Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Hatoyama Cabinet Strays Off Course

"The secret of success is constancy to purpose." — 19th Century British politician Benjamin Disraeli

I want Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to hear Disraeli's words. Lately, Hatoyama has been veering flagrantly off course. I've been hearing more people devoted to political change in Japan say they feel "betrayed" by the premier. It is impossible to get a grasp on what Hatoyama stands for by listening to him or watching him in the political sphere. Why did he run for the position, and now that he's got it, what does he want to do with his political power? We can't tell. He looks right, looks left and just sits there without deciding a thing. We can't tell what his objectives are, and he seems incapable of making a firm decision. If he continues like this, the people will begin to remember the historic election of August 30 as the Revolution That Wasn't. If he just sits in the seat of power, he hasn't really changed much from the previous administration. If he doesn't have clear and firm goals, he should retire as soon as possible for the sake of the country.

Lately I've been hearing this sort of comment from a lot of people: "The economic policies of the Hatoyama Cabinet are a lot like Koizumi's structural reforms." Koizumi's reforms were based on the neoliberal views propagated by the US Republican Party: fiscal reform, financial reform, deregulation, small government and a reduction of public works. The fiscal reforms stopped economic growth and squeezed our finances. Deregulation protected the strong and discarded the weak. The Democratic Party of Japan won the election on a platform of opposing the Liberal Democratic Party's approach, and yet once the Hatoyama administration was established, it began the very sorts of Koizumi-like reforms it should have been denouncing. Hatoyama's economic policies are the very essence of neoliberalism. The Cabinet's penchant for fiscal reconstruction, its economy-shrinking policies, its disregard for the provinces and its attack on public works add up to the re-emergence of Koizumi era neoliberal reforms. It's quite reasonable, then, that many people are starting to grumble about what this whole struggle was for.

Prime Minister Hatoyama needs to solve the fiscal scandal surrounding his political organization in a way that meets the approval of the voters. He can't keep running and hiding from the problem. He needs to find the strength to focus his party. Conflict in the ruling coalition can also be tied to Hatoyama's lack of leadership. It makes me want to scream, "Get it together!"

The Code of Political Ethics adopted by the Diet on June 25, 1985, includes this passage: "When there is any doubt about a potential violation of political ethics, we should sincerely work to clarify the situation and make our responsibility clear." Prime Minister Hatoyama needs to live up to these words.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hatoyama "Head Clerk" of Ozawa's Government

Who's in charge here? Jun Hongo argues in The Japan Times that it's Ichiro Ozawa who holds the power, and that can be most plainly seen in Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's flip-flop on a campaign pledge to cut a gas tax.

Morita seconds that opinion, telling Hongo: "Hatoyama is clearly just the head clerk of the administration."

It seems the change we voters believed in on both sides of the Pacific is little more than a change in rhetoric.

Hatoyama Hangover

The New York Times reports that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's popularity is waning because of a financial scandal implicating his office:

“Every day, he seems to say and do something different,” said Minoru Morita, a political commentator who runs an independent research organization in Tokyo. “This is starting to shake the people’s confidence in him.”

The article states that a recent opinion poll shows the premier's approval ratings dropping from the 70% range to 56%.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama's Nobel Speech Must Be Protested

US president's logic — "... we can build a just and lasting peace" and "[T]he instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace" — works against peace and rationalizes war

"There never was a good war or a bad peace." Those are the words of famous American diplomat Ben Franklin (1706-1790). And he is right.

Or take the words of Cicero, the Roman politician (BC106-BC43): "No such thing as a just war." He is also right. A "war in the name of justice" is just a warmonger's way of quibbling.

This idea of a "just peace" is a dangerous, unsophisticated theory. All sorts of warmongers and hawks have used "justice" to rationalize war. President Obama uses this logic to rationalize the Afghanistan war, but he shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

There were those who disagreed from the start with the choice of giving President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. In the wake of his speech rationalizing the war in Afghanistan, those who disagree with the choice will rise in number. That's only natural.

I believe that peace-loving people of the world should criticize Obama's speech and call for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Premier Hatoyama Can't Escape Political Code of Ethics

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ought to take a stand, respect the political code of ethics and clearly explain the problem of false reports made by his political fund-raising organization.
This is not something you slough off with an "I don't recall." That's a clear violation of the political funding regulation law. The prime minister should not shuck and dodge these questions.

I'd like to read from the beginning of the political code of ethics. Here's what is written:

"The establishment of a political code of ethics serves as the basis for parliamentary politics. We should be conscious of the fact that we have been entrusted with the authority to govern the nation by the people, who are the sovereigns. As politicians, we must retain a conscientiousness, humility and sense of duty as we work. We must make efforts to retain the trust of the people."

Prime Minister Hatoyama is the leader of Japan's political world. He should display bravery and sincerity. If the leader of the political realm slips around the laws, he will lose the trust of the people. This problem is connected to the moral sense of the Japanese people.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Domestic politics matter for US-Japan relations

The Social Democratic Party is a small party, but when it threatened to drop out of the ruling coalition if the government approved a plan for US bases in Okinawa, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had to pay attention. If the SDP dropped out, the coalition would lose its majority in the upper house. So the US, used to getting its way with Japan on foreign policy matters, has to learn to be patient:

Daniel Sneider, a Japan expert at Stanford University, said the United States has yet to really take into account the significance of the political changes wrought by the August election. "Domestic politics matter in Japan now in a way that they didn't when you had a virtual one-party state for 50 years," he said. "Do elections and domestic politics influence foreign policy in the United States? Of course. Now they do in Japan, too."

Here's the full article from the Washington Post.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Focus on Deflation is Govt's Biggest Problem

The Hatoyama Cabinet, Finance Ministry, Democratic Party of Japan, Bank of Japan and Financial Services Agency have all been essentially focused on deflationary policies. They tighten finances, cut fiscal spending and tighten finances again. Deflationary trends are worsened; unemployment soars. When the price of goods is falling, it's a crime to pursue deflationary policies.

Japan's economy is in the midst of a deflationary spiral. And yet, the Hatoyama administration, Finance Ministry, Bank of Japan and DPJ are all promoting deflationary policies. The mass media is praising and abetting the very moves that are at the heart of these policies: reducing fiscal spending. The weeding out of projects is the ultimate deflationary policy. In its ignorance, the media is committing a grave blunder.

The government, Finance Ministry and national media would do well to look to the provinces. Most of the high school students nearing graduation have yet to figure out where they will work.

The government should be focused on a plan to overcome these deflationary trends. It needs to stop immediately its current plans.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Politicians Grill Bureaucrats on Live Webcasts

The circus surrounding budget cuts and politicians grilling bureaucrats over their spending has captivated much of Japan. Here's a piece from Reuters on the hoopla over the Webcasts. Of course, as Mr. Morita points out, a lot of this is just smoke and mirrors. Reuters quotes him as saying:

"If they really wanted to cut the budget, they should be looking at big items like defense spending and the overseas aid budget. But they're sticking to the smaller items."

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Fascism behind the DPJ's Manifesto

The faults of the Hatoyama administration are starting to come into view as the upper and lower houses hold their summary discussions at the extraordinary Diet session.

First, the administration's move to halt some spending and tweak other parts of the 2009 supplementary spending bill raises the possibility of serious constitutional violations. At the very least, it raises questions about our parliamentary democracy.

The supplementary budget, which is being used now, was approved by the highest authority in the land, the Diet. Any halting of spending or rearranging of funds must be approved by the Diet. For the administration to change on its own something approved by the Diet is an act of arrogation. It is also a denial of the principles underpinning a parliamentary democracy.

This illegal stoppage of supplementary spending has depleted the efforts of local governments to overcome the recession. The damage is extensive. The Hatoyama administration is piling deflation on top of deflation. The administration bears a lot of responsibility for these actions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Three Bits of Advice for Prime Minister Hatoyama

Political leaders shouldn't slink around in the background. At a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Nov. 2, Prime Minister Hatoyama apologized for his answer in a previous meeting on Oct. 28. At the earlier meeting, he had responded to Liberal Democratic Party President Tanigaki's main question by saying, "I don't want to hear that from you guys."

Lately the premier has been apologizing a lot. This was a problem with him even before he became premier, but he's had to apologize for thoughtless remarks since becoming prime minister too. He needs to develop the strong consciousness required of a prime minister. At this rate, his politics will turn into so much fluff. The members of the Democratic Party of Japan and the mass media who applaud Hatoyama's thoughtless and untimely remarks should think about their actions.

The DPJ made a contract via its manifesto that ties it to taking political initiative, countering the bureaucrats and dismantling Kasumigaseki, the center of bureaucratic power. It's focused on loosening the bureaucrats' hold on power and abolishing a system where retired bureaucrats head to lucrative positions in private companies. However doubts were raised when Hatoyama appointed former Finance Vice Minister Jiro Saito to run Japan Post. Some questioned the premier's sincerity. At the heart of the public's distrust is Hatoyama's quibbling sophistry. He needs to be honest and sincere with the public.

