AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘Nishioka T.’

Stayin’ alive

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, May 21, 2011

One of the themes of the play was that the country itself is much too good for politics, especially when politicians seek to govern it by serving their own selfish ends.
– Andrew Ferguson on the David Mamet play, November

It would require more than one person to count the reasons most of Japan wishes Prime Minister Kan would curl up into a ball and roll under the couch. Ten fingers on two hands are just not enough. A consensus has rapidly developed, however, that the prime minister’s most serious offense has been to ignore his party’s slogan of putting people’s lives first by putting his Cabinet’s life first instead.

It would also require more than ten fingers to count the specific examples of that behavior, but the most recent and the most egregious is Mr. Kan’s decision to end the current Diet session on 22 June without addressing the second supplementary budget for the reconstruction of the Tohoku area and the relief of those displaced by the earthquake/tsunami. He now thinks it will be August before his government can get around to it. Everyone else thinks that he knows the longer the Diet is in session, the more quickly he’ll fulfill his manifest destiny of becoming a footnote to history.

And yes, consensus is the right word. One of the prime minister’s most prominent defenders, the Asahi Shimbun, stuck this headline above an article that appeared on page 4 of their print edition on 17 May:

PM hints at postponement of second supplementary budget; will adjourn the session to outrun the Diet

Then there was the Jiji news agency this week:

Adjourning the Diet session, even to the extent of postponing the disposition of important matters, also has the objective of nipping in the bud factors that create instability for the government, such as the Dump Kan movement.

And the funky downmarket ZakZak:

To stifle the simmering Dump Kan movement in Nagata-cho, Prime Minister Kan Naoto postponed the submission of the second supplementary budget for Tohoku earthquake relief until August, and plans to adjourn the current session early on 22 June.

During Question Time in the Diet, LDP MP Shiozaki Yasuhisa, the chief cabinet secretary in the first Abe cabinet, asked:

“Do you think the first supplementary budget is sufficient?”

The prime minister answered:

“The local governments in the affected area will submit reconstruction budgets in July or August. It is necessary to incorporate local opinion (in the budget). Next, I envision a large supplementary budget for reconstruction. I want to think of the Diet’s approach, keeping in mind that local discussion is necessary. We must be careful not to be too hasty with the major enterprise of reconstruction.”

Mr. Shiozaki followed that up with the charge that ending the Diet session on 22 June was an affront to the affected area, but Mr. Kan only repeated that local discussion was necessary.

Nakagawa Hidenao of the LDP has an aide who is perhaps the best blogger in Japan. The aide wonders why local opinion is needed to provide for the living expenses of the people in the shelters, who now will have to stay there through the summer. He also remarked that the prime minister’s interest in ‘the major enterprise of reconstruction’ sounds more like a developer than someone concerned with the people still living in shelters. Finally, he speculated that Mr. Kan is holding the people in the shelters hostage to buy time for a tax increase.

The prime minister’s attitude was the tipping point for LDP head Tanigaki Sadakazu. He said the primary opposition party will submit a no-confidence motion if the government doesn’t submit a second supplementary budget during this Diet session.

Incidentally, the early adjournment of the Diet will also prevent the passage of legislation enabling the government to issue the debt instruments for this year’s budget, assuming they can get the bills through the upper house.

Speaking of the upper house, the chamber’s president Nishioka Takeo reached his tipping point long ago. We’ve already seen that Mr. Nishioka called for Kan Naoto’s resignation, an unprecedented step for a man in his position, not to mention a man with the same party affiliation. He said:

“When I look at his response to the Tohoku earthquake, I wonder what Prime Minister Kan is thinking. It is not a question of whether I like him or dislike him. Now, I am unable to see any sign at all that he knows what he must say or do as a prime minister.”

Mr. Nishioka wrote an op-ed for the Yomiuri Shimbun that again calls on Mr. Kan to resign, and offers six reasons why he should do so. It serves as a representative expression for the national dissatisfaction with Mr. Kan’s conduct of affairs, so here’s a quick and dirty translation of some excerpts.

