Japan from the inside out

Things they said

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 6, 2010

HERE’S A SAMPLE of what the politicos in Japan have been talking about—and writing about—for the past week.

Your Party Secretary-General Eda Kenji:

“Your Party submitted to the Diet on 10 November a resolution calling for the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

“Since then, however, no one in the Democratic Party, the Liberal-Democratic Party, or the other parties has paid any attention to it, and Japan’s mass media hasn’t discussed it. The resolution died when the Diet recessed this week.

“The Chinese embassy seems to have been engaged in some strong lobbying. It so happens that a certain weekly magazine is running an article this week about DPJ Diet members enjoying a round of golf with the Chinese ambassador (at the latter’s expense).

“The Nobel awards ceremony will be held in Oslo on 10 December. The world’s attention on this issue will continue to intensify, but Japan shows no interest in even covering it. This issue could become a litmus test for questioning the commitment to human rights of each political party, each faction, the media, and therefore, the Japanese people.

We’ve already seen the color on the litmus paper, Mr. Eda. Sengoku Yoshito talks about Japanese vassalage as if it were a fait accompli, and the fey accomplices of the mass media emasculate themselves for the chance to squat in the jump seat next to power and prevent the simple folk from finding out what the Chinese are really up to.

Former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro still has it:

“Not everything was bad about the Senkakus incident. We found out that the ‘Japan-U.S.-China equilateral triangle’ theory that the DPJ brought up after they took control of government is a load of nonsense.”

That’s an excerpt from a recent speech in Yokohama. A photo taken during the speech shows his hairstyle is almost back to normal. And give the man credit for accepting who he is. He never seemed to care that he was getting gray—unlike Aso Taro, Kan Naoto, Sengoku Yoshito, Yosano Kaoru, and probably Hatoyama Yukio.

Some men have it. Some men never will.

The Democratic Party thought eliminating income tax deductions for children and replacing them with direct government stipends was one of the key planks of their election platform last year. They claimed they could easily find the money to pay for it, which everyone knew was bollocks, but the media was so anxious for a change of government they looked the other way.

The party offered several excuses to justify the policy, all of which were either outright fabrications or collectivist drivel. (‘Society as a whole has to be responsible for rearing children’ was one of them.) Since it became the law of the land earlier this year, some parents are actually receiving less than they did under the old system. But then the policy was never about what was best for the children, but rather what was the best way to bribe the people into swallowing statism.

When they could no longer sustain the fiction that the money was there for the finding, the national government decided to dragoon local governments and private companies into paying for their fantasy. Society as a whole has to be responsible for rearing children, right? Last week, Hosokawa Ritsuo, Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare, met with Kanagawa Gov. Matsuzawa Shigefumi, who is the representative of a group of sub-national governmental executives in the Tokyo region. Said Mr. Hosokawa:

“Please understand that the nation’s finances are tight.”

Replied Mr. Matsuzawa:

“If the government continues placing a (financial) burden for the child allowance payment on the regions, a revolt will occur in the regions….The regions are not the slaves of the national government.”

By now, it would have occurred to anyone who wasn’t a politician who considered it his solemn duty to spend other people’s money that if the nation’s finances are that tight, they should stop spending money they don’t have, cut taxes and services, and allow income-earning parents to use their own resources to raise their own children as they see fit instead of pushing the fiction that society is everybody’s nanny.

Kan Naoto’s term as prime minister reached the six-month mark this past week, and in a speech in Chiba on the 4th, he said:

“It’s been a lively six months, and we’ve made quite a bit of progress in different areas. But we’ve lacked the ability to communicate what we’re making progress on now, and the preparations we’re making for future progress. I want to actively communicate to the people what I think.”

Just because Barack Obama uses the same excuse doesn’t make it any less empty. Both the American and the Japanese public got the message. Communication is the least of your problems.

Incidentally, Mr. Kan cited as one of his administration’s major successes Vietnam’s award of a contract to Japan to build a nuclear power plant.

One Japanese pundit recycled an old Ishihara Shintaro quote about Aso Taro this week:

“The Prime Minister earned the people’s contempt. Contempt is the most frightening thing.”

He was updating it for application to the current prime minister.

The DPJ has been trying to find another coalition partner to either give it a majority in the upper house, which it lacks, or to give it a two-thirds majority in the lower house, which would render the lack of an upper house majority moot. They haven’t had much luck so far—who likes hanging out with losers?

One possibility fueling media gossip is a grand coalition with the LDP. Ishiba Shigeru, chair of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, was asked about that during a TV interview on the 4th. He answered:

“In the DPJ, the policies of Prime Minister Kan Naoto and former Party President Ozawa Ichiro are 180 degrees apart. There is no cohesion to their foreign policy or fiscal policy. I am absolutely opposed to a grand coalition that would amplify that confusion.”

The DPJ government started out last year with a three-party coalition that included the Social Democrats. They split when Hatoyama Yukio backed off his promise to remove the Futenma air base from Okinawa.

Current DPJ Secretary-General Okada Katsuya wants to woo the SDPJ back into a ménage à trois. While admitting that the two parties still had their differences, he said:

“We confirmed several times with the Social Democratic Party that last year’s three-party agreement was valid. I believe there is a strong relationship of trust.”

Said SDPJ head Fukushima Mizuho during a TV interview:

“There have been no talks about returning to the coalition.”

She added that there ain’t gonna be any talks as long as the DPJ sticks to the policy of keeping the base in Okinawa.

What few people remember is that little more than a year ago, it was Mr. Okada’s assignment to negotiate the terms of the SDPJ’s participation in the coalition with Ms. Fukushima. He found her tactics so obnoxious he stormed out of the room and refused to continue.

Ms. Fukushima got what she wanted by calling Ozawa Ichiro’s number.

Another pundit recycled a different quote, this time from former DPJ head Ozawa Ichiro on the reasons he tried to cut a deal with then-Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo for a grand coalition three years ago:

“The DPJ is a young party and there are doubts it has the ability to take responsibility for government.”

First, the good news: The other DPJ elders hated the idea. Now the better news: There’s no longer any doubt about their lack of capabilities.

While we’re on the topic of coalition governments, Peter Hitchens of Britain reminds us why they are a perversion of the democratic process. A coalition government consisting of two ostensibly incompatible parties now rules that country, and former prime minister Sir John Major recently endorsed the arrangement. He hoped they could “prolong cooperation beyond this Parliament”, which could lead to a realignment of British politics.

Sir John also explained the intrinsic grooviness of coalition governments from a politician’s perspective:

“Two parties are more likely to enjoy a tolerant electorate for policies that are painful.”

Wrote Mr. Hitchens:

“Or, in other words, that a coalition can ram through unpopular policies (Mr Major is an expert on those) more easily than one-party governments.

“This is, of course, even more the case when the third party actually agrees with the Coalition about almost everything, and is still trying to work out how to pretend to be the Opposition, when it doesn’t really want to oppose.

“What a perfect outcome for the political class – two liberal parties in permanent power…(a)nd an Opposition that doesn’t oppose. A pity about the rest of us.”

Now that Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito’s day in the sun seems about to go into eclipse, the meta-commentary is starting to emerge in a crepuscule with the nellies. Too bad the chattering class got it backwards—everyone would have been better off had they started chattering when he assumed his current portfolio, rather than now.

The public’s hopes were raised this week when Mr. Sengoku suggested he might give up the position of cabinet secretary and focus on the Justice Ministry, but he bummed everyone out again by walking it back later in the day.

Kamei Shizuka of the People’s New Party—remember them?–tried to smooth things over:

“He’s a lawyer, and well-known for turning black into white. Well, they say that sometimes there is truth in a joke, but he was just joking.”

You know what they say on the Internet: ROTFLMAO.

Banno Junji, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, reflected on the philosophical journey of his old friend:

“Sengoku chose the pink-colored path (i.e., he’s a pinko). He saw there was no future in the mass struggle. Some have since turned to the right, but he looked for the pink, thinking that holding firm was the masculine thing to do.”

Not just anyone can discern the connection between pinkiness and masculinity. One has to be a professor at an elite university to develop vision of that sort.

More to the point was the observation of LDP Diet member Gotoda Masazumi:

“Mr. Sengoku has no humility. People who have criticized authority become insincere about authority once they attain a position of authority.”

Didn’t Mr. Kamei say he was insincere even before he was in a position of authority?

What could Mr. Gotoda have been talking about? Telling opposition MPs during Question Time to “clean out your ears and pay close attention”, or chiding reporters during news conferences for their “base conjectures”, using vocabulary that seldom appears in ordinary discourse–that sort of thing.

More surprising than the attitude itself is his apparent belief he could gain anything by it.

