February 17 (Bloomberg):
Japanese Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa resigned amid accusations he was drunk at a Group of Seven press conference.
I reproduce below excerpts of an allegedly exclusive interview given to an alleged reporter by the Japanese finance minister allegedly minutes before that fateful press conference.
Reporter: Welcome to Rome, sir. I hope you like our city.
Nakagawa [beaming]: It’s beautiful, lots of bars. The strange thing is, whenever I come out of the bars, I find the city a bit unstable. The streets wobble, the walls shimmer and the whole place flickers. I wonder why. Here, try a little Scotch. It’s Glenmorangie.
Reporter: Thanks. What is the reason for the global financial crisis?
Nakagawa: Excess liquidity, of course. This Glenmorangie is great.
Reporter: You mean there was too much money sloshing around?
Nakagawa: Sloshing is right. Yes, most definitely sloshed.
Reporter: What about the banks?
Nakagawa: Some swear by the wines of the left bank of the Gironde, like the chateaux Lafite Rothschild or Margaux. Yet Chateau Petrus, the most expensive wine, is from the right bank. Why don’t we try some of that?
Reporter: Thanks. I was actually asking about banks like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers.
Nakagawa [sobbing]: Oh, those poor banks, all dead. It’s terrible, terrible. I feel so sad, I must have some sake. Here, try some of this Harushika, it’ll take away the pain.
Reporter: This is really good. But surely these bankers deserved to be punished, after the reckless things they did.
Nakagawa [sighing]: Ah, do we deserve anything? Crime and punishment? Dostoyevsky had something to say about that. He said...er... I forget what, but he said some great things. Does mankind deserve death, it’s the theatre of the absurd. Are you familiar with Kafka?
Reporter: Not really, sir. But coming back to the topic, do you think Alan Greenspan was responsible for the bubble?
Nakagawa [winking solemnly]: I wouldn’t put it past him, these foreigners are quite capable of doing things like that. Horrible people. Did you know they all drink beer?
Reporter: How does that matter?
Nakagawa: Lots of bubbles in beer. Just pour out this Budweiser, you’ll see.
Reporter: Ahhh, that’s good.
Nakagawa [nodding off]: Zzzzzzzz...
Reporter [shouting]: Are you ok, sir?
Nakagawa [wakes up with a start]: What, what? Where’s the champagne?
Reporter: Here it is, sir. Everything ok, I hope.
Nakagawa: Fine, fine. What were you asking?
Reporter: I’ve completely forgotten. Why did the Japanese economy contract so sharply in the last quarter?
Nakagawa: Did it? Must be all this excess liquidity.
Reporter: What do you mean?
Nakagawa: Well, it was like thish. I was shupposed to reduce interest rates and increase government spending, to stimulate the economy. But I had a bit of... ahem... cough mixture that day and got confused. So I raised interest rates and decreased government spending instead. That’s why the economy collapsed. I feel sho bad.
Reporter: Do you have the money to tackle the shlowdown?
Nakagawa [singing]: Money, money, money/Always sunny/In a rich man’s world.
Reporter [singing]: Can you hear it ring/It makes you wanna sing/Ka-ching.... Shir, by excess liquidity do you mean too much money?
Nakagawa: Good god, no! I mean excess booze, my friend. All these guys who were shupposed to run things — the bankersh, the central bank governorsh, the regulators, the finance minishters — they were all on a wild binge. Dead drunk, the whole lot. No wonder the world economy crashed.
(Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint)