11:38 AM, May 21, 2015 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Even as it becomes ever more clear that last week’s Amtrak horror in Philadelphia had nothing to do with, as the refrain goes, “America’s Failing Infrastructure,™” many in the media and lobbying spheres have continued to demand greater spending on rail. As part of that campaign, this week, a New York Times article attempted to make the case that, as the headline put it, “Low U.S. Rail Spending Leads to Poor Safety.”
The article is deeply flawed.
For one, the Times frets that “Over the past decade, even developing countries, including India, Russia and Turkey, have consistently spent far greater shares of their G.D.P. on rail.” But the even in that sentence is woefully misplaced. Of course developing countries spend more on building out rail infrastructure than do developed ones. That’s because they’re, er . . . developing. For the same reason, developing countries obviously spend relatively more on new roads, power plants, and sewage system than do developed countries. The article also appears to conflate spending on new rail lines versus spending to maintain extant routes.
An even greater problem with the article is that, in attempting to prove that the U.S. spends far too little on rail, it relies on ludicrous measurement. “Per capita, the United States also comes up short In 2011, the most recent year for which comparative statistics are available, it spent roughly $35 per person on all rail infrastructure,” writes the Times (italics mine). “Japan spent nearly three times as much as the United States — more than $100 per person — with the 28 member countries of the European Union investing similar sums.”
But per capita – which includes all Americans, irrespective of whether they take trains or not - is a preposterous way to measure relative rail spending. After all, a much smaller percentage of Americans ride the rails regularly than do the Japanese, the French, the Germans, or citizens of dozens of other countries. (We’ll leave aside the fact that simple per-capita spending tells us next to nothing as well, given the variance across countries in labor and energy costs etc.)
According to the World Bank, the rail systems of India, China, Japan, Russia, France, Germany, the UK, the Ukraine, Egypt, Italy, Spain, South Korea, Pakistan, the Netherlands and many, many other countries, transport more passenger miles than American rail. Approximately 31 million people take Amtrak each year. In Japan, meanwhile, one line of the Shikansen Bullet Train alone carries 138 million passengers annually. All of which is to say, of course Japan (and many other countries) spend more per capita on rail maintenance than the United States. Rail is vital infrastructure in Japan used daily by a large percentage of the country’s population.
If the paper of record had wanted to make a more fair, if still rough comparison, it would have made much more sense for the Times to compare rail spending per rail passenger. But given the lavish spending on trains that occurs each year in the United States, methinks that wouldn’t have supported the narrative of the "underfunded" American rail system.
Congress should reschedule the Japanese leader's address. 10:04 AM, Apr 21, 2015 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe did not go into his line of work to make friends. Since regaining the premiership in 2012, Abe has made a habit of insulting Japan’s neighbors and allies.
China talks about a ‘peaceful rise,’ even as it probes for weakness. Apr 6, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 29 • By TOD LINDBERG
Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
Japan's Air Self-Defense Force base on Okinawa shares a runway with the civilian planes on this island about 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo. When the American-made Japanese F-15s scramble, as they often do these days, the civilian traffic awaiting takeoff pulls over to a side taxiway. It must be a pretty decent air show for those with a window seat.
Cuisine as statecraft. Mar 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 26 • By DAVID DEVOSS
The Japanese, seemingly stuck in political doldrums, sluggish economic growth, and waning international influence, are pushing past those frustrations with a new government-led campaign to sell the world—and their own children—on their country’s distinctive traditional cuisine.
A top U.S. diplomat needlessly insults an ally.1:37 PM, Mar 4, 2015 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Sherman marched right into it. At an event in Washington on Friday, the U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, held forth on the subject of the prickly relations between South Korea and Japan -- and did so in a way that seemed to blame the victims in the situation.
Why immigration probably won't save Japan from demographic decline.2:28 PM, Feb 25, 2015 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
Over at Reason, Pete Suderman has a great piece about how Japan is looking to robots to help care for its geriatric citizens. It’s funny and creepy and you should totally read it.
3:38 PM, Jan 24, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama confirmed and condemned the death of a Japanese man at the hands of the Islamic State in this statement:
7:32 AM, Jan 5, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will "express remorse" for World War II, the Associated Press reports.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that his government would express remorse for World War II on the 70th anniversary of its end in August.
The diplomatic courtship of South Korea’s president.Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
America’s “pivot” to Asia is rapidly going nowhere, but diplomatic challenges in the most economically vibrant region of the world still cry out for attention. These include the brash assertiveness of a rising China, the emergence of an erratic, nuclear-armed young North Korean leader, and the embrace of neo-nationalism in an aging and insecure Japan. One nation stands out as a source of balance—South Korea, personified by its astute and pragmatic president, the first woman to hold the job.
Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
A foolish optimism about human nature can’t withstand even a nodding acquaintance with history. If you’re of a certain age you may well remember seeing this photo. It was published years ago in Life magazine, among other places. And once seen, it is not easily forgotten. The Scrapbook retrieved the copy reproduced here from the endlessly fascinating World War II Today website, maintained and curated since 2008 by Martin Cherrett (ww2today.com). Here is Mr. Cherrett’s description:
5:14 PM, Jul 1, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In 2007, during his first term as Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe penned a work titled Toward a Beautiful Country, My Vision for Japan. The recent re-examination of the 1993 Kono Statement on the Imperial Japanese military’s use of “comfort women” during World War II (a euphemism for sex slaves), which was presented to the Japanese Diet on June 20, is the antithesis of the actions of “a beautiful country.” It represents a backward step, reopening a dark chapter in 20th-century history, which most of the world woul
Tiananmen Square and truth-telling. Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In a March 28 speech at the Körber Foundation in Berlin, China’s president, Xi Jinping, called for historical truth-telling. He had in mind the Rape of Nanking, the massacre carried out by Imperial Japan’s forces in 1937-38 during their occupation of the then-capital of the Chinese Nationalists (the city is now called Nanjing).
11:51 AM, Apr 28, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
President Obama spent only one night in Japan last week on his current swing through Asia, but the State Department estimated total "lodging nights" required by the president and his entourage could run around 2,172, and the use of "functional rooms" (presumably conference rooms and the like) could last up to 29 days.