AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Conspiracy of quietness

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, June 28, 2012

The champions of democracy in the eighteenth century argued that only monarchs and their ministers are morally depraved, injudicious, and evil. The people, however, are altogether good, pure, and noble, and have, besides, the intellectual gifts needed in order always to know and to do what is right. This is, of course, all nonsense, no less so than the flattery of the courtiers who ascribed all good and noble qualities to their princes. The people are the sum of all individual citizens; and if some individuals are not intelligent and noble, then neither are all together.
-Ludwig von Mises

SOME people insist that proper governance demands certain absolutes. As shown by the hullaballoo that arose with the Arab Sprung, some of those same people would insist democracy is one of those absolutes. Mises knew better, and the results of the recent Egyptian election won by Mohamed Morsi demonstrate why:

Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood told supporters last month…

“The Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our path and death in the name of Allah is our goal,” Morsi said in his election speech before Cairo University students on Saturday night.

And:

“Today we can establish Sharia law because our nation will acquire well-being only with Islam and Sharia. The Muslim Brothers and the Freedom and Justice Party will be the conductors of these goals,” he said.

The same people secure in their certainty that democracy is an absolute value would certainly be absolutely enuretic if forced to live under a legal system that chopped off hands for theft, stoned women to death for adultery (women are guilty until proven innocent and need four male witnesses to confirm they’ve been raped rather than been adulterous) and flogged and/or executed homosexuals. The same legal system treats unbelievers as second-class citizens. One aspect of that treatment is that believers are given the benefit of the doubt if there is a conflict in court testimony.

Transparency of government is also considered to be an absolute by some, but that is no more an absolute than is democracy. It is desirable in many instances, but less so in others. Legislation passed by the Diet last week contains examples of both.

Nukes

Japan amended its Basic Law on Atomic Energy on the 20th, the first major change in in the law in 34 years. The primary objective was to rework the regulatory regime for nuclear power, but that wasn’t the only one. The law also now states that it has:

“The objective of protecting the lives, health, and assets of the people, and contributing to environmental preservation and national security.”

The “national security” part is new. It is so new, in fact, that it wasn’t included in the original bill approved by the Noda Cabinet. The clause was inserted because the opposition Liberal Democratic Party requested it; both the LDP and their New Komeito partners had already submitted their own bill with similar language. Mr. Noda and the DPJ went along, and there are no reports of serious objections.

None of the three main parties of the National Political Establishment (NPE) thought this required much debate in the Diet, more than a superficial explanation, or the obligation to tell the public about it at all. The Diet has a website on which pending legislation is posted, but the contents of this bill didn’t go up until the 15th, less than a week before it became law.

The bill passed after little debate in the lower house and only three days of debate in the upper house. It was not reported by any of the five primary national newspapers. The story was broken instead on Thursday by the Tokyo Shimbun, later reported in the Chunichi Shimbun (of Nagoya), and briefly mentioned in the Mainichi Shimbun. The nation’s two largest newspapers, the Yomiuri and the Asahi, covered the passage of the bill itself, but neither (as far as I could determine) specifically mentioned this change.

The Tokyo Shimbun quoted the explanation of LDP lower house member Shiozaki Yasuhisa, chief cabinet secretary in the Abe cabinet. I thought the second and third sentences were instructive:

“The possession of nuclear technology is significant from the perspective of security…There also must be an understanding of the technology of atomic energy from the perspective of security to defend Japan….(Objections) are the arguments of people who don’t see what they don’t want to see.”

He added that no objections were raised about the proposed amendment during the discussion among the three parties.

Yoshino Masayoshi, a lower house MP from the LDP said:

“Its significance is as a security measure to protect against the use of nuclear material for terrorism or other uses. There was no thought of converting it to military use.”

No, I don’t believe it either, but the whole point is to keep people guessing, isn’t it?

Japanese bureaucrats and politicians are known for their skills at parsing language in legislation to do exactly what they want to do, regardless of the legislation’s intent. Books have been written about it, including one called Bureaucrat Rhetoric. For example, changing the text of legislation from “Ministry XXX is required to YYY” to “Ministry XXX must make every effort to YYY” ensures that YYY will never be done. How nuclear technology can be used for “national security” requires no explanation or rhetorical tricks.

