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How cell phones hurt your productivity

Forty-two years ago, when the cell phone was first invented, the new device was hailed as a major tool in boosting everyone’s productivity. Today, we are discovering that the opposite is true. The cell phone has become a major distraction. read more…

All or nothing

As traders steel themselves for next week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, the stock market remains volatile with a bias toward the downside. That should change for better or worse by next Wednesday. read more…

The economics of European migration

A stream of destitute refugees arrives on European shores every day. Greece, Hungary and Italy have borne the brunt of this migration, but the ocean of displaced persons this year has already swamped their resources. It is a life and death crisis that demands an answer now. read more…

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A Cause to Pause

 

Markets usually need something to move them. Good news or bad, the markets want an excuse to go up or down. Now that the government, the debt ceiling, the budget and the Fed are temporarily out of the picture, investors are finally focusing on something meaningful—earnings. read more…

The internet will change

 

“Net Neutrality” is the official name for an open internet. It means that all internet providers are to be treated the same regardless of whether you are a mom and pop company or a global behemoth. This week’s federal appeals court ruling pulled the plug on that concept. read more…

Markets are Consolidating

This week the markets traded in a tight range. Traders were taking profits from the gains generated by the Santa Claus rally while bullish investors were buying each dip. It is exactly what should be happening after the gains of last year. read more…

Make a Financial Resolution this year

 

As most of us resolve to lose weight, quit smoking or in some other way change our lives this year, don’t forget to reevaluate where you stand financially. There are some simple steps you can take that will reshape your fortunes for years to come. read more…

Japan embraces Bushido

It was a word rarely spoken in post-War Japan. “Bushido” or the “Way of the Warrior,” evoked too many embarrassing and shameful memories culminating in the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  But times have changed. 

On December 26th, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did the unthinkable. Defying the Koreas, China and the U.S., he visited the Yasukuni War Shrine. It is where the memories of 2.4 million Japanese war dead from three wars are remembered. His 30 minute visit sparked outrage from Japan’s neighbors who view the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s imperial military past.

Last Tuesday the Japanese government further confirmed my thesis presented to readers six months ago.  Japan announced a significant increase in its defense spending over the next five years amounting to 24.6 trillion yen ($237 billion). That’s an increase over the current plan and, in my opinion, the defense budget will be increased again and again as time goes by.

They will use the money to acquire surveillance drones, 28American F-35A fighter jets, 17 Osprey aircraft, five naval destroyers, six submarines plus amphibious vehicles. That’s not all. Japan’s existing Self Defense force will be beefed up with a new amphibious unit (similar to the U.S. Marine Corp) whose job would be to re-take islands captured by the enemy.

Abe also announced the establishment of a U.S.-style National Security Council and gained support for changing the country’s constitution, specifically Article 9, which prevents Japan from “collective self-defense” (coming to the aid of its allies).

Clearly, Japan is rebuilding its defense capability. This sea change will have long-term repercussions for the Japanese economy and the balance of geopolitical power in Southeast Asia. It also adds to U.S. security while reducing our costs as we begin to share the role of the world’s policeman.

In my last column back in August “Japan’s new frontier,” I argued that this island nation was on the eve of re-inventing itself. I predicted that as part of an economic renaissance, Prime Minster Abe and his cabinet was preparing to expand its defense capabilities. Re-armament, in my opinion, would address several issues simultaneously.

An expanding defense industry would provide a large number of highly-skilled, highly-paid jobs for the country’s workforce. It would also be an easy avenue for the government to provide spending and additional stimulus to the economy. It would answer the U.S. government’s on-going request that Japan shoulder more responsibility in policing their side of the globe, specifically Southeast Asia. And finally, the return of the Samurai in the form of a stronger army, navy and air force would provide a strong detriment against encroachment from China, North Korea and someday possibly a more aggressive Russia under Putin.

Recent events have played into the hands of Abe in martialing support in his quest towards Bushido. China’s arbitrary declaration of an exclusive “air defense identification zone,” covering the disputed Senkaku Islands recently lent credence to Abe’s argument that Japan must be willing and able to protect its own territory or else others would take it from them.

This argument reverberates in other parts of Asia.  Vietnam and the Philippines have their own disputes with China over territory. It is no accident that Japan, using last month’s typhoon damage in the Philippines, dispatched troops, ships and generous amounts of aid while China did next to nothing. It was the largest deployment of Japanese forces since 1945.

Most readers are aware that I have been bullish on Japan, its economy and stock market for the last two years. Everything I see convinces me that my investment stance is correct.

 

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About Bill

Bill Schmick was born in a blue-collar neighborhood of Philadelphia, just a few blocks north of “Rocky Balboa” territory where most of his Catholic schoolmates grew up to be either cops or criminals. He narrowly escaped both professions by volunteering to fight in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine... Read More

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