I travel around the country and talk to people from many regions. These days I'm hearing more dissatisfaction and fear because Hatoyama is ignoring the provinces. Ever since former Transport Minister Maehara halted repairs on Yamba Dam, it's been clear that the government is ignoring the provinces, refusing to answer their questions and using state power to get their way. Midsize and small-scale construction firms are going bankrupt, businesses are closing at a rapid rate because of the extreme cuts to public works spending in the name of cutting the waste in the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget. This lack of understanding by the government is leading us directly to a deep recession in the provinces. People in these provinces are starting to feel that Hatoyama is abandoning them. More people are saying they've been stabbed in the back by the Hatoyama administration and the DPJ. Hatoyama ought to take a modest stance and listen to the people in the provinces.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Extreme Austerity Measures Invite a Hatoyama Depression

We have entered a political age where policies run over the people in the name of financial reconstruction and only the Finance Ministry prospers. To put it more accurately, it's the age where we're governed by Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa and the Finance Ministry. The ministry has decided to run full-speed ahead with its fiscal reconstruction uber alles principle.

History is repeating itself. In 1993, when the Hosokawa-led anti-LDP coalition came to power, the ones holding the reins were Ichiro Ozawa, then head of the New Frontier Party, and Jiro Saito, vice minister of the Finance Ministry. At the time, the ministry and Ozawa were pushing for a national welfare tax of 7%. In the end, this resulted in the Hosokawa cabinet's demise.

This time, Ozawa and the ministry are drawn together in their "search for waste" as they rush to slash budgets. As the government trumpets its search for waste and budget cuts, the recession and unemployment are likely to worsen, and it becomes more likely that we're headed toward a Hatoyama Depression.

The most important thing right now is to stem the downward spiral of job losses and the recession and return to economic growth. To do this, we need to increase public spending and expand the money supply.

However Hatoyama (and Ozawa and the Finance Ministry) are setting off to do the exact opposite thing. Their policy will deepen the recession. At an Oct. 22 administrative reform conference, Inamori, a main member of the group and the honorary chairman of Kyocera, said, "Even if the recession gets worse now, growth in the future is what's important." In other words, as long as we're thinking about the future, it's OK that the current recession gets worse. Really? That's madness. I wish people would give these issues some real thought.

At this rate, the good ship Japan is headed for the bottom of the ocean. I listened to Prime Minister Hatoyama's policy speech on Oct. 26 and felt that he lacked a sense of urgency concerning the current economic situation. The prime minister doesn't seem to have noticed that his country is sinking. This is not the time for carefree talk about cleaning up government. There's no reason for a government to exist if it's out to destroy the people's economy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Base Issue Gives Hatoyama Early Test

The Hatoyama administration has been roiling the waters between Japan and the US over a plan to relocate a US military base on Okinawa. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama says he needs time to review the agreement. Meanwhile, the US is leaning hard on him to acquiesce. Hatoyama's ministers are voicing different opinions, and analysts are split on whether that's a sign of disarray or a way to gauge public opinion. Here's the latest from Reuters.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Cut the Waste": A Dangerous Slogan for Strengthening One's Political Base

At the heart of the "cut the waste" slogan is a move by those holding political power and people in the media to encouraging whistle-blowing and get people's blood boiling as we beat the bushes for waste. It's a dangerous gambit.

Look at how dictators such as Hitler or Stalin consolidated political power. They'd come up with a slogan that no one could be against. When people started voicing opposition to the ideas, they'd be attacked and suppressed. "Cut the waste" is one of those slogans that has served dictators well in the past.

There's no one against cutting the waste. If the political powers that be decide to start a movement around this slogan, no one can oppose it. If the media become cheerleaders for the idea, then those who oppose it will be the objects of witch-hunts and will be ostracized from society.

No one can come out against "cutting the waste." If they call for "eliminating wasteful spending of tax money," there isn't a soul who wouldn't agree with the concept. In today's Japan, when the mass media has such overriding influence, if it decides to pursue with all its might this idea of finding and eliminating waste, anyone criticizing them will be persona non grata. If the media speaks as one and says "the dam is a waste," no one will be able to challenge them by saying that the dam is necessary.

If the media decides to go after public works, saying they are wasteful, anyone standing up for the role of public works will be unheard above the din. If they decide to call the independent administrative agencies wasteful, the public will begin to hum the same tune. If the politicians use this and the media joins in, soon anyone who uses tax money will be "bad."

Just about every tax expenditure made by the previous coalition of Liberal Democrats and New Komeito is being labeled wasteful now. At the same time, if the Democratic Party of Japan does something, the media is quick to praise it.

Using a moral code of "getting rid of the waste" is a dangerous political ploy because it invites dictatorship.

In politics, balance is important. You need to be careful not to go too far. The Hatoyama administration and the media bring us closer to a dictatorship with their campaign against "waste."

Politics needs to be large-hearted. Using a slogan such as "cut the waste" as an excuse to trample on freedoms is an old trick of dictatorship. We can't afford to repeat this stupidity.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hatoyama Stakes out New Ground in US-Japan Relations

Living up to his campaign promise of creating a more equal relationship with the US, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his administration have been sending signals that they may not let the US build a new airbase on Okinawa, according to Agence France Press.

Mr. Morita was quoted in the story as saying: "Hatoyama's 'no' is the first time Japan is rebelling against the US in decades ... Japan-U.S. relations are in danger."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mainstream Media Cheers Budget Cuts Sure to Delay Recovery

Japan's mainstream media is a national media. The broadcasts and reports emanating from Tokyo are practically unanimous in their point of view.

The Tokyo-based media fell in line to support and praise Prime Minister Hatoyama's decision to "cut the fat" from the budget. But the government has stalled the recovery in the name of cutting the fat. The minority view that the cuts are bad was not given air time. The media simply ignored that view.

Opinion polls showed strong public support for the Hatoyama Cabinet's budget cuts, or as the polls put it, "getting rid of the waste."

Supplementary budgets are meant to help the economy recover. Cut them, and their ability to pump up the economy is weakened. The government plans to cut the budgets it should be spending and wait till next year to spend that money. This will weaken our current attempts at economic recovery.

The problems the government should be setting policy for are the recession and unemployment. Cutting the supplementary budget is a measure that slows the economic recovery. This step should be rethought. The mass media's support for this measure casts a dark shadow over Japan.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Media Attacks on Yamba Dam Amount to Witch-Hunt

The weekly magazines Shukan Asahi, Sunday Mainichi and Shukan Gendai all had basically the same angle on the Yamba Dam story in their October 5 issues. They all joined in a campaign to support Land Minister Maehara. The points they raised were practically identical. They disregarded any objections. Is that the best they can do? I got the feeling that some people in the media were working behind the scenes to manipulate the situation. It reminded me of the vote to privatize the postal service in 2005 when Koizumi was prime minister. When political power coalesces with media power, the result is not good for democracy.

On the evening of October 6, I watched TV Asahi's Hodo Station. The wheedling tone of voice of newscaster F-san that night as he brushed aside any criticism of Maehara's plan would have been laughable if it weren't so ugly. Democracy faces a serious problem when the mass media becomes the mouthpiece for those holding political power. TV Asahi has been cheerleading for Prime Minister Hatoyama from morning to night on its broadcasts. A little moderation is needed. Journalism must be fair. Don't silence opposing views.

If all the mass media outlets fall in line with the administration, we're left with totalitarianism. If the media becomes the arm of political power, it's despotism, and despotism is something I am completely against.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hatoyama Cabinet Needs to Ease off Party Manifesto

The Hatoyama Cabinet is in too much of a rush. It would be better off if it slowed down a bit. Soon after the election, I offered advice to the Democratic Party of Japan and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in the form of a Shakespeare quote -- "To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first." It seems they weren't listening. Hatoyama appears to be in a hurry. He should calm down, think about what needs to be done, decide on the proper policies, then go to work. By rushing, he comes off as authoritarian.

The Hatoyama Cabinet should stand by two documents: The three-party coalition pact and the DPJ manifesto. Many people don't understand the difference between the two. I'll start from the conclusion. The Hatoyama Cabinet should give top priority to the coalition pact signed on September 9 by Hatoyama-san for the DPJ, Fukushima-san for the Social Democratic Party and Kamei-san for the People's New Party. This is how the Hatoyama administration formed its coalition with the two smaller parties.

However, some of Hatoyama's key cabinet ministers seem to ignore this pact while pushing the DPJ manifesto as the top priority. This is a mistake. If the DPJ is giving top priority to its manifesto, the three-party pact is rendered meaningless. In that case, it should have chosen to rule alone. Since the Hatoyama administration has chosen to form a coalition with the Socialists and the People's New Party, it should honor the three-party pact first and the manifesto second.

One man pushing the manifesto is 77-year-old Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii. This is his argument as quoted in the September 29 morning edition of the Mainichi Shinbun: "The DPJ won the lower house election because of overall support for its public pledges. There are probably discussions to have on various policies, but we mustn't keep adjusting our policies according to public opinion, or trust in the party will drop."

Fujii's argument just doesn't hold up. A lot of the DPJ's support came from people who wanted to vote against the LDP more than anything else. Opinion polls show barely 10% of DPJ supporters said they based their votes on the manifesto. Fujii has gone overboard. At a time when we need our elder statesmen to be flexible, Fujii's "executive decisiveness" is a bit much. He should know that a hardened line on the manifesto will lead to the collapse of the coalition. Fujii should put the needs of his nation ahead of concerns about trust in his party. A strict belief in the manifesto is a dangerous stance.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

TV Commentator Tries to Diminish Premier's Financial Scandal

"The false campaign-fund reports filed by Hatoyama's private office pose a small problem for the premier. In fact, it's odd to even call it a problem." Thus spoke a famous TV commentator on a highly rated program recently. However you view this case, I want to make my thoughts on the issue clear.