While there has been little or no media comment about the bill, the people who want to stay informed knew soon after the Tokyo Shimbun article was published. It doesn’t take long for links to circulate on Twitter, and they started circulating the same day.

Whatever shortfall there’s been in Japanese media commentary has been offset by the thrills offered by the South Korean media. The Joseon drama queens enjoy this sort of Japanese fable in the way some people enjoy monster movies. Not only do both scripts provide the same horrific excitement, both stories are clearly based on science fiction with no connection to life as we know it. Screaming as loud as they can in the theater just adds to the fun.

Reader rab sent in an English link from the Joongang Ilbo. Here’s one passage:

“The revision Wednesday is raising speculation that the move would act as a threat to regional security in Northeast Asia, including Korea, and could lead Japan to build nuclear weapons.”

See what I mean about science fiction? No, lovies, even if Japan were to wise up and build nuclear weapons, the threats to regional security in Northeast Asia are the nuclear powers of China, North Korea, and Russia. The speculation being raised is that the Japanese NPE is at last taking steps to uphold its primary responsibility and defend the nation against serious threats from the Chinese hegemons asquat what they consider to be the center of the universe, and the military clique running North Korea in nominal service to the Emperors Kim. (The Japanese understand the latter arrangement. They did it themselves as far back as the 8th century.)

Chinese behavior from North Korea through the Senkakus to the South China Sea leaves no doubt about their intentions. Conditions in the United States leave substantial doubt about that country’s capacity and willingness to defend Japan in accordance with its treaty obligations, particularly in smaller incidents that advance Chinese interests incrementally.

If Japan were to build nuclear weapons, it wouldn’t be a threat to regional security. It would strengthen regional security.

The Joongang quoted one Japanese politician:

“Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, however, denied the suspicion. He told reporters yesterday that the bill “emphasized the peaceful use of nuclear power plants.””

Their source was the Tokyo Shimbun article, which contained other politicians’ comments that they couldn’t find the space to print. For example, this one from Eda Yasuyuki, a New Komeito member of the lower house.

“There are provisions in the nuclear reactor regulation law for safeguarding nuclear material during transport. The technology for nuclear fuel can also be diverted to military use, and there are safeguards (inspections) in IAEA regulations. These are related to Japanese national security, so this was specified in the law as the ultimate objective.”

Mr. Eda is in favor of giving the right to vote to foreigners who are permanent residents (read: zainichi with Korean citizenship) and opposed to amending Article 9 of the Constitution, the peace clause. While it is fair to wonder what the change in language really means, such speculation must also account for the unlikelihood that someone with Eda Yasuyuki’s beliefs would sit still for nuclear weapons.

It is also curious that Japan’s Communists and Social Democratics, the parties most likely to object to weaponization, have kept their lips zipped about the news. The former publishes a daily newspaper called Akahata that puts about a dozen articles on line every day, but they haven’t mentioned it at all. Neither has the SDPJ, which supports a position of unarmed neutrality similar to that of Costa Rica (the Swiss are armed to the teeth). They also objected to providing sidearms for self-defense to Self-Defense Forces sent overseas. A trip to their website shows a photograph of people resembling minor characters in a Kubrick film complaining about nuclear power, but nothing about a potential diversion to nuclear weaponry. Are they part of the conspiracy too?

Some people who could be expected to complain did complain. From the Joongang:

“The Diet’s latest move has stirred criticism from civic groups and scholars in Japan.”

They didn’t specify the complainers, but their source article in Japan identified them as The Committee of Seven for World Peace:

“The possibility that this opens the way for real military use cannot be denied….”

Yes, I agree, “civic groups and scholars” does sound more serious than the reality, doesn’t it?

Here’s another gem from the Joongang article:

“We are closely monitoring Japan’s move,” said an official from Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “It’s too early to make a hasty conclusion that Japan has started to arm itself with nuclear weapons.”

Foreign ministry bureaucrats aren’t so thick as to raise that subject on their own after the modification of a few words in a bill, but journos everywhere are thick enough to ask that question.

The Chosun Ilbo also carried an article with similar delectations. They were worried this could elicit a “domino reaction” for nuclear weapons in Northeast Asia. Whether this meant they thought China, Russia, and North Korea would manufacture more than they already have, or that the only other country in Northeast Asia without the bomb — South Korea — would feel compelled to protect themselves from the nuclear barrage that Tokyo is sure to unleash on Seoul any minute now, they didn’t say.

