Tuesday, December 28, 2010
"A reed swayed by the wind." — Jesus in the New Testament
The chaos within the Kan government and the Democratic Party of Japan is enough to make you want to look the other way. Yesterday, the party made eyes at the Social Democrats, and if it is rebuffed, it plans to move on to the Sunrise Party. What is going on? The Social Democratic Party defends Article 9 of the Constitution. The Kan government has formed a coalition with this party. If that doesn't work out, it plans to turn to the Sunrise Party, whose de facto leader is right wing hawk and Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, an advocate for constitutional reform. The Kan government doesn't know whether to turn left or right. What exactly is the principle behind this government and the DPJ? Is it all about numbers? They'll go anywhere and do anything to acquire two-thirds of the House of Representatives. It's repulsive, really.
What Prime Minister Naoto Kan should do is return the government to the people. He needs the courage to dissolve the lower house and hold a general election.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I really want to know what the Kan Cabinet is up to. Its actions are just too ridiculous.
The idiocy of Prime Minister Kan, Chief Secretary Okada and Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku is unsurpassed. Just as the tension rises over a possible second Korean War, they are immersing themselves in trivial intra-party matters. The actions of Kan and Okada make me want to scream!
The problems of Ichiro Ozawa are matters for the justice administration to handle now. The problems of the Political Ethics Hearing Committee have become inconsequential. The other parties have been amazed at the foolishness of the Kan Cabinet.
When Ozawa was chief secretary and embroiled in the "politics and cash" problems, Kan, Okada and Sengoku never said a word. They were silent. They just followed Ozawa's lead. It wasn't until the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution decided to prosecute Ozawa and he lost his leadership role and his political power that his invitation to the Diet became an issue. This is just too unfair.
The whole country is amazed at the foolishness of Prime Minister Kan and Chief Secretary Okada. It seems to the voters that these two figured an anti-Ozawa stance would help boost their support ratings. But this is a serious issue. To prop up their own popularity, they would turn on their ally and use his unpopularity as leverage. They are treating the public like simpletons, looking down on the average citizen.
Ozawa's trial will begin in 2011. The Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution will entrust the courts to make a judgment in the case. The invitation to testify at the Diet should have happened before the committee decided to pursue the case against Ozawa. But at the time, the politicians feared Ozawa's power and stayed silent. Kan, Okada and Sengoku waited until Ozawa started to weaken to raise their voices. It's quite unfair. Kan, Okada and Sengoku should be made responsible for their actions. Ozawa's political power is waning. Once the court case starts, many of his "allies" will distance themselves. It sickens me to watch Kan and others use Ozawa to prop up the cabinet's popularity. This should stop!
I have something to say to Ozawa: Isn't the job of a senior politician to negate one's self and think about the future of one's supporters?
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Why has the number of tourists from China plummeted? Because of an incident I relate below that has spread across the Chinese Internet. The Chinese have come to see Japan as a dangerous place.
The news is a little old, but asahi.com ran a headline on Sept. 29, 2010, that said, "Bus of Chinese Tourists Surrounded by Propaganda Trucks." Here's some of the article:
More than 10 right-wing propaganda trucks gathered around a bus carrying Chinese tourists on Sept. 29 at around 4pm on a road in front of the Fukuoka City Hall in the city's Chuo district. A commotion ensued for about 20 minutes as the trucks would not move out of the bus's way. More than 10 men came out of the trucks to kick and punch the bus and yell at the Chinese to "Come out of there!" The police came and helped the bus pass through without anyone suffering any injuries.
The location of the commotion was the center of downtown Fukuoka, where many foreign visitors gather to shop, according to the city. The people on the bus were returning to their cruise ship, which was docked in Hakata Port. The tour had attracted about 1,300 tourists, the majority of whom were Chinese.
The propaganda trucks barred the bus from passing, lining up one after the other. Right-wingers yelled through megaphones that "the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory" and other slogans. The men approached the bus, hooting and hollering. The Fukuoka prefectural police reported that on this day in 1972 Japanese-Chinese relations normalized. About 50 right-wing organizations throughout Kyushu, totaling about 160 men and about 60 propaganda trucks, descended on the Chinese consulate in Fukuoka City to protest China's stance in the Senkaku Islands collision. Part of the group started making trouble with the Chinese tourists as they passed by the city hall.
A 22-year-old engineering student from Shanghai who was visiting Japan for the first time with two of his friends was perplexed by the situation. "We're just travelers. We haven't done anything wrong," he said.
This news made it back to China and has been spread far and wide over the Internet. Many Chinese know of this incident. The Chinese people are starting to see Japan as a dangerous place. This is why there are fewer Chinese tourists coming here. Japan's travel industry is on the verge of crisis because of the extreme actions of Japan's right-wing groups. If this sort of thing continues, the theory that Japan can rebuild based on becoming a sightseeing destination is a dream beyond a dream.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
"An unjust peace is better than a just war." - Cicero
We must quell the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. We should make every effort to do so.
When the crisis erupted on Nov. 23, I was traveling. While I was in Shingu, Wakayama, I got a call from Tokyo Shimbun's breaking news department (I'd like to thank that reporter for calling me). My comments were included as part of a special report that ran on page 22 of the Nov. 24 morning edition (the article was accurate, which was why I want to thank the reporter). Here is an excerpt:
Political commentator Minoru Morita said, "The South and North are in a very precarious position that should not be thought of lightly. Japan, a geographic neighbor, needs to show some leadership on this issue. Japan should work with the six-member commission, which includes China, the U.S. and Russia, to bring about a solution to North Korea's nuclear problem."
But Prime Minister Kan seems to have disregarded diplomacy. The problem lies first with the Foreign Ministry. The Democratic Party of Japan's stance "has left the diplomats with no motivation. It's all wait and see. They aren't working at all," Morita says. "The official residence doesn't function, and the Cabinet creaks as if it's hollow. They have no administrative ability. It's a state of emergency and all they do is look serious."
