq and Nigeria and/or Iranian nuclear threats, etc. Guess what? They can do what they do because we give them lots and lots of money for oil.