Perhaps that explains why it was revealed less than a week after this news broke that the South Korean government has decided to sign a military agreement with the Japanese very soon:

“The pact — named the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) — calls for the two countries to exchange intelligence about North Korea and its nuclear and missile programmes, Yonhap news agency said. It cited a government source for its information. A foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment.”

In passing, note that the final sentence of the linked AFP article is incompetent, irrelevant, immaterial, and inacurrate, but that’s what happens when the pixel-stained wretches get a great notion to write about Japan and Korea in the same piece.

Speaking of points, we should also note that the Chosun article (which I read in its Japanese version) did present one point of interest. They combined the news on nuclear power law amendment with the observation that the Diet amended another law with military ramifications. Here’s additional information:

“The Upper House of Japan’s Diet June 20 passed legislation that shifts control of the nation’s space policy and budget, and opens the door to military space development programs with an emphasis on space-based missile early warning.

“The raft of legislation, based on the Bill to Amend the Law of Establishment of the Cabinet Office that was sent to the Diet on Feb. 14, enables the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office to take control of the planning and budgeting of Japan’s government space program. It also removes an article in a prior law governing the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the nation’s equivalent to NASA, which had restricted JAXA’s ability to pursue military space programs.

“Prior to the legislation, JAXA had been de facto controlled by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and was overseen by a MEXT committee called the Space Activities Commission (SAC), leading to criticisms of regulatory capture.

“At the same time, JAXA’s space development has been restricted to an extremely narrow “peaceful purposes only” policy, which meant the agency was unable to develop specifically military space programs…”

And:

“The passing of the law ends a process that began nearly a decade ago by politicians looking for ways to leverage Japan’s space development programs and technologies for security purposes, to bolster the nation’s defenses in the face of increased tensions in East Asia.

“On top of an increasingly confident China, Japan faces a potentially belligerent and unstable North Korea just across the Sea of Japan. Since 1998, North Korea has consistently flouted and broken promises, norms and international laws in developing and testing nuclear weapons and missiles.

“JAXA will now be permitted to develop space programs in line with international norms, which are governed by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The treaty allows military space development, but not the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in orbit…

“METI…is interested in promoting dual-use Earth observation and reconnaissance satellites and an air-launch space access system, according to the ministry.

“Suzuki said there also is strong bipartisan political support for Japan to develop and launch its own missile early-warning system to support the nation’s small fleet of Aegis destroyers for upper-tier defense, and its PAC-3 systems for lower-tier defense.”

So it would seem reasonable to conclude that the generation which was spoon-fed pacifism is giving way to people who have too much common sense to swallow that swilliness in the Occupation Constitution about entrusting national defense to the “peace loving peoples of the world”, in league with those of the older generation who were too smart to swallow it to begin with. Here’s one quick example of the latter: When Fukuda Yasuo was serving as chief cabinet secretary a decade ago before becoming prime minister, he alluded to Japan’s potential to develop nuclear weapons at a news conference, but had to walk it back the next day. Fortunately that was walked back only in public.

There’s a reason they call weapons “The Great Equalizer”. If the slow shift continues toward eliminating the peace clause of the Constitution, independently developing legit self-defense capabilities, recognizing the world’s realities, and rejecting the (primarily overseas) ideal vision of Japan as a ship-in-a-bottle model for world pacifism, it won’t be long before Japan is once again a “normal country”.

National defense is one of the few legitimate reasons for a strong central government to exist, and the primarily responsibility of all who serve in it. The means used for that defense — as long as they are limited to defense — need not be endlessly gummed over by the media and public. The people who need to know and want to know, both in Japan and the nearby countries, now know.

On the other hand

Some conspiracies of quietness are detrimental to the conduct of national affairs. While the news media couldn’t keep its collective hands out of its pants with the controversy over the consumption tax increase and the ramifications that will have for national politicians, the NPE slipped a few other bills through with few people noticing.

On the 21st, the Diet passed a law with multi-party support to “revitalize” theaters and concert halls, on the justification that doing so is the responsibility of national and local governments. Public sector funds already are used to support museums of art and natural history, and some claimed that the other facilities have not performed the role “originally expected of them”.

