Thursday, July 21, 2011

We Need to Speed up the Cleanup

There's no time for delays. Get the four opposition parties' disaster waste management bill approved quickly! The Kan administration needs to accept the LDP- and Komeito-led bill.

We need to speed up the cleanup. It has been more than four months since the East Japan earthquake and tsunami, yet disaster waste management is not progressing. The waste and downed trees are a hazard in this hot summer. It's not just about the stench. As the waste ferments, the temperature will rise. There's the danger of fires. We need to clean up this mess as quickly as possible, but the Kan administration has been slow to act.

This clean up is not about ruling or opposition parties. It's something all parties should cooperate on. The Democratic Party of Japan should accept the bill put forth by the four opposition parties, led by the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

The points of the opposition bill are: 1) The nation should act as a proxy for damaged municipalities when those municipalities request it, and 2) the country should assist in paying for processing the waste, maintaining facilities and managing the project (according to a report in the Komeito newspaper on July 10).

If the nation doesn't act as a proxy in this cleanup, it won't progress. With the nation's support, the cleanup could proceed promptly.

If the ruling and opposition parties can negotiate an agreement, a quick, thorough cleanup of debris is possible.

I'm counting on a courageous decision by Tatsuo Hirano, the minister in charge of disaster prevention, and Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, the senior vice minister.

Originally published in Japanese on July 13, 2011.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts on the Immoral Media and Their Frontmen Politicians

Kan and his "me-first" mentality are being propped up by the mass media

"Great is journalism. Is not every able editor a ruler of the world, being the persuader of it?"
— Thomas Carlyle

These words from Carlyle are a eulogy to the able newspaper editor. At the same time, they also speak to the great power an able editor holds.

In today's Japan, the mass media's influence is enormous. We can't help but admit that the media's editors are the true rulers of Japan. This is the reality.

But Japan's editors are not proper editors. They don't strive for the highest good as Japanese journalism requests of them. That's because their sense of ethics is out of whack.

The able editors of today's Japan demand more money and fame as well as the right to rule Japanese politics and government. They are power hungry.

These editors have hazy morals. They use their murky sense of values to drive Japan's politics, government and economy in the direction they believe it should go. To get the results they want, Japan's most powerful editors band together. By uniting, they exert enormous power.

In other words, Japan's politics is controlled by these editors with their murky sense of values. They sent Japanese politics into decline, introducing a bad single-seat electoral system that gives a handful of parties despotic control, while treating the large majority like children. It's the mass media that has allowed the Democratic Party of Japan trio of Ichiro Ozawa, Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan to win despite not having the ability to properly run the country. The jaded media is behind Kan's current administration as well. This immoral mass media is an enemy of the people.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Watch out for the Loud Chorus Calling for a DPJ-LDP Coalition

DPJ Chief Cabinet Secretary Okada and his ilk abet the cause by making remarks in support of a coalition assuming that Prime Minister Kan
will step down. It's dishonest, hypocritical politics, and it's dangerous. It is not necessary to dance to the media's tune just because they are agitated about a possible coalition.

"If the paper boat doesn't sink today, it will sink tomorrow."
— Indian proverb

A grand coalition, or a politics that doesn't lean one way or the other, is not something we should pursue. Parties should pursue cooperation with opposition parties in the Diet. A grand coalition means that one party (the governing party) and a second party (the main opposition) lean against each other, creating a system where no one takes responsibility. When one party holds political power, the second needs to use the Diet to bear witness, criticize and point out the ruling party's faults.

When a governing party finds it necessary to take on a coalition partner, it should unite with a smaller opposition party. A grand coalition blurs the responsibilities of the government and the governing party. It also absolves the leading opposition, the Liberal Democratic Party, of any responsibility because a vote for the LDP would simply return political power to the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

To revive the country in the wake of the East Japan disaster, political cooperation should occur in the Diet. A grand coalition between the DPJ and the LDP would leave out smaller parties such as New Komeito. That would be a grave mistake. The politicians of the smaller parties such as Komeito work much harder than the average DPJ politician. And they clearly make greater efforts than LDP politicians. These efforts are what hones a politician. The politicians of the smaller parties have honed themselves much more than DPJ and LDP politicians. Compare them on an individual basis, and the politicians of Komeito and other smaller parties have greater capacities. There are some exceptionally capable politicians in New Komeito and the New People's Party. To exclude the capable while fusing together the incapable and arrogant is a very dangerous proposition. What we need to do right now is end the con job of Kan politics. This is our biggest obstacle. Then the DPJ and New People's Party should get behind the idea of making NPP President Shizuka Kamei a candidate for prime minister. This is where we need to start.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's the Point of this Failed Premier's String of Meetings?

The only reason for the revival conferences run by the rudderless, irresponsible Kan is to prolong his system of government. The biggest obstacle to rebuilding from the great quake is Kan himself. Getting together a bunch of academics who don't understand this point is not going to produce creative results. Real creativity requires a serious approach. This conference ought to be scrapped.

"The Congress dances, but it does not advance." — Archduke Rainer

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has a thing about making meetings. The latest conference to revive the nation, announced with much fanfare, is his 19th such meeting. There is even talk that he's planning to create a rebuilding headquarters. That would result in his 20th meeting. It is becoming increasingly clear that the objective of these meetings is to preserve Kan's government. There are no bureaucrats or people in positions of responsibility in these meetings. The biggest problem facing the government right now is that the administration doesn't work. Kan doesn't have the intention to get the bureaucrats moving; he just keeps shouting at them. Kan and the Democratic Party of Japan seem to have forgotten that the bureaucrats are people of pride.