Our society is predicated on the assumption that everyone is supposed to obey the law. Legislators who make the laws should take extra measures to adhere to the law.

Rep. Hatoyama admitted as much when the campaign-fund scandal broke, announcing that he was firing the secretary in charge. But that doesn't make the problem of the false reports go away. There needs to be an investigation into whether laws were broken. This issue needs to be resolved in a clear manner.

When the same sort of scandal hit the Liberal Democratic Party, many LDP lawmakers resigned in response. But Hatoyama has explained the scandal once and taken no other action. During the election campaign, the issue of the false reports was all but omitted from the discussion. The media was silent. Is this what we want?

On the Sept. 20 broadcast of TV Asahi's "Sunday Project," T-san, a well-known commentator, said of the scandal, "It's a minor thing. We need to be debating bigger issues." His view is prevalent among Democratic Party of Japan members, but is it correct? It's not healthy to give someone a pass just because they climbed their way to the premiership. In fact, we should do the opposite: Because Hatoyama is the prime minister, he should be held to a high standard. No one is above the law.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Will the Hatoyama Administration Really Improve People's Lives?

The Hatoyama administration began on September 16. The Democratic Party of Japan has been basking in euphoria since the election victory. The mass media has also shone an admiring light on the administration. Yet at the same time, anxiety is growing that this new administration will further the recession. More people believe that a DPJ administration will pull the economy down further and worsen unemployment.

Some readers may be surprised to learn that the DPJ has neither the policies to combat the recession nor a strategy for economic growth. It hasn't conceived of how the government can help industry and companies. Moreover, it is said that the party plans a large reshuffle of this year's supplementary budget. Confusion is inevitable. If this reshuffling gets stalled, then next year's budgetary process is likely to be delayed as well. And public works are apt to be reduced. If this is the case, then it will take even longer to overcome this recession.

On top of all this, the DPJ is pushing a policy of dismantling the bureaucracy, which is sure to sap the energy of government officials. A clash between politicians and bureaucrats will result in stagnation.

Yukio Hatoyama gave a speech on September 8, just before he officially became prime minister, in which he said Japan would reduce emissions that cause global warming to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. The overly ambitious target puts an added onus on Japanese companies. And it penalizes electricity and steel manufacturers trying to compete with China and other countries, setting those industries back by as much as several hundred billion yen. The government ends up putting an added burden on itself and Japanese industry by setting an unrealistic goal just because it wants to make a good impression with the EU. This is what I call the "Lone Nation Self-Admiration Principle."

The sky-high target puts pressure on corporate management. It could lower salaries as well, which would lead to a deepening of the recession and a further rise in unemployment. In fact, there's hardly anything in all of the Hatoyama administration's proposals that will directly fuel economic recovery and growth. The DPJ would do well to listen closely to the growing concerns about its approach.

The DPJ should focus on lowering unemployment, stabilizing the economy and setting it on a path for growth. These are the top priorities. But instead it wants to redo the supplementary budget, dismantle the bureaucracy and set unreasonably high goals for emission reductions -- all these policies have elements in them that could hurt the already ailing economy. If this new regime gives us a worse recession and increasing unemployment, the public is likely to wake from its dream in an extremely bad mood.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Proposal for Premier Hatoyama: Value the Provinces

Where are Japan's politics heading?

First, we need to revive the spirit of cooperation and harmony among the Japanese people. We made a mistake when we followed the path of "structural reform," which was really market fundamentalism as espoused by the Republicans in the U.S. Japan's economy deteriorated, the livelihood of its people declined and its society was riven with gaps between the haves and the have-nots. This happened because of excessive globalism (and the disregard of domestic-demand-driven industries), a capital-centric system (with little investment in objects and industry) and a Tokyo-centric economy that all but forgot the provinces. The decline of the provinces has been especially egregious. This is what destroyed the Liberal Democratic Party, and now it is the Hatoyama Cabinet's responsibility to right this wrong.

Second, we should revive the idea of holding a lot of public meetings to forge a consensus on national issues. The reason the LDP lost the support of the people is because it grew arrogant and suffered from delusions of grandeur as it made arbitrary decisions for the nation. The Hatoyama administration will have to correct this mistake. One thing it can do is listen closely to the opinions of the people in the provinces.

Third, we need to re-establish a harmonious morality. Engaging in confrontation and contentiousness in the name of "reform" will bring a hundred problems before it brings one advantage. The giant media outlets are fueling the talk of reform. They are bringing the fight to organizations they don't like, painting those who challenge the media as being hostile to "reform." The media's target is the "public," especially anything to do with government offices and public works.

The media are turning into a kind of lethal weapon. The new Hatoyama administration has to rise above the mudslinging.

The Hatoyama Cabinet must undo the folly and mistakes made since the Koizumi administration. The LDP's ruin came about because it ignored the provinces. If the new administration is going to right this wrong, the people need to hold Hatoyama's feet to the fire.

My frank message to Mr. Hatoyama: Put emphasis on the provinces. You can do this by promoting regional farming and industry. The pillar of the local economies is construction. Treat the construction industry well!

Revival of the provinces will require spending that strengthens society: Promote environmental maintenance, disaster prevention and restoration, tourism and local industries.

This is my message to the premier.

The Democratic Party of Japan should not get caught up in being true to every letter of the manifesto it delivered to the people in the recent election. The party should have the courage to shelve the things that don't help the people.

The party should annul its proposal to greatly reduce public-works spending. It's the work of the neoliberal wing of the DPJ, and its enactment would mean further deterioration in the provinces. This sort of foolish policy should be withdrawn as quickly as possible. I repeat: Please put more value on the provinces.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Mask

As the Democratic Party of Japan seizes power after its historic victory, people are beginning to ask, "Who really calls the shots within the DPJ, Prime Minister to be Yukio Hatoyama or kingmaker Ichiro Ozawa?" Here's Mr. Morita's reply in a recent AP story:

“Ozawa is far more powerful,” Minoru Morita, a politics expert and author, said Saturday. “It’s as though Ozawa is wearing a Hatoyama mask. He is in control, although on the surface Hatoyama is the leader.”

And from Reuters, here's Mr. Morita's take on Naoto Kan, expected to be appointed head of the National Strategy Bureau, a policy-setting group:

"All he has ever done with the bureaucrats is fight them," said political commentator Minoru Morita. "The danger with Kan in this post is that the bureaucrats will simply stop working for fear of being attacked, so nothing will move forward," he added.

In Mr. Kan's defense, he does acknowledge that unemployment is the biggest issue Japan faces; Mr. Morita argues the same thing in the post below this one.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Hopes for the New Administration

The events of August 30 in Japan were a kind of peaceful revolution. It was a national uprising. The citizens used the ballot box to end one long political reign and give birth to a new political force. It was a huge shift. It's understandable that the winners were giddy and elated by their victory.

But the important thing is to proceed with care. Don't rush. First seek to understand the election results and figure out why this happened. Analyze the voters' opinions. Take a deep breath and start out by listening to the people. Don't let your passions get the best of you; you need to refrain from picking a fight with the bureaucracy right off the bat. The most important thing for the new administration is to have the resolve to fight the hardships facing the Japanese people today.

Human affairs are important in politics. The leaders need to balance a strong sense of responsibility with passion and vision. Bring the powerful Ichiro Ozawa into the cabinet as vice prime minister. This is the best way to dispel the notion that Ozawa wields his power from the shadows. Don't just appoint experienced ministers from the Democratic Party of Japan such as Naoto Kan, Kozo Watanabe and Hirohisa Fujii. Instead, make a coalition cabinet by appointing veteran lawmakers such as Mizuho Fukushima and Yasumasa Shigeno of the Social Democratic Party and Shizuka Kamei of the People's New Party. This not only serves the purpose of stabilizing the cabinet, but it also will smooth out adjustments with the government bureaucracy. The party and the cabinets need to strike a balance among old, middle-aged and young lawmakers as well. In the middle group, Katsuya Okada, Issei Koga, Hirotaka Akamatsu, Akihiro Ohata, Sakihito Ozawa, Masaharu Nakagawa, Yoshihiko Noda, Hiroshi Kawauchi, Yoshinori Suematsu and Hirofumi Hirano are all good candidates for the cabinet.

The top priority of the new administration should be to shore up people's livelihoods. They'll need to work on aggressive policies to fight the recession and stabilize employment. The unemployment rate is 5.7%. The ratio of job openings to job seekers is 0.42. Prices are falling at a rate of 2.2%. There's a pressing need for solutions to all these problems. Medical care, nursing and pensions need to be restored in a hurry. Put fiscal reconstruction on the back burner and focus financial policies on stabilizing people's lives. There is an especially pressing need for measures to alleviate the unemployment situation.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The First Family

New Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama comes from a long line (four generations, to be precise) of Liberal Democratic Party members and his grandfather actually unseated former Prime Minister Taro Aso's grandfather for the premiership decades ago, according to this piece in the Christian Science Monitor.

Hatoyama's wife, the first lady of Japan, has been garnering her own press for claims that she was abducted by aliens and knew Tom Cruise in a past life. Here's Reuters TV on first lady Miyuki.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Memo to the New Administration: Show Some Modesty

The romance of a revolution gets passed down through generations, but the truth is that right after a revolution, the people live in misery. I studied revolutions in my youth and found that while the romance lingered, the effects on society were tragic. That's the real legacy of a revolution.