So what needs to happen to change this situation? "We have a chance to unite under a bipartisan system," Morita says. Former foreign ministers should be added to the government's diplomatic team. "First assemble a meeting of party leaders. Prime Minister Kan must request the cooperation of members of the Liberal Democratic Party and other parties. Then they should work to get the Foreign Ministry moving. If the crisis on the Korean Peninsula escalates, Japan would be greatly affected. We can't just be spectators. We must have correspondence that breaks out of past frameworks."
The crisis on the Korean Peninsula should not be minimized. Japan should make every effort to preserve the peace. We should mobilize all our networks, get all the affected countries moving and return Northeast Asia to peace. Having a domestic meeting of all political party leaders is a good start. But the way they are doing things now is not good. Kan needs to sit down one-on-one with LDP chief Tanigaki and have a heartfelt conversation. Peace must be brought about by bipartisanship.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
"Pride must have a fall." — William Shakespeare
The conceit and arrogance of the camp backing the sorting-out process is flagrant. Their egos have been inflated by Tokyo's major media outlets. This whole plan to sort out the waste from the budget has come from the combined efforts of the Finance Ministry and the media. But the overwhelming arrogance of the politicians, academics and celebrities backing the idea has made the public lose trust in the plan.
Lately, the talk has been incoherent. The Kan administration sets fires just to put them out.
The major media outlets are responsible for the reckless promotion of this idea. The media should look critically at this incoherent policy they've been trumpeting. The newsroom executives who bowed down to this policy ought to apologize to the people and resign. The media is becoming increasingly arrogant. It must stop playing politics.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Ichiro Ozawa should not be allowed to escape from testifying in the Diet. He bears great responsibility as a long-serving political representative. A political leader such as Ozawa has more than a legal responsibility to do the right thing -- he can't shirk his political and moral responsibilities either.
Ozawa should go to the Diet and testify about the problems he faces. If he runs, he abdicates his responsibilities as a Diet representative. Ozawa is a leading politician. He needs to set an example. If he can't do this, he should end his political career and resign from the Diet.
For more on this story, click here.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Many defendants have come forward to say that the public prosecutor's office used a secret interrogation room to threaten and inflict mock-executions and torture on the defendants until they signed on to the stories made up by the prosecutors. This is a major state crime. But the prosecutors who presided over these inhuman acts go largely unaccused of any misdeeds. We can't overlook this.
While the Osaka District Public Prosecutor's Office was shaken to the core when word of the evidence-tampering scandal involving Tsunehiko Maeda of the special investigation unit surfaced, the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office has practically succeeded in making it a case for the Osaka office alone to work out. The mass media has helped by circling the wagons.
But the whole country knows that Maeda is just the tip of the iceberg. An overhaul of the whole prosecutor's system is necessary. At the very least, we need to take a scalpel to the current status quo, where the special investigations division of the public prosecutor's office has the right of arrest and the right of prosecution at the same time. In fact, the office's power is untethered.
The Diet should enact laws that make investigations transparent. The Diet should pass a resolution that to overcome human rights violations, transparency laws should govern investigations. The Maeda incident will not be resolved if it is framed as an Osaka prosecutor's problem. A complete overhaul of the Public Prosecutor's Office is needed.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Why is Japanese Foreign Minister Maehara continuously using violent language in regards to the Chinese people and government? Why did Prime Minister Kan entrust the foreign ministry to this violent man? And why aren't Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku warning Maehara?
The Oct. 22 morning edition of the Tokyo Shimbun ran the headline "China Criticizes Foreign Minister Maehara" with the subhead of "A summit meeting is up to Japan." I've excerpted a rather long section here:
Beijing (By Minoru Ikeda) -- Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hu Zhengyue said on Oct. 21 that "the verbal attacks on China continue day after day" in reference to a comment by Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara that a Japan-China summit "didn't need to be rushed."
Hu also said that the possibility of a Japan-China summit alongside the ASEAN meeting in Hanoi at the end of the month "depended on having the appropriate conditions and atmosphere." The next move was up to Japan, he said. Referring to Maehara's most recent comment, he said, "The China-Japan relationship needs both sides to work toward improvement. So why is there no rush? Why is he stirring things up around the China-Japan relationship and trying to harm it? Did the Chinese leadership say something to set him off? We only said that we wanted to aim for close communication."
Prime Minister Kan, why are you so forgiving of Foreign Minister Maehara as he continues his verbal violence? What do you think about the fact that the words of your foreign minister are putting the expat Japanese working in China in more danger? The more he continues his extremely provocative comments, the more anti-Japanese sentiment will rise in China and the more a boycott of Japanese goods will spread. The troubles of Japanese working in China will deepen. Even considering all this, will you let this man of profound personal anti-Chinese sentiments continue his provocations? If he wants to live by his anti-Chinese ideology, then ask for his resignation first.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
"Peace is the ideal. It goes without saying that peace is difficult, unstable and under threat." -- Hermann Hesse
Japan must not participate in the collective "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down" trend. It can't get caught up in China bashing. It shouldn't join the ranks of those who look for a Nobel Prize by lambasting China.
To defend peace these days, we need to approve of peaceful coexistence among countries with different political systems. We must agree to refrain from meddling in each others' internal affairs.
Within Japan's media and political world, the diplomacy of Koizumi and Abe is making a comeback.I can't think of a more idiotic approach.
Remarkably, there are those within Japan today who advocate a Chinese containment policy. Japan should not attempt such a dangerous thing.
To look into the mistakes China has made, we need time and calm. We should remember the words of Pythagoras: "Anger begins with folly and ends in repentance." We can't be moved by our emotions alone.
"The people's well-being is the highest law." -- A Roman edict
Lately, a lot of shocking things have occurred. Looking at the main events since September, we have the Senkaku Islands controversy, with China playing offense; the connected embargo of rare earth shipments to Japan; the scandal involving falsification of information in the special investigation division of the Osaka District Prosecutor's Office; a committee's decision to proceed with the indictment of Ichiro Ozawa; and the awarding of the Nobel Prize in chemistry to two Japanese scientists.