*****
“Prime Minister Kan, you should resign immediately. There are many people who agree with my opinion: the people who suffered in the Tohoku earthquake, the people who had to be evacuated due to the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, many citizens, all the opposition parties, and even Diet members of the ruling party. In addition, the chief executives and assembly members of local governments both distrust you and are uneasy about you.

“There’s a reason there have been few overt calls for your resignation. When serious problems arise that are beyond the scope of the administration of national government, and events proceed from there, it is generally agreed that replacing the person with the ultimate responsibility would be an extraordinary step. But after the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March, you have continued to abdicate your duties as prime minister. That is what is extraordinary.

“In fact, you abdicated your responsibilities during the incident with the Chinese fishing boat in the Senkakus last year. From that we can see you have no awareness of the prime minister’s duties for the conduct of the national business.

“There is a Japanese expression that serves as a counterargument to the anger I feel toward you: Don’t change horses in a swift current. I agree with those sentiments. That assumes, however, that the horse is valiantly striving in a desperate effort to overcome and move beyond the rapid currents.

“But you have no sense of crisis, no resolve, and no means to deal with the problems. In my judgment, the current dangers are greater than that of changing the horse in a rapid current.”

Here are the six problems he cites:

1. “Why did you not immediately declare a national emergency after 11 March and pass the relevant legislation? Instead, you created a lot of councils and brought confusion to the chain of command.”

He adds that the mobilization of 100,000 Self-Defense Forces without convening the national Security Council, established to deliberate responses to national emergencies in addition to national defense issues, ignored the law.

2. “The nuclear accident is a matter of great international interest. It was a serious error in judgment for you to have refused to ask for help from the American military during the initial stages. As it stands now, there is no prospect for you to finish the job of dealing with the accident.”

3. “The urgent business now is to provide any means of finding places for the people in the shelters to live, including temporary structures and vacant public housing or rental units, as well as setting up a system for their medical care. It’s not for you to say that you’ll put it off until early August.”

4. “Cleaning up the unimaginable wreckage is a greater task than anticipated, but the rainy season will soon complicate matters. With that as a deadline, your government should already have developed the blueprints for a new national land plan, an urban plan, a forestry and fisheries plan, a plan for rebuilding MSBEs and microenterprises, and a new educational environment.”

5. “You should have swallowed hard and given everyone in the country accurate and truthful information. I suspect both Tokyo Electric and you knew that a meltdown had occurred, which was to be expected.”

6. “Your political method is to put everything off until later. You have offered no deadlines for dealing with most of the issues I cited above. You hastily came out with a new schedule when criticism mounted, but it lacks a budgetary basis.”

“If these problems are beyond the capabilities of your government, you should depart immediately. At this rate, it is no longer possible to explain your behavior by regarding it as the means for your government to continue. Rather, is it not the manner of someone who would ‘clean his own wounds with the blood of other people’? Our country is facing an enormous amount of problems both in foreign affairs, and in domestic affairs, such as pensions. I do not think you have the ability to deal with them.

“In view of my long political experience I am heartbroken over my responsibility in having created the Kan administration.”

(End translation)

*****
This article appeared in the 19 May edition of the Yomiuri — on Page 6 in the international news section. Some people are wondering why the Yomiuri chose to put it there, instead of in the national news section. Itagaki Eiken, a somewhat eccentric commentator who once covered the Kantei for the Mainichi Shimbun, thinks that the Americans are still meddling in Japanese domestic politics. He writes that the Yomiuri’s placement of the article suggests they have caught on to the wish of the American government that Mr. Kan be replaced.

Of course that’s childish conspiracy mongering and couldn’t possibly have any basis in the real world. Why, just this Tuesday, playwright Hirata Oriza was in Seoul to deliver a speech at the request of the Japanese embassy. Mr. Hirata is employed at the Chief Cabinet Secretariat and was Hatoyama Yukio’s primary speechwriter when the latter was prime minister.

The embassy wanted him to downplay Korean fears of radiation and help boost tourism. The South Koreans had to deal with some problems of their own as the result of global hysteria. Buyers in The Netherlands, for example, demanded that three exporting agricultural companies in Gyeongsangbuk Province conduct tests of three types of mushrooms to verify they weren’t contaminated by radiation. Those companies exported mushrooms to 17 countries in 2010 and earned $US 9.4 million. The ‘shrooms were expected to pass with flying colors, but it required an unnecessary expenditure of time and money. Other mushroom exporters from Gyeonggi Province had to deal with similar demands from the Dutch and the Germans. Why?

Because they were “close to Japan”.

The South Koreans criticized the Japanese government for releasing water contaminated by radiation into the sea without any advance notice. (The Japanese Foreign Ministry gave three hours notice to foreign embassies at a news briefing, but the ambassadors from South Korea and Russia were unable to attend.) Mr. Hirata explained that the release was made “at the strong request of the US government”.

Oh.

When reporters asked Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio to confirm the story, he replied that he didn’t know exactly what Mr. Hirata said. He would have to talk to Mr. Hirata first and find out. Translated into normal speech from the cant of the flybait class, that means, “Couldn’t Hirata keep his mouth shut? How the hell do we spin our way out of this one?”

*****
Speaking of Hatoyama Yukio, the media’s curiosity was piqued when he returned a day early this week from a climate change conference in Finland. Mr. Hatoyama has let it be known that he’s quite unhappy indeed with the behavior of his successor. He’s said that he can no longer have a conversation with Mr. Kan, and that the DPJ is no longer the party that he bought and paid for with his mother’s money he created.

Mr. Hatoyama may no longer have much sway in his own party, but he still has plenty of money. He and his brother, who is almost as fabulously well-to-do, are said to have held a meeting at a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo late last month for younger Diet members allied with Ozawa Ichiro. The latter group thought Mr. Hatoyama invited them to discuss strategies for dealing with the prime minister, but shortly after the affair began, it was hey, how about that! My brother Kunio just happened to be here in the same restaurant! In the room next door! What a coincidence!

Factoring in the consideration that Hatoyama Kunio left the LDP and is now a free political agent — yeah, I forgot too — a columnist for Gendai Business Online wonders if the Brothers Hatoyama are itching to start a new party. They certainly can afford it. This is more than a case of bullshit walking and money talking. Every politician knows that the brothers have enough money to start a school for training bullshit to walk, talk, and chew gum at the same time if it struck their fancy. If any of the younger DPJ members were tossed out of the party because they voted aye for a no confidence motion…

A few weeks ago, someone writing in The Economist become indignant that Mr. Hatoyama, a colossus as a failed prime minister, would cooperate with Ozawa Ichiro in a Dump Kan movement. That’s not how the columnist for Gendai Business saw it. He considered it an act of repentance for betraying the people’s hopes in voting for a change of government.

And speaking of Mr. Ozawa, the latest rumor has him allowing Mr. Kan to attend the G8 summit later this month as a hanamichi, literally a flowered path. That’s a show business term for an elevated walkway from the stage to the rear of the theater through the audience, but it’s often used as a metaphor to represent a sop to adorn the end of someone’s political career. The Dump Kan moves supposedly begin in earnest when the prime minister returns from the summit.

Let’s hope he doesn’t fall on his face in the petunias. During a lunch at last year’s summit, he suggested inviting the Chinese next time. The other leaders feigned deafness, but their ears will be wide open this time when they ask him to explain just what the deuce his government’s being doing at Fukushima for the past three months.

They’re going to wonder why he permitted work to continue that led to the creation of large amounts of contaminated water, even though he knew the fuel rods might have melted. They’ll also wonder why he concealed the initial radiation contamination data. After all, as he boasted immediately after the problems at Fukushima emerged, he knows more about nuclear power than other politicians.

Those members of the Anglosphere commentariat who assured their readers that Mr. Kan and the DPJ government were a significant upgrade in accountability and competence from previous LDP governments are now pretending they don’t smell their own flatulence. That is unlikely to work for the prime minister in Deauville next week. It certainly hasn’t worked for the commentators. One of them described the Murayama administration’s response to the Hanshin earthquake in 1995 as hapless. Yet that government, led by a Socialist no less, was able to pass 16 separate bills in the Diet dealing with local reconstruction within 40 days of the event. In the same amount of time, Mr. Kan’s government had passed none.

*****
What did the bien-pensants of the West see in Mr. Kan that the Japanese themselves missed? One media outlet polled the nation’s governors late last month on their opinion of his post-earthquake performance in office. One of the 47 governors failed to respond. Of the remaining 46, 25 rated his performance as “poor”.

After last month’s local elections, the assemblies of the 23 wards in Tokyo have begun new sessions, many with considerably fewer DPJ members than before. No fools they, the survivors among the DPJ-affiliated factions in several wards have changed the name of their groups. The name changes had one thing in common — the word minshu was replaced with something else. Minshu-to is the name of the Democratic Party of Japan in Japanese. The first to do so was the group in Minato Ward, whose members explained they wanted to make a distinction between themselves and the DPJ in the national government.

When you think it can’t get worse, that’s when you can be sure it already has. For the politicos, Mr. Kan has become a punching bag, but for some in the media, he has become waraigusa – literally laughing grass, or a laughingstock. My local newspaper usually runs political cartoons in black and white. Recently, however, it featured one in color, which allowed them to portray Prime Minister Kan with a prominent red nose.

No, it wasn’t because it’s hay fever season.

Meanwhile, the 28 April edition of the weekly Shukan Bunshun ran a strange picture of Mr. Kan sitting in the Diet. He looks as if he might be biting one of his fingernails, but it also appears as if he’s making an unpleasant expression as he’s sniffing them.

The text beneath the photo reminds readers of an old Japanese saying that exhorts people to boil in water the dirt under the fingernails of the people they wish to emulate and drink it. The author wonders what would happen if people drank such a concoction from those they didn’t want to emulate. Would they become like the man in the photograph, he asks?

*****
With his survival on the line, Prime Minister Kan has allowed that he might consider rethinking his positions. For example, he said he would be willing to discuss new configurations for the power companies.

Your Party Secretary-General Eda Kenji, however, says that idea has been floating around for awhile. Mr. Eda’s career started in the predecessor of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and he remembers that it was discussed as long as 25 years ago. In fact, he thought something might come of the suggestion about a decade ago, but senior members of the ministry killed it. They told their subordinates it was a reform aimed at their lives, and that they had to protect their own lives themselves.

Both the Hatoyama and Kan governments are notorious for having truckled under to the bureaucracy within weeks of taking office. No one who’s been paying attention is sanguine about the likelihood of a meaningful reform of the power companies during the Kan administration.

Mr. Kan also said he would consider adding JPY one trillion to the supplementary budget for the relief efforts before adjourning the Diet.

That tipped the balance for LDP MP Nakagawa Hidenao. The time for “thinking about it” is over, he said. Now it’s time to do something about it.

Who knows? Perhaps the prime minister will do something about it, if he can keep his government afloat long enough. First things first.

Afterwords:

The government on 18 May agreed on legislation to reform the national civil service system. It will include the right of public employees to conclude agreements, such as those for salary levels in management-labor negotiations. Public opposition to the right of public employees to strike was so strong, however, they did not include it in the bill.

Many Americans would be very envious of Japan, if they only knew.

*****
When it was revealed in 2004 that Mr. Kan had problems with unpaid contributions to the national pension fund, he resigned as DPJ party head and, as a publicity stunt, shaved his head, dressed as a mendicant priest, and made a traditional pilgrimage to 88 temples in Shikoku.

Perhaps he should listen to Uttara-kuru and try the mendicant priest shtick again. That’s the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra they’re chanting:

“Further, if a person who is about to be harmed calls out the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, the knives and staves of the attackers will break into pieces and he will be saved.”

It would be the answer to Kan Naoto’s prayers.

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Strange crew

Posted by ampontan on Friday, May 13, 2011

People use the slogan “From bureaucratic leadership to political leadership” as if it were something of value, but if you believe that slogan, then as a country Japan’s level is merely that of the DPJ politicians. In the year and a half since (the DPJ) has taken power, we’ve seen that we’ll wind up in a terrible mess if we entrust Japan to their policies.”

– Terashima Jitsuro, Japan Research Institute president and foreign policy advisor to former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio (of the DPJ) in the 21 May edition of Shukan Gendai

EVERY politician must dream of becoming The Great Unifier, whether by the brilliance of his leadership, the magnetism of his personality, or the iron of his fist. As a report yesterday suggests, the dream has come true at last for Prime Minister Kan Naoto. The calves, lions, and fatlings all lay down together in Nagata-cho united in their loathing of Mr. Kan and discussed how to dispose of the frumious bandersnatch of Japanese politics. That a crew so motley could meet and hold a civil discussion about anything is enough to make a cynic invest in the stock of plowshare and pruning hook manufacturers.

Nishioka Takeo and Kan Naoto

But first, a word about their sponsor. We’ve seen before that upper house President Nishioka Takeo’s criticism of Prime Minister Kan Naoto’s handling of events since 11 March has been caustic enough to peel the lacquer from a miso soup bowl. Here’s just a taste: When the prime minister announced the creation of the Reconstruction Design Council as the primary body to develop policies for rebuilding the Tohoku region, Mr. Nishioka wondered aloud to the news media, “How many councils will he create before he’s happy?” (We don’t know the answer, but the running count is already more than 20.) He’s been scattering dark hints that he would either initiate or abet moves to unseat Mr. Kan as prime minister, and yesterday he seems to have taken the first step by creating a council of his own. This one is composed of representatives from most of the major parties in the country and is called the Council Seeking Reconstruction Funding without a Tax Increase. (The bandersnatch stacked the deck in the Reconstruction Design Council to ensure that it would recommend higher taxes.)

Said Mr. Nishioka at a news conference:

“In this severe national crisis, we must again doubt whether (Kan) has the qualifications to serve as prime minister. I am opposed to a tax increase to deal with the disaster. Conditions will be harsh enough for the Japanese economy in the foreseeable future as it is. I have no idea where the idea of a tax increase, regardless of the form it takes, came from.”

The council issued a statement after its first meeting:

“The plan to raise taxes to fund reconstruction will cause incalculable damage to the Japanese economy for more than 10 years. It will not be possible to achieve reconstruction by destroying the economy.”

Their preference is for the government to float Disaster Bonds and have the Bank of Japan purchase the entire tranche.

The group has quite a lot of company when they criticize Mr. Kan for his seat-of-the-pants approach to policy and a preference for political performance over substance. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito was no sooner brought back into the government to deal with the reconstruction than he started grumbling to the media in private again about the prime minister’s lack of ability. Said one DPJ executive off the record to a reporter: “Prime Minister Kan is a more frightening man than Ozawa Ichiro.”

That last statement might not be as extreme as it sounds. The former Destroyer of Worlds isn’t frightening many people these days. The news media expected the man to wheel his heavy artillery on Mr. Kan and begin his offensive this week, but some of his shells turned out to be duds. Yamaoka Kenji, Mr. Ozawa’s political torpedo, announced the formation of a different group to knock off the prime minister about a fortnight ago, but a day later the head of a construction company testified he had delivered cash payoffs to Mr. Ozawa’s political fund management group to ensure his company a piece of the public works pie. Mr. Yamaoka boasted that he would be able to round up 100 members for his group’s meeting, but only about 60 showed up. While that’s an impressive number of people for an intra-party revolt, they would need roughly 20 more to pass a no-confidence vote in the lower house, assuming all 60 would vote for it if a motion were introduced. Factor in the failed challenge of Mr. Ozawa to Prime Minister Kan in the election for DPJ president last September, and it’s beginning to look as if most of the man’s sand has fallen to the bottom of his hourglass.

Or has it? Nishioka Takeo has been an Ozawa Ichiro ally for many years. As did Yamaoka Kenji, he followed Mr. Ozawa out of the Liberal Democratic Party and into the New Frontier Party…and then into the Liberal Party…and from there into the Democratic Party, when Mr. Kan was party president. It’s possible his coalition of the unlikely could represent an attack on a different flank by a loyal general. Further, Mr. Nishioka was one member of the New Liberal Club in the old LDP, created by members of different party factions in 1976 for a “reform of conservative politics” after the Tanaka Kakuei scandals. If he’s still into conservative politics after all these years, that could be another factor behind his opposition to Mr. Kan, who in American terms would be a New Left baby boomer.

Though Mr. Takeoka’s open revolt is “extremely unusual” behavior for the president of one of the houses of the Diet, as the media has it, his alliance with Mr. Ozawa might tempt one to dismiss it — until you see the names of the people who’ve signed up. Fair warning: Reading them too fast might cause vertigo. To break it down by party:

DPJ: Matsubara Jin
LDP: Nakagawa Hidenao
Your Party: Watanabe Yoshimi
New Komeito: Toyama Kiyohiko
Social Democrats: Abe Tomoko
People’s New Party: Kamei Akiko

Hiranuma Takeo of Sunrise Japan couldn’t make it to the meeting, but he put his name on the record as a member. The only major party not represented is the Communists, and they make it a practice to maintain their purity by never getting involved with anything as grubby as political maneuvering.

Now for the stories behind those names. If there is a Japanese version of paleo-conservatives, Hiranuma Takeo would be at the top of the list. Matsubara Jin rejects the idea that the Nanjing Massacre and the comfort women were the result of systematic planning and coercion. (Remember, he’s in the same party with Kan Naoto and Sengoku Yoshito, who think Japan’s position should be one of perpetual atonement.) Mr. Nakagawa is the elder statesman of the Koizumian reformers in the LDP. Mr. Watanabe believes so strongly in systemic reform that he left the LDP to form his own party, which now usually ranks third in the generic polling of party preferences. Both he and Mr. Nakagawa call for the downsizing of government, in both its political and administrative sectors. Combine the worst aspects of the world’s Socialists and the world’s Greens and you get Japan’s Social Democrats. The People’s New Party is a splinter group of anti-reform conservatives that are still part of the ruling coalition.

The cherry on top of this sundae is Toyama Kiyohiko, the youngest of the group and in his first term in the upper house. He received a PhD in Peace Studies from Miyazaki International College, where more than 80% of the professors are non-Japanese and all second-year students spend their second semester abroad. He taught at the same school before he entered politics. The title of his doctoral thesis was War and Responsibility: The Emperor and the Debate over War Responsibility in Japan during the Occupation. (We all know that the college experience offers a large palette of choices for wasting one’s time, but are there any as grandiose and empty than a doctorate in peace studies?)

Ozawa Ichiro has created coalitions from some extraordinary combinations of people during his career, but getting those people in the same room to work for a common purpose is probably beyond his capabilities even at the height of his powers. For them to have agreed to talk turkey in the first place, they must be Very Extremely Concerned about the possibility of Kan Naoto remaining in office.

To be sure, nothing at all could come of this, but here’s something that might. As the presiding officer of the upper house, Mr. Nishioka has the legal authority to “maintain order, adjust its proceedings, supervise its business, and represent it”. He also assigns bills to committees for deliberation and sets time limits for speeches (which is why there are no filibusters in Japan).