It's natural for many people to want political change. The new administration will start out by issuing its manifesto. At the heart of that manifesto is the idea that the bureaucratic institutions in Kasumigaseki should be dismantled.

Former bureaucrats appearing in the media talk of the Kasumigaseki bureaucracy as the root of all evil. The heavy criticism has an influence on a wide swath of the public. But the remarks of the former bureaucrats are not fair. It's as if the media has found some former bureaucrats to do its bidding and speak poorly of current bureaucrats. It's difficult to watch these old boys pour abuse on their former home.

Actively serving bureaucrats have been silent. They endure the slander without response. The argument that Kasumigaseki is the root of all evil does not even garner a reply. But the media's attacks on the bureaucracy go too far. We need a fair analysis.

The new administration should heed this quote from Shakespeare: "To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first."

And to the departing Liberal Democrats I say, "It's never too late to mend." The important thing is to reflect on what went wrong and try again.

Finally, to the new administration: Let modesty be your guide.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thoughts on the Election

The phrase "virtual reality" refers to a computer-generated image that is perceived as the real thing.

In the political world, we have an election that hasn't even occurred yet, the Democratic Party of Japan acting as if it has won a tremendous victory and the Liberal Democratic Party hanging its head in defeat. Excessive expectations surrounding the election and public opinion polls reporting an overwhelming lead for the DPJ have resulted in the false perception that the votes have been counted. Some members of the DPJ are as optimistic as politicians the day after an election victory.

Of course, there are some LDP candidates who are giving their all to win their seats. But it seems as if the LDP has abdicated its role as the top political party in Japan. A lot of LDP members think that the coalition with the New Komeito Party is no longer sustainable in the face of the rising popularity of the DPJ. Their spirit was crushed when they saw the voters further distance themselves from the LDP in the July 12 Tokyo assembly elections. It's as if they're content to wallow in memories of the good old days and avoid thinking about the hardships they face right now.

The smaller parties don't seem to have much energy either. These parties play a vital role. I'd like to see more spirit from the People's New Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Communists.

I've been worried by what I've seen recently. The LDP should reflect on its record and alter its traditional course to respond to today's reality. True reflection will result in a sincere confrontation of today's problems. The fringe parties need to save this election by mustering some energy in the final days.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Voters Grow Tired of Hereditary Politics

Morita-san chimes in on the subject of hereditary politics, or seshu:

“Seshu is turning into a politically sensitive issue,” said Minoru Morita, who has written books on politics. “The trend will be toward declining seshu because such candidates are going to have a harder time getting elected.”

Here's the whole story, which focuses on former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's son having a harder than expected time getting elected to his dad's old seat. As one cab driver says in the piece, "Koizumi doesn’t really have that good a reputation around here. He didn’t do that much for us.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bureaucrats Prepare to be Bashed

I recently received a phone call from my friend and former government official H-san. He is a reserved person, a consummate gentleman. This is what he told me:

"Lately, when I meet government officials, they seem a little tense. They've been feeling this way ever since people starting realizing political change could occur, especially once the Democratic Party of Japan started talking about dismantling the bureaucracy and the mass media joined in the bureaucrat bashing. If the DPJ wins, it will join with the media to bash the bureaucrats even more. Government officials can't help but think how they should respond when this bashing begins in earnest. Are Ichiro Ozawa and Yukio Hatoyama for real? If they dismantle Kasumigaseki and the independent administrative agencies, then what will happen? If they are serious about "dismantling Kasumigaseki," as they say, then we should prepare for some awful developments. It would be all-out war between the politicians and the bureaucrats. Can Japan really afford to have that fight?"

New Administration Will Need to Calibrate Change

It's more and more likely that there will be a transfer of political power after the 45th House of Repesentatives election on Aug. 30. I don't think the Aso administration has the strength to avoid the loss of power or the destruction of the coalition between the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito Party. The public is eager to turn against Prime Minister Taro Aso and his ruling coalition. "Let's give the Democratic Party of Japan a chance to run the government" goes the general thinking. And there's really only a very small chance that this public sentiment will change a lot between now and Aug. 30.

One of the big reasons that the LDP could hold onto power for more than 50 years is that there was never a large bloc of people who hated the party. The public didn't dislike the LDP -- that's an important asset for a leader. The reason for this lack of hatred was that the LDP put value on moderation. There was a quality in the old LDP that seemed to dislike extremism of any sort and value the middle. This is why the party never inspired the hatred of the people.

But now, influenced by American extremism, the LDP is more likely to run to the extreme end of an issue. Moreover, it is no longer as able as it once was to put the brakes on extreme moves and get back to the middle. Its ability to find a balance has declined.

It's quite likely that the Aug. 30 elections will result in a coalition government of the DPJ, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party. It's also possible that the DPJ will secure a majority on its own. If it does this, then the coalition will be a coalition in name only, with the DPJ calling the shots.

The main factor for the DPJ's success in responding to the people will be its ability to navigate a moderate path. Right after a new party comes to power, there's a tendency in politics for the new group to rush for results. The mass media will fuel that tendency by setting high expectations. It's important for the new political power to avoid this trap and set out on a path of moderated change. The wise path is to avoid sudden changes.

The top priority of the new administration will be to revive the economy. The constant flow of bankruptcies has to be stemmed. Rising unemployment has to be stopped. The new administration must quickly enact policies to stabilize people's lives and boost the corporate economy, and it will need the cooperation of economic leaders and bureaucrats. It will need to be sure that it has the support of the people. To do that, the new administration must clearly show the people that it has embraced moderation.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reflecting on Peace

The modern world is a frightening place. These days, even minor countries possess nuclear weapons. One such minor country in Northeast Asia has been openly holding nuclear tests and missile launchings. It is provoking its neighbors. This is an extremely dangerous situation.

In an age when many countries possess nuclear weapons, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is becoming even more of a misnomer.

The United States of America developed the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. It dropped these weapons of mass destruction on Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. Both cities were annihilated.

Reports on the experiences of A-bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were tightly controlled under the US military occupation; the Japanese people heard about them solely through word of mouth. Only when the San Francisco Peace Treaty went into effect on April 28, 1952, (after being signed on Sept. 8, 1951) and administrative control of the country was returned to a sovereign Japan was it possible to report on the victims of the bomb.
I was a college student then. I was a student union leader and I quickly helped develop an exhibit of the atomic bomb victims to be shown throughout the country. I opened the exhibit in my hometown of Ito on the Izu Peninsula. From that moment on, I was committed to opposing nuclear weapons.

In the ensuing 57 years, I took a politically neutral position and maintained no party affiliation. For nearly 40 years, my main work has been as a political commentator. While I have not taken part in peace rallies, I have been against war of any sort. At the very core of my pacifism is the deep hurt parents experienced when they lose their sons (including my older brother) on the battlefield.

The anniversaries of Aug. 6 and 9 are upon us. And then there is Aug. 15. On these three days, the people of Japan pray for peace and pledge to never wage war again.

We are in the midst of a campaign for the general election. The timing is right for politicians to vow to uphold peace. I want all of them to recognize that their No. 1 priority as politicians is to defend that peace.

The great Eastern philosopher Confucius said, "Politics is justice." What he meant was that politics had to be based on justice. The great Western philosopher Aristotle said that the goal of politics is to realize the ultimate good, which is the achievement of happiness. And in 19th century England, William Gladstone said, "It is the duty of the government to make it difficult for the people to do wrong, easy to do right."

I believe that all these definitions of politics are correct. But I also believe that as the 20th century has brought us two horrific world wars, politics needs to be redefined. Here's my new definition: "The goal of politics should be to shield us from the worst outcomes" such as war, the loss of autonomy (and subsequent subjugation to another power), massive unemployment, runaway inflation and the destruction of our way of life.

The ultimate goal of politics should be to avoid the worst situations. And the worst of the worst is war.

A lot of politicians are running in the Aug. 30 general election. Among them are some young belligerent types to whom the words of the Greek poet Pindar apply: "War is sweet to those who have no experience of it." These hawks are in both the Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

It's easy to start a war but difficult to finish it. And a nuclear war could bring about the destruction of the human race.

The 45th election of the House of Representatives on Aug. 30 shouldn't be about which party one supports. It should be about which candidates will stand up for peace.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The 'Collective Groan'

As the Liberal Democratic Party unveils its platform for the late August election, Morita-san is quoted by the Christian Science Monitor as saying he can hear a "collective groan" coming from Japan. Here's the full quote:

The LDP "have long failed to deal with protracted economic troubles. Japanese people don't even see Prime Minister Aso's seriousness," says Minoru Morita, an independent political analyst. "More people's lives have begun to crumble and many smaller businesses are on the verge of collapse. I can hear a collective groan coming from all over Japan."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Hope for a Wide Open Policy Debate

"In politics nothing is contemptible." These words from Benjamin Disraeli are troubling. Watching the actions of today's politicians, I get the suspicion that they have an "anything goes" attitude. Party leaders engage in far too much negative campaigning. The parties' upper echelon keeps making mountains out of molehills. The range of topics discussed is far too narrow.