The big event here is the China shock. It has brought out the anti-Chinese fervor of some Japanese people. If this anti-Chinese sentiment continues unabated, it will be hard to continue the friendly ties Japan has developed with China. That's how big this shock has been.
Second is the scandal in the Osaka District Prosecutor's Office. This has blown away the trust the people once had for the police. It is also spreading distrust of the nation throughout society. This change in consciousness will not be easy to undo.
Third is the awarding of the Nobel Prize in chemistry to two Japanese scientists. This has created breathing space for those of us who don't want to dwell on the dark realities and would prefer to look forward to a hopeful future.
These three items will weigh heavily on the people's consciousness. Politicians won't be able to just fight for the sake of fighting. They must work to find something for the people to believe in. Politicians will feel the wave of distrust from the populace. The political world will need to figure out how to work in the interest of the citizenry. It's time to think of making bipartisan efforts.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
"There never was a good war or a bad peace." — Benjamin Franklin
Lately I've been making an effort to watch as closely as possible Tokyo's major newspapers and key television outlets. That's because in today's Japan our media holds a decisive power that can sway the populace. I'm worried about the media's recklessness.
Pay attention to the appearances and the remarks shown on Tokyo's major TV outlets. It's all the leading anti-Chinese elements of the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party. Some politicians must advocate peaceful measures, but those people don't get called into the TV studios. The TV networks have all their focus on the most bellicose elements. The major TV commentators are in the anti-China, anti-coexistence camp.
The failure of Japan's leaders before World War II was their inability to stand up to the pressure exerted by the great military power, the United States. Japan became belligerent and rashly entered a war with the US. The leaders of that day didn't have enough conviction that war was the one thing the country should avoid. They couldn't endure. Their commitment to peace was weak.
The younger generation of politicians in Japan are quick to raise a ruckus over random legal matters or principles of justice, complaining loudly that their opponents are bad for this or that reason, but I think they lack the strong will to protect the national interest while walking the path of peace. Diplomacy needs to put actions ahead of words. There's no way we can jump on the media's bandwagon, embrace its narrow-minded patriotism and also conduct diplomacy. Foreign Minister Maehara is wrong. A politician in a position like the foreign minister's can't say idiotic things that frighten leaders of other countries. We need to escape from this infantile "diplomacy."
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
When US Secretary of State Clinton said that the Senkaku Islands issue probably falls under the purview of Article 5 of the US-Japan security pact, Maehara looked relieved.
Article 5 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the US says that the US is obliged to provide defense for Japan. Put simply, it's as if the US said, "Don't worry if China does something to you. We'll be there to protect you."
The problem is that once the dispute in the Senkakus arose, the Japanese government did not act in a way that would lead to diplomatic resolution. It just looks like Japan is clinging to the US.
The Japanese government needs to take action so that it can use its own diplomatic strength to resolve this dispute with China.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Prime Minister Kan's handling of human affairs is undignified. He comes off as tricky and insincere. Take the case of Chief Secretary Okada for example. It's said that Kan really wanted Okada as his chief secretary, but for the sake of the party he first reached out to Kawabata-san. Once Kawabata turned down the offer, Kan chose his true favorite, Okada. If this is true, it shows how the process under Kan lacks dignity.
Within the Democratic Party of Japan, many think that Kan expected to be turned down when he offered to make Ichiro Ozawa and Azuma Koshiishi acting party leaders. He took the step to make it seem like he was doing his duty, the thinking goes. He cuts off the Hatoyama group and isolates the Ozawa faction. It's a dirty strategy. The person with the most power and authority needs to refrain from makeshift moves.
The newspapers report that the man at the center of this all-encompassing anti-Ozawa push is Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku. Really? I'd like to look into this if I have the opportunity. The mass media may be trying to start a confrontation.
At any rate, Kan's approach lacks grace. It's all smoke and mirrors. The mass media broadcasts his moves with great interest, but the reporters lack dignity too. I think it's time to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you keep doing what you're doing, interparty squabbling will go on and on. The nation won't trust a party like that. The party will just fall apart. I'd like our politicians to start showing some spine.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Recently, I listened to what an executive of a small business had to say. Here's a sample:
"It's as if Prime Minister Kan, former Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa, Finance Minister Noda and Bank of Japan Governor Shirakawa know nothing about the lives of the Japanese people. They are very insensitive to the worsening economic conditions. Too insensitive, in fact. Those of us running small businesses are in life-or-death mode now. The cash is not flowing. The banks aren't providing financing. It's like they have the attitude that if we fail, we fail.
"Prime Minister Kan doesn't know anything about the lives of the Japanese people. All Finance Minister Noda talks about is fiscal reconstruction. I don't get the impression that they are trying to improve our situations and help the people out. Ichiro Ozawa keeps talking about the manifesto. If that manifesto was enforced, Japan's economy would be brought to its knees. It needs to be rethought.
"But the worst of all is BOJ Governor Shirakawa. He is the God of Incompetence. When I see his face on TV, I quickly turn the set off. He's completely unreliable and ice cold. It's as if he only thinks about himself and the BOJ. I wish he'd make the central bank work for the people. If not, I wish he would step aside."
Kan, Ozawa, Noda and especially Shirakawa, if you don't have the will to fulfill the duties of the position you hold, now would be a good time to step aside. I would like to ask Shirakawa to voluntarily step down from his post at the Bank of Japan.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Over the course of the past year, the Democratic Party of Japan has succumbed to arrogance and selfishness.
The DPJ's arrogance surfaced when then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama began discussing his united party theory.
Hatoyama was after his own rehabilitation. It was the ultimate expression of the "me-ism" of the party -- Hatoyama's brand of egoism. It's clear that as the former premier worked to strengthen the Ozawa-Hatoyama-Kan triumvirate, he was really working to rehabilitate his own position. When his government stepped down in the first half of June, he announced that he would not run in the next election, choosing to retire. "As someone who has experience being prime minister, I will not offer comments on the current state of politics," he said at the time. But Hatoyama later withdrew this comment. The troika system was supposed to be the first step for Hatoyama's return, but the strategy failed.