The upper house censured both Mr. Sengoku and Mabuchi Sumio, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and transport. That does not require their resignation, as a lower house vote of no confidence would, but it does mean the aides have been sent out to collect the cardboard boxes for hauling their papers. Some have called on them to resign, but the rough-and-ready rougeistes are going to tough it out for now. The party bigwigs backed them up. Koshi’ishi Azuma, for example, said, “It isn’t necessary”.

The DPJ approach to censure resolutions has evolved over the past two years. When they seized control of the upper house after the 2007 election, they insisted the LDP government had to follow their instructions because the vote represented the most recent expression of the will of the people. The upper house also censured then-Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo in 2008 and demanded his resignation. The big boss man of the party in those days was Ozawa Ichiro. Here’s a constitutional interpretation he delivered ex cathedra on 9 June 2008:

“A censure is the same as a motion of no confidence in the Cabinet. It’s just that systemically, a motion of no confidence is recognized only in the lower house. If the proposal should pass, it will be no different than if there had been a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet (because of the most recent expression of popular will).”

Two days later, after the proposal passed, Mr. Ozawa said:

“There is no alternative to seeking the judgment of the people through a lower house election to resolve the issue once and for all…The composition of the upper house physically expresses the most recently expressed will of the people. If they (the LDP) think popular sentiment is on their side, they should dissolve the Diet and hold a general election. If the LDP can win, that would be fine. But they seem to be afraid of an election. This is the ruling party of government? They have to have a little more confidence.”

Cut-and-paste works for me.

Actions speak louder than words, they say, and the DPJ took action this week by creating new publicity posters to festoon public places throughout the nation at yearend. At the request of their supporters, the party removed the face of Prime Minister Kan from the posters. (In terms people on the pink path would understand, he’s become a non-person.) The party chose not to use any photographs at all, which is another act that speaks louder than words. The poster has only the slogan “Putting the lives of the people first” in red lettering on a white background, with the party name at the bottom.

Maybe it’s possible to choose the pink path and be masculine after all. It takes real moxie to continue to use a slogan that people stopped taking seriously long ago.

But maybe that’s another example of what Mr. Kamei thinks is a joke.

It’s the song, not the singer:

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5 Responses to “Things they said”

  1. George said

    I’m always amazed by the lengths declining political parties are willing to go in order to maintain their power. It also seems like Mr. Sengoku has somehow made the equation between the DPJ’s decline and the long-term future of Japan. I doubt he realizes how the fate of the DPJ and that of Japan as a whole are actually inversely correlated.

    What happened to Mr. Koizumi’s hair? I hope he’s alright.

  2. toadold said

    Positions of power have always attracted the egotistical but it seems with the “memory of the net” they are being exposed more often as stupid. I suppose if you aren’t too bright, aren’t too attractive, and are allergic to work you could do worse than to go into government and try empire building.(“Politics is show business for ugly people”) At the worst you’ll get a good pension. In the US even a brief prison stay is not enough to keep you from running for office.
    The pity of it all is that they are starting to put political paradoy writers out of work. All reporters have to do now is just write down what they say or play recordings, or is that RecordDings.

  3. Gray said

    “Putting the lives of the people first”

    I’m not sure what Japanese that’s translated from but reading this left me shocked that they could be so forthright about their willingness to sacrifice the public to preserve their own power and prestige. Took a moment for it to click that they weren’t referring to a policy of using ‘the lives of the people’ as a shield against the bad effects of their decision-making on security and social issues.
    G: Thanks for the note.

    If you can read Japanese, the slogan is: 国民の生活が第一

    – A.

  4. Andrew in Ezo said

    Looks like Kan is trying to get the SDP on board to help pass the budget, sad…

    SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima said she made several demands to Kan, including one for the government to refrain from making changes to a decades-old ban on exporting weapons when it updates its defense policy outline this month.

    “We feel this is very important from the standpoint of supporting peace,” Fukushima told reporters.

    Gawd awful. Supporting peace? The best way to support peace is to promote democracy and free expression, not appease oppressive regimes and their handlers (NK and China), which is what the SDP is all about.

    AIE: Thanks for the note.

    To be technical, the lower house can pass the budget itself without the upper house. The problem is the enabling legislation regarding the red ink to pay for the bonds, etc.

    The more I think about it, the more I’m coming around to the idea that the primary motivator for these people is the desire to smash the existing order by any means necessary, then wielding power through supra-national institutions.

    – A.

  5. Roual Deetlefs said


    Why can’t this Koizumi fellow not run for government again ???
    He retired from politics. He was PM for five years, which is one of the longest terms ever in Japan.
    – A.

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