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    Now that you’ve seen the doctor, don’t call me anymore

    It’s weird. I understand there’s no more important news to talk about right now than Torture Is Bad and Friends Just Went off the Air, but you’d think CNN or someone would be mentioning, at least, the fact that Yasuo Fukuda (the Chief Secretary of the Japanese cabinet) and Naoto Kan (the very attractive head of the Democratic Party of Japan) are resigning amid scandal: they didn’t pay into the National Insurance pyramid pension scheme for stretches of time. Kickbacks, gladhanding, and revolving-door retirement are so woven into the fabric of Japanese government that maybe no one much notices something so restrained as a simple failure to pay a few months of bills.

    But Fukuda was a very articulate spokesman for the Koizumi government’s support of the US in the War on Terrorism, and there is, after all, an election coming up. That’s the potentially serious part, though how it will play out is not apparent. The joke of the matter is that Kan’s ten months of non-payment occurred while he was the Minister of Health and Welfare (back when that’s what the ministry was). I have no doubt that, given his position, the gentleman was ideally placed to decide whether paying the premiums was a sound move in terms of his personal finances. But it does rather hilariously highlight the frequent gaps between the self-abnegating civil servant image that Japan-groupie social scientists get quivery over and the avoidance of personal accountability that goes on in reality. No, really, it’s funny. You can start laughing any time.

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