Mar
18
2011

NYT Explains Peculiar Japanese Customs

The New York Times (3/17/11) presents a look at the Japanese government's lack of candor about the Fukushima nuclear disaster. At first we're given the impression that this is something cultural: "The less-than-straight talk is rooted in a conflict-averse culture that avoids direct references to unpleasantness." We don't have that problem, I guess. Then, we're told, Japanese media are to blame: Left-leaning news outlets have long been skeptical of nuclear power and of its backers, and the mutual mistrust led power companies and their regulators to tightly control the flow of information about nuclear operations so as not to inflame […]

Nov
29
2010

For NYT, Okinawan Public Opinion a 'Wrench,' a 'Thorn' and a 'Headache'

Today's New York Times piece (11/29/10) on the re-election of a governor of Okinawa who opposes the U.S. military base there seems to treat the views of the People Who Live There as one thing to maybe think about, and an annoying, in-the-way thing at that, with residents' resistance described, variously, as a "wrench," a "thorn" and a "headache". (Overall, the piece reads a bit like the reaction of the Japanese national government to Hirokazu Nakaima's re-election as "one manifestation of public opinion." Yes, elections are that.) Majority local opposition to the base is noted second, after the Japanese prime […]

Nov
23
2009

The Unimaginably Awful Japanese Media

The New York Times (11/21/09) describes Japan's elite "press clubs" as a century-old, cartel-like arrangement in which reporters from major news media outlets are stationed inside government offices and enjoy close, constant access to officials. The system has long been criticized as antidemocratic by both foreign and Japanese analysts, who charge that it has produced a relatively spineless press that feels more accountable to its official sources than to the public. In their apparent reluctance to criticize the government, the critics say, the news media fail to serve as an effective check on authority. The mind reels.

Sep
07
2009

WaPo Alarmed: Japan Health Insurance Actually Insures

A September 7 Washington Post report on Japanese healthcare claims that "more than one-third of the workers' premiums are used to transfer wealth from the young, healthy and rich to the old, unhealthy and poor." Which Dean Baker (Beat the Press, 9/7/09) understatedly calls "a striking statement": Fire insurance transfers wealth from people who don't have house fires to people who do. Car insurance transfers money from people who don't have car accidents to people who do. This is the basic concept of insurance. It protects people from bad events, transferring money from people who don't have bad events to […]

May
29
2009

The Trouble With Japanese Media

According to today's New York Times (5/29/09), there's a scandal brewing in the Japanese media. Apparently in its coverage of a current political scandal, the Japanese press has "reported at face value a stream of anonymous allegations, some of them thinly veiled leaks from within the investigation." The Times goes on to note that "big news organizations here have long been accused of being too cozy with centers of power"; the end result is "bland reporting that adheres to the official line. " For their part, journalists "say government officials sometimes try to force them to toe the line with […]

Feb
23
2009

NYT: Not Spending Is Not Saving

Economics blogger Dean Baker asserts that "about the only thing that readers can learn from an article on Japan in the business section today" is that "The New York Times Doesn't Like Japan" (Beat the Press, 2/22/09). Among the piece's "variety of complaints about Japan's economy, many of which are contradictory," is "the standard line about people not spending because deflation means that goods will be cheaper in the future if they wait"–which Baker debunks by noting that, with "deflation…generally less than 1.0 percent," a Japanese shopper "considering buying a $600 television would save approximately 50 cents by delaying the […]