The people are waking up to the fact that the biggest problem with the rebuilding effort after the quake is the irresponsible me-first philosophy of Prime Minister Kan. He doesn't have the vision, ideas or sense of responsibility that a political leader should have. Instead, every day he yells at the bureaucrats. Then he forms discussion groups filled with sycophantic academics who tell him what he wants to hear. When information from these discussions gets leaked to the press, he panics and denies that he said anything. And then he repeats the process. Most of the populace has the feeling that he's lying.

The revival conference is nothing more than a study group out to make Prime Minister Kan more popular. Academics of integrity must not join this group.

This is not the time for the premier to get lost in a fog of meeting-making. He needs to be brave enough to stop these useless meetings. The most effective move Kan can make to begin rebuilding from the disaster is to retire.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Excessive Self-Restraint Will Lead to Shrinkages, Dispiritedness

If the whole country contracts, Japan will be ruined. While it is natural to want to put all our efforts into the revival of the quake- and tsunami-damaged areas, for a more long-term revival, we need to improve all of Japan. We need to energize the overall economy.

"Too much of a good thing is good for nothing."
— Ieyasu Tokugawa

Too much of this self-imposed control sweeping the country is dangerous. Overdo it, and Japan will shrink. Tokyo is already on the verge of overdoing it. If all of Japan overdoes it, Japan will be led down the road to ruin.

The government needs an aggressive economic policy. But then comes the Pavlovian response: An aggressive economic policy will lead directly to a financial collapse. If the nation's debt rises, so will interest rates. If that happens, there will be a steady procession of small and midsize companies heading for bankruptcy protection. Japan's economy will falter.

They want to push for a tax hike. And it's not just the Finance Ministry and its scholars saying this. The majority of the politicians in the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party as well as government officials are in agreement with the Finance Ministry. And the mass media provides the echo chamber. In fact, the media is more than an echo chamber; it's leading the charge.

But the Finance Ministry's austerity measures, fixation on debt repayment and push to hike taxes will shrink Japan's economy in the long run, increasing financial debt. In other words, if we follow the austere policies of the Finance Ministry, Japan will fall apart.

The abnormal level of self-imposed control and shrinkage after the great earthquake presents a new danger. Too much of this control could send Japan to the brink. We need to change policy right away.

I think that without a policy that plays on Japan's strengths, there will be no revival. The government needs to change course to aggressive policies. On March 11, 2011, everything about Japan — its politics, economy, society, international position — changed. We need to acknowledge this and change direction too.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Bad Prime Minister in a Bad Situation is a Formula for Disaster

We need a political leader who can harness the ability of the country's civil servants to help us overcome this crisis. Prime Minister Naoto Kan is not that man. We should form a new cabinet with People's New Party leader Shizuka Kamei as the premier.

We need the focus and ability of our country's civil servants more than ever.

Japan is facing a national crisis. Political power without crisis-management know-how is worthless. A politician like Kan, who can't motivate the bureaucrats, leaves one hundred problems and no solution.

To overcome the lack of energy caused by the nuclear incident and the East Japan Earthquake, politicians need to do more than pledge unity. We need political leaders who can mobilize the national and local government employees and guide them to make the most of their abilities. Prime Minister Kan isn't up to the task.

No system will get the bureaucrats motivated and moving. We need the leadership of people. If we don't have people in positions of power who are capable of rallying the bureaucrats, we're in trouble. '

But the sad truth is there are very few politicians around these days who are up to the task. Kan has already failed. The only two in the political world who can get the government employees motivated are Shizuka Kamei and Ichiro Ozawa. Both of these men need to have a central role, but Kamei, leader of the People's New Party, is most suited for the top position.

I have a request to make of Prime Minister Kan: quietly bow out of the government and recommend Kamei as your replacement. If you do this, we'll finally have a government that can handle crisis management. A prime minister who can't rally the bureaucracy is worthless right now. I think the Democratic Party of Japan should get behind the idea that Kamei should be entrusted with the leadership role.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Word to the Government on its Great Quake Policies

Thoughts of a grand coalition without sincerity create a hundred potential pitfalls and no advantages; there are no true friends in a me-first system

All that begins sincerely will end sincerely. Sincerity is the basis for all human action. Without it, nothing is obtainable.

The actions of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chief Secretary Katsuya Okada don't seem especially sincere. What creeps out is the same "me first" philosophy we've seen before.

They continue to disregard the policy requests of the opposition but then request that Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki join the Cabinet. They use "sincerity" as a political strategy. Propriety is lost in favor of bad faith bargaining. The ways of Kan and Okada lack propriety. I have repeatedly urged the government to "sincerely request cooperation from those who can help," but Kan and Okada have chosen an improper strategy. And thus nothing will move forward. Their approach is poor.

If you're going to solicit the help of the LDP and other opposition parties, then first the Diet's proceedings must be normalized. Rethink the idea of separating the budget from other related bills and bulling through a vote, and instead aim for normalizing Diet proceedings. The ruling party must also consider the demands of the opposition.

In the political world, many are talking about how Kan and Okada deliberately acted in a way that would muzzle the LDP. That show's how bad they have handled things.

If they are really interested in creating a renewed sense of national unity and getting the cooperation of the opposition, they need to first normalize Diet proceedings and then ask properly for help. But to ignore the LDP's proposed bills on tsunami protection and ask for a "grand coalition" of cooperation is an insincere and bull-headed strategy. Insincere politics creates a hundred problems and no solutions. Using this disaster to measure one's political power is nothing short of a crime.