Doug Lerner reports from Tokyo and St. Louis, and points beyond…

Posts tagged ‘society’

The case of the stolen tissues

Imagine my surprise.

I had cycled over to Life (the large supermarket nearby) and first went to the side of the store that sells paper products. I bought some things like tissue paper, and it was in a very large bag, so before continuing shopping for food I went outside and left the bag in my bicycle basket.

Without giving it another thought, I went back into the food side of the store and did regular grocery shopping.

When I came out, I was very surprised to see that my bag had been stolen! In my 28 years in Japan, this had never happened to me!

I went to the customer counter to report it and ask if they had a security camera. They didn’t, but called the police for me. It wasn’t a very expensive purchase, but it was the principle of the thing.

While waiting for the police to arrive, the manager came running out of the store to the parking lot carrying my bag! He said somebody thought it was “forgotten” and had brought it to the Lost and Found. Why they would think it was forgotten since it was in my bicycle basket remains a mystery.

The manager said he would call the police and let them know it was found. I bowed and thanked him and he bowed back and I cycled off home.


I am shocked, shocked to learn that Walmart could have used bribery in Mexico to quickly expand its operations. And here whenever I’ve thought of Walmart, the first things to come to mind have been high ethical standards and good citizenship.

What next?



Managing Editor Rick Stengel : “Is there a global tipping point for frustration? Everywhere, it seems, people said they’d had enough. … No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor in a town barely on a map set himself on fire in a public square, it would spark protests that would bring down dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and rattle regimes in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. Or that that spirit of dissent would spur Mexicans to rise up against the terror of drug cartels, Greeks to march against unaccountable leaders, Americans to occupy public spaces to protest income inequality, and Russians to marshal themselves against a corrupt autocracy.

“For capturing and highlighting a global sense of restless promise, for upending governments and conventional wisdom, for combining the oldest of techniques with the newest of technologies to shine a light on human dignity and, finally, for steering the planet on a more democratic though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century, the Protester is TIME’s 2011 Person of the Year.”
See the cover.

ref: Politico Playbook

The Climate of Hate

Good editorial by Paul Krugman in the New York Times:


Arizona and “Second Amendment Remedies”

When will the Sharron Angles and Sarah Palins and their fellow travelers be held accountable for what they’ve stirred up?…


End of DADT

The 65-31 vote, with 8 Republicans voting with the majority was a nice plus. History will look with disdain upon the 31 who voted against this common-sense change.,0,4…


Health care and socialism vs the “free market”

In the debate about health care and free markets vs socialism and all that, I have some thoughts to add.

I always think of complete free-market libertarianism with no regulations the same way I think of Newton’s 1st law.

Sure, an object will continue in motion at the same speed and in a straight line so long as there are no external forces applied to it. That is true in theory, just like a perfect free market might be true in theory.

But in physics, in day-to-day life there is friction acting on the object so it does slow down and stop.

I think that’s the same thing about the economy. As a society, we’ve decided to add all sorts of “friction,” in the form of rules and regulations, to the economy. Some for bureaucratic reasons I don’t understand. Others because as a society we deem the rule for the public good.

But all these rules inhibit free enterprise and have a negative effect on economic opportunity.

Some examples:

* Requiring a business license.
* Zoning laws.
* Safety regulations at the workplace.
* Requiring extra licenses and standards to run day care centers or nursing homes.
* Requiring licenses to practice medicine.
* Forbidding the running of a friendly neighborhood numbers racket.
* Outlawing the sale of some drugs and requiring doctors prescriptions for others.

The list goes on and on ad infinitum.

Some of those things we might even all agree are good rules, and a civil society depends on them.

But they all have a “friction” effect on the ideal “free economy.” That’s my theory anyway.

So in compensation for following these rules, we expect certain things in return, as part of our social contract. These include roads, police, a military and maybe yes, a post office and national health care running at a financial loss.

It seems it’s all on the table. And can all be decided on a case-by-case basis, just like the rules are. I don’t think we need to apply one overarching philosophical rule to deciding everything. I think the society we have created is all case-by-base. And everything else is just “in theory.”


A 2nd Amendment Question

A 2nd Amendment question – since this is coming up again before the Supreme Court.

First the text of the amendment: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

1. Even though the amendment is just 1 sentence long, the meaning has never seemed obvious or clear to me.

2. I am not sure where I stand on this. On the one hand, it seems to make sense to control obviously dangerous weapons in crowded urban areas and public settings. On the other hand, people should have the right to defend themselves and there is some truth to the saying that if guns are criminalized only criminals will have guns.

3. But what do pro-gun advocates actually believe? That all weapons should be allowed? Rifles? Handguns? Machine guns? Shoulder launched missiles? Personal nuclear weapons? The amendment doesn’t specify that.


Women in (Japanese) Politics

As you know, the Japanese Prime Minister resigned last week and the ruling LDP party will hold elections on the 22nd to choose a new leader, who will also become Prime Minister.

One of the 5 announced candidates is a woman, former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike. If she wins, she would be become the first female Japanese prime minister.

Anyway, she is certainly covering all bases with her platform. From today’s “Daily Yomiuri”:

Koike, a TV news anchorwoman-turned-lawmaker, said: “What I will aim for is to change this world, the system of Japanese society. On the other hand, I would like to preserve tradition, family ties and the solidarity of community, which should be preserved.”

Sounds like Koike, Obama and McCain are all using the same campaign literature software.


Bad timing

Talk about bad timing for an ad campaign!

That’s like when the Korean Airlines plane got down after it accidentally crossed into Soviet airspace and KAL rushed to removed ads advertising new air routes that said, “Our flights not only seem shorter – they are shorter.”

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