The people of Japan want a wide-ranging policy debate right now. What sort of economic policy should we put in place? Are we happy with our current direction in foreign policy and national security? Are we content to continue following the US? What sort of society and economy does Japan want? The people are asking for a debate about the principles that will guide Japan from hereon out. Our political leaders should heed this request and begin the debate.

The nation is becoming more impoverished. The government delivers carefree pronouncements about how the economy has already hit bottom, and yet economic conditions for the average Japanese are deteriorating rapidly. The unemployment rate is skyrocketing. Bankruptcies are on the rise. A lot of people are at a vital crossroads, unsure of which way to turn.

But the government and the individual leaders of our political parties are not conscious of this reality. Politicians in both the Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan lack this consciousness. These individuals should look at the economic realities and the worsening livelihoods of their constituents and propose breakthrough proposals to help them. We need to weed out politicians without an economic policy and then begin a serious discussion about the reasons for this economic collapse.

Lately, something has really surprised me when I listen to party leaders talk. They have almost no strategic vision for the future. Should we continue with a capitalist society centered on the largest sources of capital? Or should we base our capitalism on an economy that actually makes things? Should we continue down the path of neoliberalism? Or should we pursue some sort of modified capitalism or socialism? Is a profit-oriented society with widening wealth gaps what we want? Or perhaps we should move to a middle-class society that values full employment, social welfare and the environment? It surprises me that none of our political leaders are discussing these vital issues. Our politics have become impoverished. Our political leaders need to develop a general vision for Japan's future.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Responsibility for Disorder Lies with Aso

The Liberal Democratic Party is propelling itself toward self-destruction.

The destruction of the LDP is a serious matter. Responsibility lies with Prime Minister Taro Aso and his inaction, lack of common sense and inadequate leadership skills. The LDP chose a person with no natural leadership skills to be prime minister. The party needs to accept that fact.

The best method for resolving this mess is for Aso to resign as prime minister and party president. As long as he clings to these positions, the party will careen out of control.

So where do we stand today? The Aso Cabinet has dissolved the lower house and asked to be judged by the voters. The LDP faces the voters with an expectation that they will entrust the government to him despite the polls showing more than 70% disapprove of the job he's doing. Do they really think that they can dismiss the people's views and still prevail? What's at stake is the very survival of the LDP. A change in political power draws near in Japan.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Problem with Pragmatism

As the opposition Democratic Party of Japan begins to smell victory in the late August general election, it has also stepped up conferences with the US on security issues. Just how different would a DPJ government be in the long run? It's relationship with the Social Democrats, its partner in the upper house, could be a clear indicator, as Mr. Morita points out in a recent article from Asia Times:

"The DPJ is already increasingly exchanging views on security issues with the US government officials, and it is reviewing its previous stance," Minoru Morita, a noted political analyst in Tokyo, told Asia Times Online. "The alliance with the DPJ and the SDP would be fragile if the DPJ succumbs to pressure from Washington. Pragmatism is a double-edged sword for the DPJ for sure. The more the DPJ becomes pragmatic, the more the SDP aggravates a grievance."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Time to Bid Adieu to Celebrity Governor Mania

The Liberal Democratic Party is being drained of its power at a rapid rate. It's becoming increasingly difficult to envision an LDP-New Komeito victory in the coming election.

The LDP has lost the trust of the nation because the ruling coalition policies have resulted in a worsening of the economy, a rapid rise in unemployment and a destruction of people's livelihoods. It's natural that the voters have become disgusted with the coalition.

Lately, people have quickened the pace at which they are separating from the ruling coalition. There are two direct reasons for this: One is that people are straying from Prime Minister Taro Aso. They've strayed because they no longer trust the party as it reshuffles the cabinet and changes its party executives. The other reason is that Aso turned to Governor Higashikokubaru for help.Turning to the former comedian in the middle of the term is a blatant ploy to boost the party's chances before the election; it's extreme folly to start talking about Higashikokubaru as the LDP candidate in the next election. The LDP is being played by a celebrity governor and held up for derision because of it. This is a pitiful state for a governing party to be in. At the root of this attempt to corral a celebrity governor is the LDP's bid to appeal to populist sentiment.

LDP, open your eyes!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

LDP needs Soka Gakkai vote more than ever

Now that Prime Minister Taro Aso has announced a date for the general election — August 30 — the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will be leaning more than ever on its coalition partner New Komeito to get out the Soka Gakkai vote. The Buddhist lay organization is known for its extensive and powerful get-out-the-vote machine, but will it be enough? Others within the LDP are pushing for Aso to step aside and let a fresh face run as head of the party. Takehiko Kambayashi filed this report about the coming election in the Christian Science Monitor.

My Appeal to the LDP and the DPJ

If premier Taro Aso really believes he can defend his status and the status of the prime minister by dissolving the lower house, his administration is headed for pandemonium. To avoid this fate, Aso needs to resign. If he decides to do otherwise, the political situation will become muddled and the populace will further distance itself from the Liberal Democratic Party, leading to its ruin. That is what I foresee. He should know that public sentiment is against him. I recommend that he quietly read the situation and act accordingly.

The more difficult case is that of Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatoyama. He was just chosen to lead the party about a month and a half ago in May. He ranked high in early public opinion polls. Yet there hasn't been another opinion poll since the most recent political fund scandal came to light. The DPJ is still under the illusion that Hatoyama is popular. A push for Hatoyama to step aside is not going to come from within the party.

There are DPJ supporters who sympathize with Hatoyama. But the funding scandal implicating him should not be brushed aside. At the very least, the person in charge of the funds in Hatoyama's office should be held legally liable. Hatoyama should not be allowed to avoid political and moral responsibility for this scandal either.

Hatoyama may be able to retain his leadership position. But is that really for the best? Hatoyama may even be able to lead his party to victory in the general elections. But it's a risky proposition. If this unique opportunity for political change is left up to Hatoyama, we could be left with nothing but regret. The only person who can do something about this now is Hatoyama himself. I am awaiting a bold decision from Hatoyama-san.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

Prime Minister Taro Aso appoints Yoshimasa Hayashi to head the economy ministry in a last-ditch effort to get those poll numbers to stop descending. It really does seem like the LDP is in for a drubbing whenever it decides to hold the next election, which will be on September 10 at the very latest. Read the Bloomberg report here.

Japan's Tragedy

While plans for an early dissolution of the Diet still have life, the idea that the Liberal Democratic Party would change leaders on July 2 is fading into the distance. I think it is safe to assume that this will soon become an impossibility. The discussions between Prime Minister Taro Aso and former premier Shinzo Abe about dissolving the Diet have been toned down. Aso is still repeating his tired one-man show. Trust in the premier continues to erode.

The LDP is likely to be in disarray after the July 5th gubernatorial election in Shizuoka Prefecture, the July 8-10 Italian Summit and the July 12 election of the Tokyo assembly. The time is drawing near for the LDP to bear the responsibility of choosing Aso as prime minister and party president. Even if he is re-elected to head the party, it will be difficult to stop the party's collapse. The disintegration of the LDP's coalition with the New Komeito Party has begun.

It may be too late, but LDP members need to recognize the danger of destruction they have brought upon themselves and try to recreate the party. If they can't repudiate the Koizumi legacy the way the citizens of Yokosuka City did in their latest mayoral election, then the party won't have a chance of reviving itself.

Opposition parties may welcome the disintegration of the LDP, but I don't think we should be thinking of it at that level. We have to think this through because it could lead to the disintegration of Japan itself.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Aso Cabinet's Desperate Struggle

The resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Kunio Hatoyama may be the final blow for the Aso Cabinet. Support for the Cabinet is plummeting. The likelihood of regime change in the next election is rising. On June 14, Chiba City voters elected as their mayor Toshihito Kumagai, a 31-year-old candidate backed by the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party. Recently, the DPJ-backed candidates won mayoral races in Saitama and Nagoya cities. For the Liberal Democratic Party, it's an avalanche of bad news. Now the Tokyo assembly elections are looking tough for the LDP and coalition partner New Komeito.

More voices are calling for political change. The opposition parties are in their element. An energetic event on June 11 at the Parliamentary Museum hinted that political change was near as Shizuka Kamei, chief of the People's New Party, delivered a speech entitled, "What Should Japan Do?" DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama dropped in to say a few words at the seminar, and he was received as if he were already Japan's next prime minister.

Ever since the DPJ changed leaders in mid-May, public opinion has been changing. Then there came the resignation of the internal affairs minister. The Aso Cabinet is struggling to survive.
The LDP is still planning to go into the general election with the Aso Cabinet, which the public has found wanting. It is asking for voters to trust and respect this Cabinet. More than a few voters are disappointed with the party's tone-deaf approach. The party is starting to shed supporters as well as hopes for the future.

As I travel around the country, I pick up a lot of information. For example, in one region, a religious organization that supports the New Komeito Party has told its members that it should vote for New Komeito in the proportional part of the vote but they are free to back any candidate in the electoral district vote. The LDP, forged in 1955 by combining two parties, used to be a better political party. The end of the LDP is near.

The party needs to reflect on its actions. It must acknowledge the mistakes it has made with the Koizumi-Takenaka structural reforms and the appointment of Aso as prime minister. This wrong-headedness will bring them ruin. Never be afraid to correct a mistake.

The old LDP had some flexibility. Today's party leaders just seem to get more rigid. The party needs to find a new leader and a new set of policies to ride into the election. The next Cabinet will be focused on managing the election. The Hatoyama-led DPJ is all set. But the LDP needs to muster the courage to resign and stand unadorned in front of the electorate to await the voters' judgment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Remembering the Struggle for Sunagawa in the Summer of '57

Many people are aware that in April 2008 an international conflict specialist discovered previously classified documents in the US National Archives. That person was Shouji Shinbara.

Shinbara discovered that MacArthur, then ambassador to Japan, secretly met with Foreign Minister Aichiro Fujiyama and Supreme Court Chief Justice Kotaro Tanaka to get them to overturn the decision reached in March 1959 by Judge Date that acquitted the seven protesters (arrested for trespassing on the US military base in Tachikawa; they were protesting the base's expansion). This is an extremely important discovery.

Shinbara-san delivered a lecture in December 2008 on the Date Decision and the Sunagawa Struggle in Tachikawa city. His speech was published in the July 2009 issue of Zenei magazine. He sent me a very polite letter and a copy of the magazine. In the letter he wrote that "I may have included many misinterpretations because I know little about the Sunagawa Struggle," but based on my reading, his description is accurate. He speaks the truth.

The Date Decision said that the presence of US military troops in Japan is unconstitutional. I believe that is a correct reading. But the US ambassador secretly worked to overturn this ruling. This was a turning point in Japan's postwar history. We need to revive the spirit of the Date Decision: The presence of US troops in Japan is unconstitutional.

Shinbara's lecture — "A Half Century after the Sunagawa Struggle: The Inside Story Revealed by the Secret American Documents" — turns a new page in the research of postwar Japan.

As a participant in the Sunagawa Struggle, I recognize that it (especially the Date Decision and the way the Supreme Court and the Japanese government worked together) was a turning point in Japan's postwar history, but there wasn't documentation to prove my point. Shinbara-san's discovery of the secret US documents provided that proof. His contribution has been immense. I feel deep respect for him.

The Sunagawa Struggle had three peaks to it: the autumns of 1955 and 56, and the summer of 1957. On the third phase of the struggle, protesters entered the US military base. Seven people participating in the demonstration were prosecuted under a special law based on the first US-Japan security pact. The first ruling in the case, from a Tokyo district court, was the Date Decision. Shinbara describes it:

"The presiding judge in the Date Decision looked at the presence of US military in Japan as a case of the Japanese government requesting those troops. The presence of a military command was beside the point. The judge said he could not help but say that this violated Article 9 of the Constitution, which prohibits Japan from having a military force ... therefore the US military presence is unconstitutional."

Exactly. Ambassador MacArthur worked to overturn this ruling by meeting secretly with Foreign Minister Fujiyama and then Supreme Court Chief Justice Tanaka (proof of which Shinbara discovered during his research). Before a revised version of the US-Japan Security Treaty was signed, the Supreme Court overturned the Date Decision and buried it.

Based on this, both the US and Japan governments prepared to force through the legal ratification and signing of the revised US-Japan Security Treaty. When the two governments had erased the Date Decision, Japan had been cast permanently as a subordinate of the United States.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why I'm So Tough on the DPJ

I recently had a phone call from T-san, a friend from my student days. He's a moderate on defense who has always supported the Liberal Democratic Party. However, these days he's anti-LDP.

"I don't even want to see Prime Minister Taro Aso's face anymore," T-san told me. "The LDP-New Komeito coalition government has been ugly. You've been pretty tough on the Democratic Party of Japan recently, but even if the DPJ has its faults, it would still be better than the Aso Cabinet. I'm not one to talk about voting with my family, but this time I did discuss it with family members who are eligible to vote. I don't know how they will all vote, but I don't think there is anyone who supports both the LDP and the New Komeito Party. If we don't change this LDP-New Komeito administration, Japan won't progress. I don't know if Hatoyama will be good, but he'll be better than Aso. I've had it with this ruling coalition. We need change."

I've talked with three friends in recent days who've all said the same thing: "I've had it with the Aso government."

When Ichiro Ozawa ruled the DPJ, a lot of people would say that they couldn't bring themselves to support either party and saw no other route but abstention. I would tell these people, "How about the People's New Party and the Social Democratic Party? Support one of those."

As long as the LDP puts its fate in the hands of an Aso-led government, the party doesn't have a prayer. The possibility of a Hatoyama-led government is very likely. It's not that I don't understand the disgust my friends feel for the Aso administration; it's just that if a Hatoyama administration is likely, we ought to say what we really think about it. The responsibilities of a ruling party are heavy. I want the DPJ to grow into a good party. I don't want to see the new ruling party governing poorly. That's why I'll continue criticizing the DPJ.

When we talk about a Hatoyama administration, the reality is it will be a Hatoyama-Ozawa administration. The man holding the strings in that administration will be Ozawa. He will be taking power for his own purposes, and he hasn't bothered to inform the public of just what a DPJ government will do. Electing a Hatoyama-Ozawa government means giving Ozawa carte blanche to run the government. That, more than anything else, is what the DPJ needs to watch.
I think the DPJ can bring in about 67% of the vote. Even if Aso resigns and another prime minister is selected before the election, the DPJ would still have the upper hand, I think.

An election is not just about the past; it's about the future. At this point, voting for the future seems the most important thing to do. That's why I believe we need to push the DPJ as much as we can.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The DPJ Shouldn't Cooperate in Northern Territories Debate

I don't know what upper house member Naoki Minezaki's intentions were when he jumped into the "3.5 island" debate about the Northern Territories, but it's not easy to agree with the Democratic Party of Japan's choice to force itself into the debate.

To preserve our peace treaty with Russia, we need to solve the Northern Territories issue. In 1956 when then Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama visited the Soviet Union, both countries (the Japanese government and the Soviet government) agreed on the idea that two islands should be returned. After that, the US exerted its influence to prop up a faction in favor of demanding the return of all four islands, a stance that eventually gained a majority and continues to reign today. Japan has stuck to that stance without budging an inch since then. There's no way to bring about a permanent peace between the two countries with the current status quo. The governments of both countries should find a compromise to further peace treaty negotiations. The Japanese government should take a flexible stance. The 3.5 island theory may have come about in an attempt to offer that flexibility.

However, the mass media and certain politicians are taking a very hard line on this issue. I would like to see at least the DPJ keep a flexible and open attitude.

Political change is near. A DPJ administration is right in front of us. An inflexible approach brings about 100 harms without one single benefit. If there is a new Hatoyama administration, the extension of a peace treaty with Russia becomes an important diplomatic issue. We'll need his initiative to bring about that extended peace. We don't need any foolishness that hems him in and limits our options.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The single-seat constituency lie

Takehiko Kambayashi has an excellent piece in The Diplomat explaining why the single-seat constituency system introduced in Japan in 1994 has not led to more vigorous policy debates, but instead has let party leaders solidify power and keep big issues off the table.

Kambayashi provided vital reporting for Mr. Morita's book, Curing Japan's America Addiction.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Obstacles for the DPJ in the Wake of Ozawa's Resignation

(Editor's note: This column was written before the DPJ held its party election on May 16 and chose Yukio Hatoyama as its leader.)

Electing a Leader Democratically
Ichiro Ozawa stepped down as leader of the Democratic Party of Japan on May 11. On the 16th, the party will hold an election for a new leader. This new leader could end up being Japan's next prime minister if the party can win the next election; he would be expected to govern the country. The party needs to reach a consensus on a new leader. The party needs to follow its rules and hold a proper representative election. It should travel the straight and narrow path. While some tried to spread rumors that Prime Minister Aso would dissolve the lower house just as the DPJ was set to hold its election, there is no need to heed those innuendos. The people would not permit such a makeshift approach to retaining political power. The party should find its leader through a representative election while trusting the voters.

A Party on the Run from Democracy
While Ozawa was at the helm of the DPJ, it was as if he were Gulliver surrounded by a bunch of Lilliputians. Everything was left to Ozawa; the other members just followed. It's even said that Ozawa did all the fund-raising. It was a party run by a despot. This was an abnormal situation, but many party members didn't see anything wrong with it.

When one of Ozawa's public secretaries was arrested on March 3 on suspicion of violating laws controlling the use of political funds, party members hesitated to say anything negative about their leader. Frankly, it was because they were scared of him. And this is why confidence in the DPJ began to plummet. People who previously supported the party were disappointed. An election of a new leader needs to also purge the party of these anti-democratic traits and begin building a democratic party free from its previous leader.

Show Us What a DPJ Government Would Do
During Ozawa's reign, there was next to no debate about what sort of policies the party should have. The party ran behind Ozawa to bring about political change without ever explaining what sort of change it would represent. Ozawa strove for political change without a purpose.

The new leader must fix this. He should show the people his party's commitment to governing by explaining where it stands. At the very least, it needs to respond to the following points: First, it needs to distance itself from the already failed neoliberal model; second, it needs to push policies that promote peace; and third, it needs to insulate itself from the money politics of the past.

When the DPJ rids itself of the old Ozawa politics, its path to power will be clear and wide.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Morita: Ozawa has Become DPJ's Putin

Bloomberg reports on the choice of Yukio Hatoyama to lead the Democratic Party of Japan in the coming election and quotes Morita as saying former leader Ozawa is the party's Vladimir Putin.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Big Newspapers Take Absurd Stances against Recession Policies

The employment situation has deteriorated rapidly. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate went up 0.4% from the previous month in March to 4.8%, according to a survey released on May 1 by the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications. The ministry was quoted in the May 1 edition of the Asahi Shimbun as saying, "The speed at which the situation is worsening is like nothing we have seen in the past."

The same ministry released a consumer price index on May 1 that looks at the price of goods, excluding fresh foods. With 2005 serving as the base of 100, prices were down from the previous year 0.1% in March to 100.7. Falling prices are a crucial indicator of a worsening economy.

Friends and associates have related to me how more companies large and small are resorting to layoffs of full-time staff. Corporate bankruptcies are rising rapidly. Many stores are going out of business. The number of people out of work has jumped. The collapse of the economy is a serious issue, and the unemployment problem is especially serious.

The Aso cabinet called its supplementary budget a recessionary measure, but from my point of view, it isn't. It is too small. They put together a supplementary budget of 15 trillion yen only to achieve a 3.3% economic contraction. To get back to zero growth, we'd need an additional 16.5 trillion yen. The Aso cabinet's economic plan is just too small.

Yet the major newspapers are criticizing the plan for its wastefulness. They're making a lot of noise about how the budget is too big. They've twisted reality inside out. It's as if they are out to crush the proposed economic policies. Newspapers, stop getting in the way of our economic recovery! That's my advice.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Sign that the Age of the Eco-Hospital is Near

In the countryside near Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture, sits Asia's most ambitious eco-hospital. Built five years ago with the latest in medical technology, Shuwa General Hospital was a first in Asia in terms of scale and technical sophistication.

The man who built this hospital is its chief director, the 76-year-old Dr. Hideo Yoneshima. The doctor is well known in Japan's medical circles for his research and analysis of hospital administration. Yoneshima combined his desire to give the best medical care with the incredible planning skills of first-rate architects Muroi and Kobayashi and the superior technology of Taisei Corp. to create Japan's first eco-hospital.

An eco-hospital is a hospital that lives in harmony with nature and channels nature's energy. For example, the crisp country air outside of Kasukabe City ventilates the hospital, coming through the windows because of an impressive circulation system. The system uses data from the automated meteorological data acquisition system (AMEDAS) about the climate around Kasukabe to break down and scientifically control circulation. The system has been ventilating the hospital well for five years.

The hospital also cools itself through rooftop gardens that harness the cooling power of flowering plants, which help the hot air evaporate. This cools the ground in the garden, which cools the concrete on the rooftops. The five-story building is kept at a comfortable temperature in this way. The impact of using less energy is big. The hospital lives in harmony with its surroundings.

Shuwa General Hospital has been drawing interest from near and far over the last five years. Its very existence gives me a sense that the age of the eco-hospital is drawing near.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Responding to Criticism of My Article 9 Argument

Lately, I have been getting all sorts of responses to my opinions. Some people support my stances, while others attack them. I hope the discussion continues to be lively because lively debate helps democracy thrive.

I've received several letters recently that strongly criticize my defense of Article 9 of Japan's Constitution. "Without a strong military, we can't protect the peace," wrote one person. Another writer expressed a strong fear of China. Extreme fear of other countries is what leads to the thinking that Article 9 should be revised and that Japan must have a strong military to avoid falling apart.

These extreme thoughts are dangerous. I believe that Japan should proceed confidently down a path of peaceful economic development. This is the way to protect the peace. Developing a healthy economy and living as a peaceful country are the best ways to protect Japan.

Please don't hesitate to criticize my opinions. Let's have a vigorous debate on all fronts.

Resist War & Keep the US at Arms' Length

If one were to say that we're on the verge of losing the peace, the speaker's claims would be written off as so much exaggeration. But it's no exaggeration. Peace is facing a crisis. War is approaching.

First and foremost is the war in Afghanistan. The Obama administration is calling for a reinforcement of troops stationed there. Every country that has invaded Afghanistan has left in defeat. If the US starts to wage war in earnest in Afghanistan, it will antagonize the whole of Islam.

The next hot spot is the area surrounding Israel, where an aggressive regime holds power. This is a dangerous situation.

The political powers in North Korea continue their provocative acts. If the US and other countries in the region become angry with North Korea, war could break out.

Also, dispatching Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces to the coast of Somalia to fight piracy is fraught with danger.

More danger lurks if the Self-Defense Forces are sent to Afghanistan. East Asia is upset at the instability fomented by North Korea. Whatever sacrifice we must make, we must also defend peace. Engaging in war is not an option.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What the LDP & DPJ Should Do before the Election

In politics, it's important who is on top. The Democratic Party of Japan is torn over whether to go into the coming election behind party leader Ichiro Ozawa or without him. It's become clear that a certain enterprise has donated enormous amounts of money to Ozawa, and the lower house representative's top aide is being charged with violating the political fund control law for mishandling political fund-raising.

Many of our citizens are disgusted by the openness to financial influence the DPJ chief shows at the very time when his party has a chance to take power and make him the prime minister.

Even some DPJ candidates in the coming election are puzzled. Party supporters are starting to say that running under Ozawa will kill the DPJ. Yet the party leaders continue to leave Ozawa on the mound. It's an odd choice.

The Liberal Democratic Party also faces difficult questions, though they have been eclipsed by the Ozawa problems. Once the DPJ solidifies, there's a likelihood that the move to dethrone Prime Minister Taro Aso will be re-ignited within the LDP.

Both parties need to reform their leadership before they negotiate a dissolution of the lower house and set a date for the next election.

It is the responsibility and duty of political parties in a democracy to show a clear commitment to voters. In this time of tectonic change, what sort of country does Japan want to become? What kind of economic policies will it take to fight unemployment during this serious recession? Will it defend or reject Article 9 of the Constitution, which defines Japan as a country of peace? Will it sublimate or liberate itself from the current US-Japan relationship? Will it build a society based on harmony and cooperation or competition? Will it decentralize power and give the provinces more autonomy? These are the basic questions confronting our country, and the people deserve clear policy and vision from their leaders. This is something that should come from each and every candidate, not just the heads of the political parties.

To overcome the problems facing the country today, a fresh breeze needs to blow through the political world and change all this trifling and contentiousness. Lately it seems like politicians are stirring up trouble just for the sake of it. These meaningless battles are harmful and useless. All parties need to cease such activities and begin building a collective framework to help us out of this recession.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Democrats Should Embrace Ally's Plan

Should the Democratic Party of Japan put forth an economic plan?

It can learn from the People's New Party because the DPJ ally has produced an excellent economic proposal.

The People's New Party has recommended a route for escaping this economic crisis: Five years of concentrated fiscal expenditure to the tune of about 40 trillion yen (or 8% of Japan's GDP) to stabilize economic growth and raise tax revenue.

The DPJ should strike an agreement with the People's New Party and adopt this emergency proposal as its own.

The People's New Party budget proposal consists of 11.1 trillion yen of direct fiscal spending in reduced taxes and 34.5 trillion yen in public works aimed at the nation's future. The direct fiscal spending would establish a better safety net, invest in energy, the environment, reviving the provinces and food.

This is the best proposal put out by any political party so far. The DPJ should make every effort to keep it alive.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Serious Economic Decline in the Provinces

I recently had a conversation with a person I'll call O-san, an executive of a small ironworks operation in the Tohoku region. He spoke frankly about his predicament:

"There's no work now. We haven't had any orders since last September. I've asked the city and the prefecture for financial help. We borrowed 1 million yen from city hall. But the prefecture responded harshly. We received some financing from them, but they were quick to insist on repayment. They wouldn't wait. The city was willing to wait six months for repayment, but we're cornered. It's either closing down or filing for bankruptcy for us. I've been growing a few vegetables on a small plot of land and planting rice there, but you need money to get started in farming. We've been eating the food we grow on our land. We're practicing self-sufficiency."

As I listened to O-san talk, I kept thinking that there's nothing I could say to bring him comfort. I felt that anything I could come up with would sound empty, so I just kept listening. When he finished talking, I said, "All you can do is endure it."

"That's right. I'll endure it," came his reply.

The impoverishment of the Japanese is spreading rapidly. The money is not flowing, and that is a frightening concept. Poverty has become a serious issue. The truth is we're broke.
There are many reasons for the public to not support Prime Minister Taro Aso or opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa, but one of the biggest reasons is that both of them -- and many other politicians -- refuse to comprehend the poverty out there. They haven't come up with adequate solutions for stemming the recession, which is the reason for the poverty.

An old joke relates how someone talking to a person of responsibility and stature said, "The people are in such bad shape that many of them don't even have bread to eat." The person of stature replied, "So let them eat cake." Unfortunately, this is no joke in Japan today. The Japanese populace is in despair because the politicians don't have a clue about their predicament.

Ozawa, Aso See Support Shrivel

After the indictment of Ichiro Ozawa's top aide in a bribery scandal Tuesday, support for Ozawa has sunk so low that he would gladly swap approval ratings with former US President George W. Bush. Yet despite his fall from grace, he still edges out Prime Minister Taro Aso. A poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun that came out before Ozawa's aide was indicted had 3.5% of respondents replying that Aso was a suitable candidate for prime minister while 6% said that of Ozawa.

The Washington Post and Bloomberg checked in with Morita-san this week to get his take on Ozawa's fall. To paraphrase, Morita says that while the Japanese people feel despair and hopelessness at their political choices, the Democrats are not likely to stick with Ozawa for long.

For the next couple of weeks, leaders within the Democratic Party of Japan will be jostling for position and a chance to become the next prime minister.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Iwakuni's Turn to Suffer

Japan Focus has translated a story from the Chugoku Shimbun on what it's like to live with the US military. As the troops in Atsugi are shifted to Iwakuni, residents in Atsugi breathe a sigh of relief. It's now Iwakuni's turn to bear the brunt of misguided US policy thanks to a Japanese government unable to say no.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

When It Rains ... Blatant Anti-Semitism on Japanese TV

This one isn't even debatable: Atsuyuki Sasa, former chief of Japan's National Security Council, blames the financial scandals in the US on the "Jews" during a Saturday morning program. Here's a translation courtesy of a source at the Wiesenthal Center (Japanese speakers, watch the video for yourself. It's irrefutable.):

「ひどい事をしているのはユダヤ人ですよ」 (Hidoi koto wo shite iru no wa yudayajin desu yo It is the Jews who are doing these awful things).

The TV host apologizes for the comments, but Mr Sasa counters:

「いつでも受けて立ち ますよ」(Itsu demo uketachimasu yo. I'll stand by my statement at any time).

Tahara and the Jewish Conspiracy: You Decide

If you speak Japanaese and you have been wondering if TV anchor Soichiro Tahara really did attribute the downfall of Makiko Tanaka and Ichiro Ozawa to the "yudaya,"or Jews, watch the video for yourself and let us know what you think.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Aso's Economic Policies Trail the G-20's

It's a shame, but the rest of the world looks at the current Japanese government and sees a dismal bunch. The "anti-recessionary measures" these politicians talk about are just words with nothing to accompany them. The March 11 edition of Newsweek Japan ran an article entitled "The World is Amazed" that focused on the sorry state of Japanese politics. This is truly miserable. I've been getting a lot of requests for interviews with foreign journalists, but they're all asking the same thing: "Is Japan really OK?" I can't really answer, "No, it's not OK," so I say something like, "We have to do something. Japan will rise again." It pains me to speak this way. I'm beginning to worry that Japan will trigger a global crisis at the rate that it's going.

On March 14, the finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 industrialized countries gathered in London. Just before the meeting, Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano announced a turning point in Japan's economic policy, but all it amounted to was some increased public spending that had been requested by the American government. Without a request from the Americans, the Japanese government wouldn't have made the change. That's the miserable situation were in. Yet moving toward a policy of more public spending is a good thing. Despite the route taken, the result is good.

There were reports about the US and the Europeans being unable to resolve their differences at the G-20, but the mutual agreement that came out of the meeting put the group ahead of Japan on the path to recovery. Japan should have used the leverage provided by the G-20 agreement to unveil some aggressive anti-recessionary policies. The government should project an attitude that says, "We'll do whatever it takes."

The G-20 statement says that the countries will take action until the world economy starts to recover. The countries pledged to make sure banks are lending again. They said a financial expansion that promotes growth and employment will be treated with the utmost care and urgency. The Japanese government should faithfully execute this sort of action plan.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tahara Denies Saying 'Jews' behind Ozawa's Troubles

Did he or didn't he? TV Asahi anchorman Soichiro Tahara is saying he never said that the "Jews" were behind the downfall of former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka and more recently opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa's aide. TV Asahi officials even made a trip to the Israeli embassy, says a source in Tokyo, and aired the program for officials there, explaining that Tahara had said, "yuzai" (guilty) not "yudaya" (Jewish). It seems the Simon Weisenthal Center has backed down for the time being.

Yet people I checked with who have seen the show say there is no mistaking that Tahara said "yudaya" when talking about how Ms. Tanaka fell from grace. Even in the context of the conversation, transcribed for me by a friend in Tokyo, the word "yuzai" makes no sense:

"Amerika to (yuzai/yudayajin) ni yarareta." Tanaka was done in by the Americans and the ... guilt? I don't think so.

Will this just blow over and Tahara dodge another bullet? Looks like it.

Morita Urges Both Parties to Draft New Leaders

As Aso and Ozawa do their best imitations of albatrosses around the necks of their respective parties, Morita tells the FT that the parties should scrap the old guard and pick new leaders.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tahara and the Jewish Conspiracy

Looks like one of Japan's most prominent anchormen has decided that the Jews were behind the arrest of Ichiro Ozawa's aide. Oh boy, here we go again.

Soichiro Tahara is on a huge network in Japan: TV Asahi. This isn't some talk radio hack. Yet the media in Japan is not covering this. It's a non-issue. Compare Tahara's world-view (the Jews control everything) to Morita's (asking for calm and perspective instead of conspiracy theories) and you get a sense of how topsy-turvy things are in the Japanese media world.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ozawa's Grip on Power Slipping Fast

Ichiro Ozawa may be days away from stepping down as head of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan after a scandal implicated his top aide and Nishimatsu Construction in illegal contributions to Ozawa's campaign. Mr. Morita, quoted extensively in this piece from the Asia Times, thinks the opposition leader's political days are numbered. "Ozawa will be forced to resign sooner or later," he was quoted as saying.

Aso now faces the choice of calling for elections soon despite a nationwide dislike for the premier or waiting and allowing the DPJ to get its footing again. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Conspiracy Theories Flourish in Wake of Arrest

The arrest of the head secretary of opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa and the full-scale criminal investigation into Ozawa's office has led to rampant talk of a US-directed conspiracy against him. I've received many mails asking me why I don't pursue the idea that this is an American plot and that this conspiracy was hatched in the US. Just last week, a Middle East TV station started off its interview with me by asking, "What do you think of the explanation that the arrest of Ozawa's aide was retaliation by the US?" I've heard the same question from a weekly magazine reporter. This conspiracy theory is spreading like wildfire. But I believe this is going too far.

I've been replying that "there is no detailed evidence that proves this theory, so we're not in a position to make these claims," but the people asking the question don't seem to agree. Perhaps they have information that underscores this theory, but I don't.

Those promulgating the theory claim that the US is fearful of what Ozawa will say about the US 7th Fleet (which is based in Yokosuka). But there is so much we'd need to look into to give these claims credence: How has the US reacted to Ozawa's remarks? What is the relationship between the US intelligence community and the Japanese prosecutor's office? The list goes on.

At any rate, this theory is in full bloom. Lots of people are calling this the US and LDP conspiracy. I've felt pressure recently from more people telling me it's a problem if I don't come out and attack this as a conspiracy. This is troubling. I'm hoping for calm. What we need now is sober judgment.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Time for Conversations that Count

"The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none." — Thomas Carlyle
The government's inconsequential posturing has continued unabated since the financial and economic turmoil began last autumn. A full five months after the Lehman Shock, politicians have not produced a single policy that speaks to this crisis.

The first supplementary budget of fiscal 08, put together by the administration of then-Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, concentrated on measures to offset rising fuel costs. The second supplementary budget is powerless against this crisis because it was based on optimistic forecasts. The 09 budget is based on a framework established by the Fukuda cabinet last summer. Essentially, it caters to the fiscal reform movement.

The administration of Taro Aso has produced nothing but empty policy. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan is focused solely on politics, not policy. Ever since the upper house election in 2007, the relationship between the two houses of Japan's Diet has been similar to the "conflict for conflict's sake" approach taken before World War II by the House of Peers and the House of Representatives. It's a lamentable situation.

"Don't let trivial matters distract you from the important things." — Japanese proverb
The gap between what Aso says and does, and the disgraceful actions on the world stage by former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa are unforgivable flubs in the realm of politics. While Nakagawa resigned, the Diet has yet to put Aso on notice. The opposition parties in the upper house should quickly call for a vote of censure.

The Diet is not dealing with the No. 1 item of interest among the public: how to break through this economic crisis. DPJ chief Ichiro Ozawa, the likely victor in the next general election, issues comments on all sorts of trivial matters but has forgotten the important ones. The parties need to get together and discuss the issues that really matter!

Printing More Money
At an international gathering, Aso committed Japan to more public spending. But he's all talk. The government as a whole has not moved to loosen financial policies since the Lehman Shock. It has been passive about any spending increase. Moreover, it has been irresolute on financial policy and has connived with large banks on the ruthless credit crunch and credit withdrawals.

Because of this inaction, the economy and the living standard of the Japanese teeter on a cliff. To bring Japan back, the government needs to print more money. Issuing money would give the country new fiscal resources to rebuild. Both sides of the political aisle should investigate this option.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Move to Discredit Ozawa

Is the recent arrest of a key aide to Ichiro Ozawa connected to Prime Minister Taro Aso's recent visit to Washington DC? In other words, did Aso get the green light from the Obama administration to move against the opposition Democratic Party of Japan before it gets too popular and upsets the US-Japan relationship? At least one blogger and reader of Morita's work thinks so. Anyone else see the connection?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

So What Sort of Omiyage Did Aso Bring to DC?

As Prime Minister Taro Aso celebrates Mardi Gras with Barack Obama in the White House, the Mainichi reports that the Aso cabinet has an 11% approval rating back home.

Takehiko Kambayashi has a piece in the Washington Times today about Aso hiding in Obama's shadow in hopes of some sort of magical boost back home. Morita is quoted in the piece as saying the Japanese premier "probably spent hours mulling over what kind of souvenir he would bring to President Obama."

Whatever he brought, I hope it's returnable.