No, I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean, either.

This law encourages both governments to provide financial subsidies to create the “required environment” because these facilities foster the performing arts and artists. The Agency for Cultural Affairs will later develop a policy for the “assignment of specialists in the theater arts and conducting theater management”.

Not only is this indefensible in isolation, it was passed at the same time as legislation requiring citizens to pay more for the upkeep of government through the normal purchasing activities they conduct to live. Little did they know what they’re really paying for. Meanwhile, over in Osaka, Mayor Hashimoto Toru and his One Osaka organization/party are making the case to eliminate or reduce subsidies to the arts, an objective they have successfully accomplished in several cases. Not coincidentally, national polls show that One Osaka maintains a rate of support that is roughly half again the aggregate rate of support for the ruling Democratic Party and the opposition Liberal Democrats and New Komeito.

In addition to the bill’s philosophical indefensibility (for anyone but statolatrists), it is clearly in opposition to the will of the people. Then again, if the popular will were a consideration, the NPE would never have passed the consumption tax increase, or would have held a referendum/lower house election first.

Among all that dealmaking, yet another decision was taken with no public debate on matters that directly concern the public. The DPJ withdrew its plan to combine public nursery schools and kindergartens (to save money) in favor of a of New Komeito plan to enhance the current system. There seems to have been no public input on this decision whatsoever.

The point here is not whether the DPJ or the New Komeito plan is better; either would probably work well. Rather, it was that a decision was made with little public awareness that an issue which concerns the education of their children was being discussed. Do you wonder why I think the news media is lazy?

A few months ago, LDP lower house pol Aisawa Ichiro tweeted that he was a major force in the adoption of a bill by the Diet to provide government support for athletics to turn Japan into a Great Power in Sports. Mr. Aisawa thought this was wonderful.

That’s another one no one knew anything about.

(I sent a reply to his Tweet asking why additional expenditures in this area were necessary in light of the government’s fiscal deficits. He didn’t answer, but either he or his staff added me to the list of people he follows.)

A hint for the likely explanation for the passage of the three of bills in the form they took and the manner in which they were passed is found in the official title of the government ministry with responsibility for all of them: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The bills for concert hall funding and sports superpower promotion in particular will provide easy money for things people do anyway to give useless bureaucrats in useless jobs in useless agencies a way to spend their daily cubicle time instead of finding gainful employment. That is less clear for the nursery school/kindergarten bill, but one does detect the flopsweat odor from bureaucrats terrified at the idea of getting cut out of the action.

Factoid

The Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group now has a Japanese government bond portfolio worth JPY 49 trillion and a private sector loan portfolio of JPY 46 trillion. It is the first time the former amount has exceeded the latter for that entity.

Has it occurred to the NPE that the government gavage requiring financial institutions to gorge on all that money of the mind prevents them from lending their available funds to the private sector, which could then create more jobs that are better paying, more stable, and more productive, thus providing Leviathan with more tax revenue and eliminating the need to increase taxes?

Of course not.

*****
Well, dip me in chocolate and feed me to the high school girls’ archery club. Maybe government interference in the arts is a blessing after all. Aren’t they darling?

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5 Responses to “Conspiracy of quietness”

  1. [...] offers satellite reconnaissance; South Korea brings human intelligence. Japan’s parliament hastily and “quietly” decided, over the objections of its own leftists and in striking disregard of its pacifist [...]

  2. Marellus said

    Is Japan like turkey 100 years ago ? The “Sick Old of Europe” ?
    ———–
    I don’t think so. First, they’re not particularly sick, and second, their aging is not that different from a lot of other places, both in Europe and Northeast Asia. South Korea’s about in the same situation.

    -BS

  3. [...] to “contribute” to “national security.”  Blogger (and TOC correspondent) Ampontan outlines the Japanese partisan politics behind the move; the regional geopolitics behind it are blindingly obvious.  I concur with Ampontan that any [...]

  4. [...] the use of nuclear technology to “contribute” to “national security.”  Blogger Ampontan outlines the Japanese partisan politics behind the move; the regional geopolitics behind it are blindingly obvious.  I concur with Ampontan that any [...]

  5. C Riz said

    I think that video of the kids playing guitar is one of the creepiest things i have ever seen.

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