Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Policy to Stop Stocks from Plummeting

Below is an urgent proposal. I especially want politicians to read it. The plunge in stock values is not stopping. There is no way out.

Last Thursday night (Nov. 20), I visited an economist, former politician and executive of my generation at his research center and heard him express the opinion that if stock prices are left to decline much further, it will create an extremely dangerous situation for the Japanese economy.

So what can we do? The only option left is for the government to start purchasing stock. To do this, we need to set up as quickly as possible an institution that can handle this task. That's what my acquaintance argued.

Politicians from all parties need to get together and promptly discuss this crisis to stabilize our economy. We can't continue to be contentious.

My request to politicians from both camps: Quickly get together and establish an organ that can begin purchasing stock!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Don't Forgive the Dissolution Dodgers

The political attempts to avoid dissolution of the lower house have grown quite flagrant. Avoidance of this issue will only intensify the people's distrust of politics. Much of the responsibility for this should be placed directly on the shoulders of Prime Minister Taro Aso and his fellow leaders. Dissolution and a general election are important events for Japan. Leaders of the ruling and opposition parties should begin discussions to put an end to this politics of avoidance. The prime minister shouldn't fiddle around with this important event any longer. He should take immediate steps to bring leaders of the two sides together and discuss a political schedule that includes dissolving the lower house. This would bring some normalcy back to the political world. I'd like to see our politicians return to the state of the new candidate. Dissolution shouldn't be used as a bargaining chip; discussions should give us a clear sense of when the house will be dissolved.

Article 41 of our Constitution says, "The Diet shall be the highest organ of state power and shall be the sole law-making organ of the state." It is abnormal behavior to play with the timing of the dissolution of the most powerful house of the Diet, using it like a bargaining tool with the opposition. This is an attack on the citizens' power to choose its representatives. The Diet needs to clearly explain to the voters the coming schedule for dissolution of the lower house and the next election to put an end to this unusual mess. The political instability caused by the lack of a concrete schedule needs to come to an end. The lead actors in a general election are the voters. There are no more than 10 months left in the terms of the current lower house representatives. The Diet should decide when the next election will be held, and it should clearly inform the voters of the schedule. It should stop waiting for the prime minister, who can't make up his mind on the issue.

Most of the responsibility for the current confusion falls on Prime Minister Aso. He needs to show some leadership to put a period on this messy political situation and make things right. To do this, he needs to withdraw his statements that "dissolution is my decision to make. I will make it when the time is right," and entrust the decision to the Diet. The government should take emergency steps to reach an agreement among parties on the dissolution of the lower house and the next election. Prime Minister Aso needs to stop talking like the issue is up to him and find a way through discussions with the opposition to bring some clarity to the recent political muddle in Japan.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Resisting Civilian Control of the SDF is an Unforgivable Act

Former Air Force Chief of Staff Toshio Tomogami has been continuing his resistant stance toward the cabinet. This should never be forgiven by the SDF's leaders. It's a clear affront to the idea of civilian control of the Self-Defense Forces. He should not be forgiven for this. The Diet should pursue this in a thorough manner.

When the SDF begins to act of its own political volition and the government allows them to, Japan's pacifistic and democratic standards will crumble from their very base. This is a serious issue -- it's the same as the military moves before World War II.

This Tomogami Incident stirs up the same discomfiting memories of the army's reckless acts before World War II. The SDF is a military body. It's a military force. If a group within it adopts an extreme ideology and begins a movement led by the former Air Force chief of staff to disregard civilian control of the military, it would create an inescapable mess for Japan's international diplomacy. This problem should be nipped in the bud as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Baby Boomers Give Ozawa Too Much Leeway

I've been criticizing Ichiro Ozawa, the head of the Democratic Party of Japan, ever since October 7, 2007, when he was interviewed in the November issue of general news magazine Sekai. He was quoted in the magazine's pages as saying that "If I end up running the government and setting diplomatic and defense policies, I would like to have Japan participate in ISAF," which is the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. I am strongly opposed to having Japan enter in the Americans' war in Afghanistan.

Ever since I started criticizing him, I've been getting emails and letters telling me to stop it. The messages were so intense that at first I brushed it off as the work of some particularly devoted Ozawa acolytes. But it turns out to be more than that.

I've noticed that within the Japanese populace there is a particularly virulent strain of thought that says, "What's so bad about having the SDF in Afghanistan? What's so bad about having them be part of ISAF?" I've learned that a lot of Japanese people think, "What's the big deal if we go to war?" At some point, this argument between me and Ozawa became an argument between me and his supporters. I've been answering their question — "What's the problem with going to war?" — in recent writings. And I've come to realize that Ozawa has become to proxy for those people who don't fear war.

A few days ago, I was talking to a former newspaper reporter and an old acquaintance who took an aggressive stance on the subject: "Even if the Ozawa cabinet decides to dispatch troops to Afghanistan, that would still be preferable to having Taro Aso and the Liberal Democratic Party in power. It would even be true if Aso were to decide to stay out of Afghanistan. It's no big deal if Ozawa joins the war in Afghanistan. I've had enough of LDP governments. I would support Ozawa even if he followed through with the pledge he made in that issue of Sekai."

I believe that everything else being equal, the government that won't lead us into a war is preferable.

There are more and more Japanese people who share my friend's sentiment about being fed up with the LDP. A lot of people are hoping that a new group will take control of the government. The election will be a referendum on the government of the past. But that's not all the vote will be about. It will also be a referendum on our future. The citizenry needs to both criticize the past and look to a peaceful future.

The current DPJ is entrusting every political decision to Ozawa. If the party were to take power after the next election, everything would be decided by Prime Minister Ozawa. This new premier's cabinet would reinterpret our right to exercise collective self-defense without bothering to revise Article 9 of the Constitution. A DPJ-led government would lead to the absolute rule of one person, who would decide to take military action in spite of Article 9. Once the Ozawa government takes over, he can take military action without worrying about the nuances of Article 9.

I am against this politics of despotism and warmongering. A lot of baby boomers support Ozawa, but I ask them to think more seriously about the meaning of war and peace.