The troika system was responsible for betraying the people's expectation for regime change. If the DPJ doesn't destroy and get out from under this system, it has no future. Hatoyama confused the Futenma issue on Okinawa; former party chief Ichiro Ozawa's money scandal was ignored by the Diet; and Prime Minister Naoto Kan continues to obfuscate on the consumption-tax issue. These three lost the trust the people placed in a DPJ government. Hatoyama's aim was to perpetuate this troika. It's perfectly natural for an idea inflated with so much conceit to fail.
Backroom politics came up with the perpetual troika idea. At one point, the party leaders discussed doing away with party elections. That would result in the 34,000 party members having their authority stripped from them. Democracy within the party would have been trampled upon. And it would have brought about the perpetual rule of shadow boss Ozawa. The DPJ needs to fight this aggressively. Party members need to swear off the arrogance and conceit that emerged when the DPJ took power in 2009 and pledge to fix the party.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The Aug. 29 edition of the Tokyo Shimbun contained the results of a Kyodo News poll conducted on Aug. 27-28. The poll revealed that when people were asked which candidate they wanted to lead the party, 69.9% answered Naoto Kan while 15.6% said Ichiro Ozawa. Among Democratic Party of Japan supporters, 82% opted for Kan. Prime Minister Kan's cabinet won 48.1% support, up 9.4% from the last survey. Kan's stance on ridding the party of Ozawa's influence is winning support. On Aug. 30, other papers also published the results. No matter how you cut it, Prime Minister Kan has a big lead.
I want to reach out to the DPJ one more time: Don't you have a candidate who can carve out a third way that is not the Ozawa or Kan way? If the DPJ comes up with a third candidate, it could escape both the Kan and Ozawa paths at the same time. Why won't the DPJ go down this third path?
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The actions of Prime Minister Kan and the Bank of Japan governor have been slow — too slow. The world knows that Japan's business sector has stalled. The unfavorable exchange rate, low stock prices, meager consumption, spiraling deflation and rising joblessness all run the risk of getting worse. And yet the government and the Bank of Japan are still slow to act. The alarming truth is that those in government who should be taking responsibility are enjoying leisurely summer vacations.
The information coming from government sources is all about small policy matters. They talk of extending the eco-point system, supporting the job searches of new graduates, offering financial support to small and midsize businesses. Well, if there's something they can do, they ought to act soon. But the worsening condition of Japan's economy is not going to improve with small policy steps.
Of all the major newspapers, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun seems to have a sense of urgency. From August 17, it started running a front page column above the fold entitled, "The Economic Slowdown: What Must be Done?" The first article featured University of Tokyo Professor Motoshige Ito proposing that the corporate tax be dropped 5%. In a part of the feature where the reporter expresses his or her opinion, called "Through the Reporter's Eyes," this journalist explained that there is ¥5.4 trillion allotted for child welfare, but a drop in corporate tax by 5% would erase ¥1 trillion or so in tax revenue. If the child welfare budget were cut, the reporter continued, the budget could be maintained.
I believe a corporate tax cut is necessary. Professor Ito said of the Democratic Party of Japan, "They are not getting out a message about what they are thinking." I agree.
The second article featured Masayuki Oku of Mitsui-Sumitomo Bank saying that to end the high yen rates, the government needs to take a firm stance. I believe that's true. The government and the central bank need to take a strong stance. Oku said of the DPJ, "I wish it would show some urgency and tension." I agree with this too.
We have no need for a government or central bank that's unwilling to act. If you're not going to do your job, then step down.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The media's economic reporting is very biased.
First, most of the commentators are private-sector economists from big financial institutions and stock brokerages. The coverage is extremely one-sided. There are academics who can offer economic analysis. There are neutral research organizations too. Yet those appearing on TV are economists from the big banks and brokerages. These economists work for the financial world and the stock market. They are mostly Milton Friedman disciples, influenced by his views on monetarism. Most of them are swayed by the Finance Ministry's principles for financial reconstruction.
What's up with the media? They are way too biased. The media should be training analysts to be independent and original.
Second, the media always finds a financial crisis to make a fuss about. Some newscasters keep repeating how Japan is already bankrupt. The media has become the frontman for the Finance Ministry. For the last 20 years, the Finance Ministry has pushed financial reconstruction, but it's been a failure. Economic analysts who don't admit this are frauds.
The media rarely reports on the realities of unemployment, the regional economies and small to midsize businesses. The reporting is biased. The media is out of whack.
They should report the news fairly.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The economic thinking of the Kan Cabinet is flawed. Actually, it's more than just flawed; it's a terrible, ruinous policy. The mass media, which has cozied up to the Kan administration, actively advertises the abnormal thought process of Professor Ono, known as "Kan's brain," who espouses the idea that "tax hikes can result in growth." It's a ridiculous economic hypothesis. To raise taxes significantly in the midst of a deep deflationary spiral is a death wish of sorts. Follow through on this plan and the economy will be crushed. I can think of nothing more dangerous than putting our trust in the soft-minded politicians who believe Professor Ono's bizarre theory.
While not as extreme as Professor Ono, a fair number of Democratic Party of Japan legislators believe that social welfare can spark economic recovery. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said before the August 4 upper house election that "welfare will bring about a recovery."
The government's hottest topic these days is what to do to escape this deepening deflationary spiral. It must reduce unemployment. That needs to be the urgent priority in any economic policy. The objective of government is to reduce joblessness and realize full employment. A society is stable when all the able-bodied and mentally capable people have work and can provide for their families. Social welfare programs tend to those people who cannot work. Taking a large view, the biggest boost in social welfare would be to realize full employment. This needs to be the priority.
The best policy to bring this about would be to start a public-works program to renew the nation's infrastructure. But to pull this off, the mass media would need to stop its prejudicial and malicious coverage of public works.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
There's a problem with the mass media's take on the Democratic Party of Japan: It focuses solely on the activities of Kan, Ozawa and Hatoyama, and ignores the rest of the party. But at the same time, if the more than 400 members of the DPJ can't stand up to these three and muster some independent spirit, then the party's future is bleak. At this rate, the number of DPJ members serving in the lower house will be cut in half in the next election.
Now is the time for DPJ members to liberate themselves.
Once this extraordinary Diet session comes to an end, a politician with the will to lift up the Japanese people should run for the party's top post in the September vote. DPJ members, free yourselves from the shackles of this terrible trio. Pick away the three-layered scab and start a revolution.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
To solve the abduction issue, the governments of Japan and North Korea need to engage in diplomatic negotiations. There is no possible solution to work toward when neither country is engaging the other diplomatically. Increasing the punishment without diplomacy will not bring about a solution.
Although it is self-evident that diplomacy is necessary, every administration since the Koizumi government has refused to make an effort. We've followed the suggestion of the family groups and increased the economic sanctions, but we haven't moved ahead one bit. The family groups have asked the US for help, but the Americans aren't going to engage the North Koreans in place of the Japanese government. Senior US officials are giving the family groups nothing but lip service.
Among the people involved in the abduction issue, not one has urged the Japanese government to engage in urgent talks with the North Koreans. Why? Do they think negotiations aren't necessary?
They all look at the family associations to figure out which opinion to take. The reason these groups have such unparalleled influence is the support they get from Japan's mass media. If this continues, diplomatic talks won't advance at all. This Japan visit by former agent provocateur Kim Hyon-hui is nothing more than a performance aimed at boosting the popularity of the DPJ-led Kan administration. The Democratic Party of Japan should be footing the bill.
The DPJ government should not be focused on performances aimed at the domestic mass media. The party's efforts should be put behind honest diplomatic negotiations.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The Kan administration stumbled to defeat in the upper-house election after advocating a 10% consumption tax. The political mood took a sharp turn when the DPJ won 44 seats to the LDP's 51. The administration should first admit its mistake. Imposing a 10% consumption tax in the midst of a worsening deflationary recession would have brought Japan to its knees. We learned in the 1930s what raising taxes in a deflationary spiral can do; history teaches us it would destroy the people's economy. We'd do well to mull over this particular lesson.
The Kan government brought about its own downfall by assisting the Finance Ministry with its plans to drastically hike the consumption tax. It was a very foolish move. But what was also foolish was the administration's wishy-washiness. Prime Minister Naoto Kan is the ultimate populist, as evidenced by his speeches. But because of these moves, he's lost the trust of the people.
The Democratic Party of Japan needs to open its eyes. What the government needs to do above all else is figure out how to get the economy out of its deflationary spiral and onto a path for growth, and how to boost employment. To do this, we need to mobilize on the fiscal and monetary fronts.
After some severe self-criticism, the Kan administration ought to right itself by embracing an aggressive economic agenda to fix our economy.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
The Democratic Party of Japan is wrong. It's fixated on government "of Ozawa, for Ozawa and by Ozawa." The party has forgotten the people and is intent on protecting its leader, Ichiro Ozawa.
Ozawa should cooperate with the federal investigation. Here's a very important point: The 5th Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution agreed unanimously that it was unjust to not prosecute Ozawa. If the Diet chooses to ignore this, it is abdicating its responsibility.
All the opposition parties should unite and not diverge from the goal of getting Ozawa to give sworn testimony. If the DPJ denies this request, the opposition should stop discussing any bill submitted by the Hatoyama cabinet and appeal to the people that the DPJ has acted wrongly. If the DPJ continues to protect Ozawa, the opposition should call for the dissolution of the lower house and new elections. If the issues surrounding Ozawa and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama are treated vaguely, the people's trust will be lost. The DPJ would definitely lose a general election centered on the theme of "politicians and money" and the roles of Hatoyama and Ozawa.
Friday, May 21, 2010
The trend for 2010 is the opposite of the trend for 2009. It's quite likely that the Democratic Party of Japan and the Hatoyama administration are going to suffer a big loss.
I estimated the outcome of the 2010 upper house election this summer based on opinion polls. There are 242 seats in the upper house. Half of these, or 121 seats, are up for election every three years. Of that half, 48 are decided through proportional representation and 73 are through direct elections.
Of the 48 proportional seats, the top two parties will take about 30. The remaining 18 will be split among New Komeito, the Japan Communist Party, Your Party, the Social Democrats, People's New Party and other parties. While polls show the DPJ with a small lead, as the election nears, that lead will shrink. I forecast that the proportional seats will go this way: DPJ, 15; LDP, 15; Komeito, six; Your Party, eight; Communists, three; Social Democrats, one.
As for the direct elections, I see Tokyo's five seats split equally among the DPJ, LDP, Komeito, Your Party and the Communists. As for the 15 seats in the three-seat districts (Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka), I see it breaking down this way: DPJ, five; LDP, five; Komeito, two; Your Party, three. The 24 seats in the two-seat districts (Hokkaido, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Niigata, Nagano, Gifu, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Hiroshima, Fukuoka) will be split 12-12 by the DPJ and the LDP, I predict.
The upper-house showdown will occur in the 29 single-seat districts. The DPJ faces an inevitable battle here. The dissatisfaction with and distrust of the Hatoyama administration is growing because of its decision to disregard rural communities when making policy. Here is where the election will be decided.
Prefectures where the DPJ is likely to win (based on recent opinion polls) are Iwate, Tochigi, Nara, Tokushima, Kochi and Oita — a total of six. Another five prefectures — Yamagata, Yamanashi, Mie, Shiga and Okinawa — are too close to call between the DPJ and the LDP. The remaining 18 prefectures — Aomori, Akita, Gunma, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Wakayama, Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Yamaguchi, Kagawa, Ehime, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Miyazaki and Kagoshima — are likely to go to the LDP.
My forecast is for the DPJ to take 42 seats, the LDP 53, Komeito nine, Your Party 12, the Communists four and the Social Democrats one. Of the five prefectures that are too close to call, I gave three to the DPJ and two to the LDP.
As of the middle of April, it's unlikely that there will be any new parties winning seats except for Your Party. It will corral the votes of people expecting something new. The DPJ leadership may try to mitigate its losses by announcing a lower-house election on the same day. If it can keep 241 seats in the lower house, the Ozawa system will remain intact. But the DPJ faces a big problem over whether the Ozawa system will win support or bring on repudiation. The DPJ is the Party of Ichiro Ozawa.
The debate about whether to hold an upper- and lower-house election will begin to get lively. They'll release trial balloons while debating the negative points of an election of both houses until the likelihood of a general election grows. In the end, they will likely opt to hold the election for both houses.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
"Work is the backbone of life." -- Freiderich Nietzsche
The Child Care Act has become law, so starting this June, families will receive an extra 13,000 yen per child. Most major newspapers are saying that the measure was enacted as part of Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa's strategy for winning the upper-house elections. A government handout of cash is likely to influence the elections. But we can't call this just politics. Politicians must govern in a moral way.
"I welcome the child-care subsidy, but I'd like it to continue once it starts. However, if you think about our fiscal resources, it seems likely that there won't be money to fund the program at some point. That's the biggest sticking point for me. I'd like them to make it so there's never a situation where a child has to stop going to school."
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Hatoyama administration has ignored the decision of the Diet and put a stop to part of the first supplementary budget of fiscal 2009, shutting down as much as 3 trillion yen in spending. This action is in clear violation of Article 83. So is the fact that the Democratic Party of Japan has been leaking information about the location of public-works projects. But these infractions are drawing little debate. The Hatoyama administration is addicted to the party manifesto, elevating it above even the law and the Constitution. It's taking the authoritarian step of elevating the manifesto beyond the reach of the Diet. This tendency is going uncorrected.
◆ "This Constitution shall be the supreme law of the nation ..." (Article 98)
The article continues: "no law, ordinance, imperial rescript or other act of government, or part thereof, contrary to the provisions hereof, shall have legal force or validity." Yet Transport Minister Maehara announced immediately after taking his place in the Hatoyama administration that he was going to stop the construction of Yanba Dam "in line with the provisions of the manifesto." The budget for this was canceled. The Yanba Dam construction project was approved in accordance with river, multipurpose dam and water resource laws. The transport minister's arbitrary decision to revise and abolish parts of this budget for Yanba Dam construction is another clear violation of the Constitution.
◆ "The establishment of political ethics provides the basis for parliamentary politics." (Japan's code of political ethics)
The code of political ethics adopted by the Diet on June 25, 1985, is a regulation worth protecting. At one point it clearly states the duty of Diet lawmakers: "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 Yukio Hatoyama and party chief Ichiro Ozawa are not living up to this code. In fact, they're completely ignoring it. Ozawa's disregard for the Diet is plain to see. This man who raises so much doubt among the populace is amassing power on a large scale. A democratic nation cannot stand for this.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
The three ministers who showed up late for a budget debate -- Haraguchi, Sengoku and Maehara -- should apologize for their embarrassing actions.
Let's look for a moment at the current trend of politicians and mass media making everything the fault of the bureaucrats.
It's an ugly trend. At its core is a politically motivated attempt to revise the national public service law. This should be stopped.
First it's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama obstinately insisting that he knew nothing of donations made by his mother. Then it's party chief Ichiro Ozawa using political funds to hunt for real estate, abandoning any attempts at accountability, putting the burden on his secretary and stressing his own innocence. And now it's the three tardy ministers: Haraguchi, Sengoku and Maehara. The spirit of the Democratic Party of Japan leadership is seriously impoverished. The people of Japan need to open their eyes to the reality behind this DPJ fantasy that's being propagated.
We should heed the discerning advice given to Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano by House of Councillors President Satsuki Eda. He was quoted in the March 5 morning edition of Mainichi Shimbun as saying, "I was amazed to hear that the ministers were late. But it's unbecoming to blame it on a clerical miss while claiming to show political leadership."
I agree with Eda.
Politicians and mass media are too quick to blame the bureaucrats. This trend of making the bureaucrats the scapegoat while angling for a revision of the national public service law is a dangerous one. The bureaucrats do well to show their character and hold their tongues, but the subsequent bureaucrat-bashing is just wrong. DPJ lawmakers and media pundits ought to rethink their approach.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
B-san. I was pleased to receive a letter from you. Here is my reply. B-san, open your eyes. If we forgive Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa's authoritarian ways, that's the end of Japan as we know it. That's the end of the Democratic Party of Japan. Ozawa barks "turn right" and the DPJ turns to the right; he says "turn left," and the members promptly turn to the left. We must never forgive this sort of authoritarian politics.
Just about every DPJ lawmaker is ready to fight to protect Ozawa, but you know what this really means, don't you? A large amount of money used for political funds — ¥2.1 billion, to be exact — has been misreported; put more bluntly, the politicians are protecting the falsifying of financial reports. We can't forgive this sort of unjust money politics. Have you discarded your ideal of having the DPJ govern in a clean manner?
It is also strange that most of the DPJ supports and believes Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama when he says that he didn't know his mother was making donations to him. Turning away from the money problems of Ozawa and Hatoyama is the equivalent of abandoning political ethics.
B-san, please open your eyes. I hope you become a politician who fights for democracy.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
I went to find out for myself what's going on within the Democratic Party of Japan. Simply put, the party is convulsed with dissatisfaction. It's no exaggeration to say it's like the moment before a bomb explodes.
The basis for this dissatisfaction is that there's no freedom to discuss or debate ideas. One veteran DPJ lawmaker told me: "The DPJ has screwed up its rise to power. There was no planning before we took over the government. It was clear we wouldn't succeed. When we should have been confronting the LDP government with everything we had, we didn't do it. The DPJ blew it."
A midlevel DPJ Diet member had this to say: "There's no place within the party to say anything. Why did they abolish the Policy Affairs Research Council? I don't get it. We can't discuss policy matters within the party."
Everything is decided by DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa. The rest of the party is supposed to fall in line. That's Ozawa's dictatorial system. For many Diet members, it's becoming too much to bear.
The DPJ needs to ignite a revolution from within.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
From the Feb. 18 edition of Shukan Bunshun: "'Seventy percent of the nation wants him to resign. We can prosecute Ozawa.' Why did the prosecutors saying these things go silent? They were weighed down by passive executives arguing that they didn't want to 'provoke the Democratic Party of Japan.'"
If this information is true, it means the leadership in the judicial branch buckled under once Ichiro Ozawa and the Hatoyama administration applied pressure. The article points the finger at Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, but the truth should be revealed in the Diet. If the judiciary doesn't have the courage to execute its duties, we'll see even more corrupt politicians. When the political fund control law is violated, it will be the secretary who is punished as the influential politician walks away scot-free. If the prosecutors really did buckle to pressure from the administration, then Ozawa's DPJ can pretty much do as it pleases.
The nightmare scenario would have the prosecutors at Ozawa's beck and call. At the very least, we hope that the prosecutors will not play a role in Ozawa's political vengeance. If they do acquiesce, then Japan will enter its own Stalin era. We need our judicial branch to be strong and independent. The separation of powers is fundamental to democracy. The prosecutor's office must not yield to political power.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
"Security and Crisis Management in the Megalopolis"Time: 2010 Mar 02 11:30 - 13:30
Koki Kaku, Associate Professor of National Defense Medical College
Minoru Morita, Political Commentator
Toshiyuki Shikata, Professor of Teikyo University & Security Counselor to the Governor, Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Yoshihiro Yamaguchi, Professor of Kyorin University
The speech and Q & A will be in Japanese with simultaneous interpretation.Description:
Will life in the city be better tomorrow? Will it be safer? More secure? Urban living and whether large metropolises can meet the needs of their inhabitants are becoming increasingly important subjects for city planners, sociologists and crisis management officials. The root cause of course is explosive population growth.
In 2000, Tokyo was among 18 mega-cities that have populations in excess of 10 million inhabitants. Tokyo's metropolitan area, which encompasses 87 towns, has 35.7 million people, more than the entire population of Canada.
By 2025 there will be 27 mega-cities in the world, and Tokyo, with 36.4 million people in its urban agglomeration, is projected to remain the world's biggest metropolis. Asia alone will have at least 10 hyper-cities. Among them, each having populations exceeding 20 million: Mumbai at 33 million; Shanghai, 27 million; Karachi, 26.5 million, Dhaka, 25 million; and Jakarta, 24.9 million. By 2050, India will have 55 percent of its people in urban centers
This explosion of population impacts almost every aspect of our lives including the air we breathe and water we drink, access to food and energy resources, and availability of housing and schooling. Population growth will increase the risk of terrorist attacks and the spread of killer diseases, there can be big casualties in natural disasters.
The subject of our panel discussion will be the role of government in meeting future challenges of urban living and what risks we face if no political action is taken.
Our distinguished group of panelists includes Professor Toshiyuki Shikata of Teikyo University and Security Counselor to the Tokyo Governor Ishihara, Associate Professor Koki Kaku, National Defense Medical College, Professor Yoshihiro Yamaguchi of Kyorin University, and Minoru Morita, one of Japan's most prominent and respected political commentator. Come look into their crystal ball.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
What should the Democratic Party of Japan being doing right now? Looking for a way to solve the three very large problems it faces. I'd like to see them grow beyond being Ozawa's children and become politicians who can think for themselves and are willing to fight injustice and irrationality.
First, the party needs to clearly separate money from politics. Specifically, it needs to solve the Ozawa and Hatoyama scandals. Just because Ichiro Ozawa is not being prosecuted doesn't mean he has no responsibility for what happened. The citizens and the Diet should pursue a thorough review of his political and moral responsibility. We should show renewed interest in Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's money scandal too. The party has been too passive about these scandals. The country is disappointed with the DPJ's dependency on Ozawa.
Second, the mistaken economic policies embraced by Hatoyama need to be changed in a hurry. The policies his administration is supporting are basically the same as the structural reform policies of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. They both support fiscal reform over everything else, favor big money and want to reduce public works. These policies will crush Japan. We'll be in trouble if we don't change them.
Third, the arrogance and disdain of party chief Ozawa and premier Hatoyama have to be acknowledged and challenged. Hatoyama comes off like a soft-spoken man, but deep down he's arrogant too. He turns defiant quickly. He's egotistical and arrogant — a politician with a sense of entitlement. Ozawa, on the other hand, is consistently arrogant. He's cut from the cloth of dominating politicians such as Kakuei Tanaka or Shin Kanemaru. Transport Minister Maebara is another arrogant and cold-blooded politician. Once the decision to not prosecute Ozawa is final, his swagger will be even more pronounced. We need to ratchet up our criticism of these people.
At the very least, the members of the DPJ need to become the "thinking reeds" of which Blaise Pascal wrote. Think with your own brain; liberate yourself. Then tackle the three big problems facing the party.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I am compelled to again call for Ichiro Ozawa to step down as party chairman.
Japan is facing serious danger. The economy is at a critical juncture. Regional economies have lost their spark. Bankruptcies of midsize and small businesses continue to soar. Unemployment is worsening. If we leave things as they are, Japan is in danger of collapsing.
For the Hatoyama administration to focus on finding a way to break out of this economic funk, it needs to distance itself from the public battle between Ozawa and the prosecutors. This could happen if Ozawa steps down as president of the Democratic Party of Japan.
The issue of whether political fund laws were broken should be decided in the halls of justice. Ozawa needs to separate this fight from the political world and take it up in court. Change this political feud to a judicial one. If Ozawa takes his battle out of the political sphere, it's likely he'll be lauded in the future as a great politician. He would do well to remember that "those who flow with the river ride the rapids smoothly" and give himself up.
Ozawa and some of his supporters imply that if he were to step down as party chief, the DPJ would collapse. That's absurd. The DPJ can survive just fine without him. In fact, the party could start to use the concentrated strength of all its members. The time has come for the DPJ to bid farewell to the Ozawa era.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
"With all fears, the most frightening thing is a person who clings to panic." —Friedrich Schiller, German playwright (1759-1805)
By chance, I recently ran into an old friend and Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker. I asked him, "I've heard that no one feels they can speak up within the DPJ. Is that true?"
"Yes," he replied. "The climate inside the party is strangely oppressive."
The DPJ has become a major party with more than 300 seats in the lower house, but at the same time, it has become an anti-democratic monolith that won't allow free discussions. A reporter who covers the party told me, "No one can criticize party chief Ichiro Ozawa. Everyone seems abnormally scared of him. They're so scared of Ozawa, they can't say a thing."
Ozawa continues to ignore prosecutors' requests to question him in connection with the recent money scandal. The average citizen would never be able to get away with this behavior, but Ozawa keeps arrogantly disregarding the requests. The situation remains confused because Ozawa has taken such an arrogant and privileged stance.
When Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is asked about this, he replies that it's "something for party chief Ozawa to decide." Hatoyama is the head of the executive branch. The public prosecutor's office is part of that branch. Hatoyama is protecting Ozawa as the latter defies the prosecutorial requests. It's simply ridiculous. One can't help but conclude that Hatoyama doesn't have what it takes to be prime minister. The Japanese government is beginning to panic, creating a dangerous situation. Fears grow about the August 30, 2009 elections backfiring. The political change we voted for has been betrayed by Ozawa, Hatoyama and the rest of the DPJ. The Japanese people need once again to bring about political change in order to protect their living standards and their democracy. We need the courage to bring Ozawa despotism to its knees.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Every Diet member must protect the Political Code of Ethics passed on June 25, 1985. If lawmakers don't have the will to stand up for it, they should step down.
This is what the code says:
"We will devote ourselves to high ethical standards to be worthy of the voters' trust. We will eliminate any mixing of public and private matters that could invite distrust in politics. We will maintain integrity. We should work to avoid voter distrust by eliminating political corruption and improving political ethics."
Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa's decision not to respond to prosecutors' questioning collides with this code of ethics, as does his unwillingness to explain his actions to the public.
To the lawmakers of the DPJ, I say this: Not a single member of your party is willing to criticize Ozawa for his selfish stance and unwillingness to explain himself to the voters. It's simply too much. You should know how disappointed the voters are in the poor showing of your party. Look inside yourselves and find the courage to hold your party chief accountable!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
These reporters and writers need to be leaders. Or at least they need to try. At the bare minimum, they need to be independent from those in power. They need to be skeptical. But it's worrisome to see just how many of them are quick to flatter those in power.
Lately I've had two illuminating experiences.
The first was on August 30, 2009, when journalists who had supported the LDP and repeatedly criticized the DPJ turned on a dime and began writing, "Ichiro Ozawa is a political genius. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's leadership is wonderful." The way this message rang out so loudly and clearly was surprising.
The other was when I heard a certain well-known TV journalist say, "Anyone who criticizes the DPJ system under Ozawa and Hatoyama is really saying they wish the LDP would return." I heard something similar to this on another occasion, when a journalist who works like a member of the DPJ's advertising team said it on TV. Using this logic, the journalist sought to insulate the Ozawa regime.
Of course, this is nonsense. The LDP has less than one quarter of the seats in the lower house. There's no way for the LDP to return to power. Those of us telling the LDP to get a grip were simply saying that we wanted to see it show some backbone as Ichiro Ozawa, like a Heike fugitive hunter, seeks to thoroughly crush the party. That's all there is to it.
There is only a small group of people who are criticizing the DPJ, but probably none of them expect the LDP to rebound.
Those of us criticizing the rule of Ozawa and Hatoyama are asking for the DPJ to go through an internal transformation. We are looking for a revolution from within, where party members criticize the despotic politics of Ozawa and the irresponsible governing of Hatoyama. The most important issue in Japan's political world right now is the self-reform of the DPJ so that it breaks away from the current despotic system and returns to a true democratic path.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
We need the strength and resolve to begin a new era. What we need at this moment is a strong enough spirit to overcome the immense difficulties ahead.
The Great Heisei Depression will worsen in 2010, and the economy will travel a rocky road. We have to find a way out of these hard times. Massive government power and giant pools of capital are behind these wars and the neoliberal approach. The world is unraveling into an everyone-for-themselves mentality. The mass confusion brings about a mass single-mindedness and more pain for all of us. But we don't have to give up.
International society will continue to destabilize. The unstable condition will bring pain to the people of many nations. The strength of national governments will weaken. They will find themselves less and less able to secure, stabilize and settle their people.
How should we live in the midst of this mess? Where can we turn? We should focus on our families, our homes, our businesses and the local economies. We must outgrow these painful times by solidifying ourselves at the grass roots. To do this, we must revive our Japanese spirit. I offer these five quotes from our predecessors to help us find out what the Japanese soul consists of and which way we need to go to get out of this mess:
1. Shoutoku Taishi. "Harmony is to be valued." Japanese society and the Japanese way of life is founded on a spirit of harmony and cooperation.
2. Saichou. "A person who brightens up one corner is a national treasure." Each of us needs to make an effort to light up the corners we live in. In other words, we need to embrace the spirit of mutual support.
3. The first of Emperor Meiji's five-part written oath: "Deliberative assemblies shall be widely established and all matters decided by open discussion." Let all members of the family, the business or the region participate to bring about wisdom and share that wisdom. Open discussions can save this society.
4. Yukichi Fukuzawa. "Heaven does not put one man above or below another." People are fundamentally equal. We must not create a prejudice or unequal society.
5. Roka Tokutomi. "The nation's ability resides in the provinces." The path to Japan's revival starts with revival of the provinces. To rebuild Japan, start with the provinces.
These five lessons from our predecessors can protect us and help us work together to overcome the hardships ahead and create a new Japan. If we keep these five principles in mind and work together, the Great Heisei Depression will not defeat us.