The opposition is in the majority in upper house. Mr. Nishioka has already hinted he might ask the opposition to submit a censure motion. As a another DPJ source explains:

“Prime Minister Kan does not have to legally resign after a censure motion passes, but Mr. Nishioka might not press the bell to open the upper house session, citing ‘the weight of the house’s decision’. If that happens, the prime minister will have reached a dead end. Mr. Nishioka is the man Prime Minister Kan fears the most.”

With so many combustible elements floating around, how long will it be before someone finally strikes a match?

Afterwords:

Before you assume that the aversion to a tax increase reveals these people to be irresponsible populist rabble-rousers, let me bring to your attention an article by Your Party Secretary General Eda Kenji in the June issue of Voice titled, “Raising Taxes Isn’t Necessary! They Could Find 20 Trillion Yen Tomorrow”. (The entire reconstruction has been estimated to cost roughly JPY 40 trillion.) The subhead reads, “The stupidity of the DPJ: Doing as they’re told by the Finance Ministry without listening to the people”. The issue just appeared this week, and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Mr. Eda is a former official in the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and an aide to former Prime Minister Hatoyama Ryutaro. If he thinks JPY 20 trillion yen is available for shaking from the trees (and he’s not the only one), I’m inclined to believe him.

One of Your Party’s advisors on economic matters is Takahashi Yoichi, who is plugging the idea of 100-year government bonds bought by the BOJ. After all, he says, this is a once-in-a-century problem. He also recently published a book titled, A Consumption Tax Increase Isn’t Necessary! Both the print and the broadcast media are giving him plenty of opportunities to make his case.

*****
Memo
To: The Anglosphere punditocracy
In re: The new openness in Japanese politics under the DPJ

You know how some of you spoonfeeders are trying to convince your readers that the DPJ’s openness in providing information on the earthquake/tsunami is a real change from the bad old days of the LDP?

You know how Prime Minister Kan testified in the Diet last month there wasn’t a meltdown at Fukushima?

There was a meltdown at Fukushima.

You know how the government finally classified the nuclear disaster as a Level 7?

Mr. Kan knew it was a Level 7 several weeks before that, but didn’t change the rating.

You know that egg all over your faces?

Since you’re not going to wipe it off with a public admission, do yourself the favor of wearing some yellow and white clothing to coordinate the colors.

*****
Meanwhile, the Kan Cabinet wants to increase the size of the Cabinet by three members next month to deal with reconstruction. One of the ministers is expected to be responsible for reconstruction, and another will be assigned to deal with Fukushima. Really, how many councils will he have to create before he’s happy? They could cut the Cabinet by a third and nobody would miss them.

There’s a lot more going on with all of these subjects, but it takes time to organize and digest all the information.

*****
A strange brew for a strange crew

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Speaking opinion to power

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, May 8, 2011

Status whoring and sanctimonious preening trumps such petty concerns as the search for truth.

The personal is not the political, except for social retards.
– Roissy at Citizen Renegade

THE QUESTION of nature vs. nurture can also be asked of print and broadcast media journalists: Are they born that way, or are they trained to behave that way. By that way, I mean the behavior described in the quotes above.

That the problem is universal was revealed by an exchange during a news conference between an unnamed reporter for the Asahi Shimbun and Nishioka Takeo, the president (presiding officer) of the upper house of the Diet, as excerpted by Gendai Business. The presidents of both houses must resign their party affiliation to assume that role, but both are usually selected from among the members of the party with the largest number of members in that chamber. Thus, Mr. Nishioka was once a member of the Democratic Party of Japan.

His behavior of late is unlike that of most of the people who have served in the position, however. Mr. Nishioka has publicly called for Prime Minister Kan Naoto to resign. Mr. Kan is also a member of the Democratic Party of Japan. That is clearly an important news story.

The exchange that Gendai Business presented this week occurred on 14 April with other reporters present. To start the news conference, Mr. Nishioka complained that the prime minister had discussed the first supplementary budget with the opposition parties, but failed to do so with anyone in the upper house. He also wondered if the government had accomplished anything in the first month after the earthquake/tsunami.

Asahi reporter: What is the intent behind your statement that it would be best for the prime minister to resign?

Nishioka: Nothing good will happen if present conditions continue.

AR: If the prime minister resigns, it would create a political void.

Nishioka: I wonder about that.

AR: People (in the affected region) still aren’t in temporary housing.

Nishioka: Huh?

AR: There’s also the situation at the nuclear power plant, and creating a political void…

Nishioka: It can be handled without that happening. There are ways to avoid it.

AR: What I want to say is this: Isn’t your statement irresponsible?

Nishioka: Why is that? I’m saying resignation is the only choice if the government putters around like it’s doing now….

Nishioka: You say that it’s irresponsible for me to say the prime minister should resign. Well then, is it acceptable for the current irresponsibility of the government to continue?

AR: That would be better than having needless political turmoil arise.

Nishioka: Ah, I see. Well, I don’t think so.

The reporter finally ended the exchange by saying, “It’s pointless to continue this.”

It was also pointless to start this, unless, as Gendai Business points out, the intent was to behave as a Kan Cabinet spokesman. And unless, as I will point out, the intent was to influence political conditions rather than report them.

The editorial position of the Asahi is roughly similar to that of the New York Times in the United States and the Guardian in Britain, and their position is reflected in their reporting. That translates into support for the left-of-center Democratic Party of Japan.

The Asahi reporter also knows that if it Mr. Kan were to resign, it would accelerate calls for a dissolution of the lower house of the Diet and a new election. Further, he knows the DPJ would lose a substantial number of seats in an election, which might mean the party will be returned to the opposition benches.

Can’t have that now, can we?

*****
As we noted last week, moves are afoot to unseat Mr. Kan, who is intent on holding his position come hell or high water. Many people think that since we’ve already had the high water, there’ll be hell to pay if he’s allowed to continue to in office during the recovery and rebuilding period. Those efforts are supposed to move into higher gear when the holidays are over, i.e., Monday the 9th.

For anyone in Japan interested in reading about those developments, however, subscribing to a single daily newspaper is a poor option. Four of the major national dailies ran articles on the Dump Kan Drive on 3 May. Here are their headlines:

Asahi: Efforts to Topple Government Fizzle
Yomiuri: Maneuvering to Bring Down Kan Begins in Earnest
Sankei: Distrust Grows over PM’s Feeble Attempts to Extend Term
Mainichi: Opposition Unable to Draw up Scenario to Topple Government

You know those ads on the Internet with pictures of Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama that offer free prizes if you can guess which one is President of the United States? Here’s an even easier question: Knowing that the Kan Cabinet is left of center, what are the editorial biases of those newspapers?

When reading a single newspaper to find the facts is akin to reading a single testimony in Rashomon, choosing one is pointless for anyone but those who want to reinforce their prejudices. The phenomenon is not exclusive to Japan, of course. During the Monica Lewinsky affair, one female reporter covering the White House said she too would be willing to go down on her knees for Slick Willy to protect “a woman’s right to choose” (abortion). When the 2004 presidential campaign got underway, the AP reporter assigned to the White House told colleagues he considered it his mission to bring down George W. Bush. And the scribes would rather not notice, but the outing of JournoList in the United States was of more practical benefit than anything that was revealed by another status whore in Wikileaks. Now the people suffering from meteorism can no longer pretend they don’t smell anything.

Indeed, it would be surprising if anyone in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan were still in possession of their olfactory functions.

*****
I know a Japanese man who took the employment test for the Asahi Shimbun after he was graduated from university, but was not hired. He told me he applied because he “wanted to fight for social justice”.

He’s now the head of a small NGO.

The Asahi, by the way, has been busted for plagiarism or just plain making stuff up at least three times in the last 10 years.

*****
What better way to offset the smells than with Sweet Talks?

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Posted in Mass media, Politics | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »