Three of the Four Horsemen of what could turn out the July 2007 Apocalypse.
On the left, the controversy over Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Suga Yoshihide's ordering NHK shortwave and international TV broadcasts to give special emphasis to the story of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.
Because, of course, the world has heard far too little about these abductions and is clammoring to hear more.
Strangely, the rubber stamp Radio Regulatory Council rubber stamped Suga's proposal because:
"...the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has put priority on resolving the abduction issue. "
Well shucks, that is a good reason.
Oh, wait, there is a caveat? Do tell:
However, the council also asked Suga to continue to take NHK's editorial freedom into consideration, even while working within the framework of the Broadcast Law.
"Since I also had concerns about editorial freedom, we asked the minister to take that into consideration," council chairman Mitsutoshi Hatori told reporters after the council's meeting.
"The abduction issue is one that is in progress. While it may be important to consider various opinions (through public hearings), we also felt it was important to reach a decision quickly."
Asahi Shimbun, November 9, 2006. "Council OKs plan to make NHK focus on abductions"
Haste makes waste, me hearties.
Seriously, does anyone doubt that establishing a precedent of telling NHK what it should report will not in time transmogrify into telling NHK what it should not report?
One hopes that the folks at NHK have the brains to point out if NHK can plausibly be criticized for being a platform for government propaganda (not that anyone would ever believe that anything as hamhanded and unconvincing as the present iteration of the 9 p.m. news is anything but government propaganda--and bad government propaganda at that*) it is possible that even more citizens might refuse to pay their yearly dues, further deepening NHK's budget woes.
Next, in the middle, the announcement that 11 of the postal rebels will be readmitted to the LDP by the end of the year.
Now all of the dirty 11 sucked it up, abandoned all principle and, spitting in the face of their supporters all the way, voted for the postal reform legislation after the election. They further demonstrated their abnegation and self-loathing by casting ballots for Abe Shinzo in the Diet prime ministerial election.
Still, readmitting them to the party seems a really, really bad idea.
Nakagawa Hidenao realizes how bad this idea is and has already once postponed the immaculate reaccession of the forces of resistance. Lest the readmission of the 11 paint the LDP as a tawdry party of numbers, not principles (Gosh, who could have imagine that?) he has pushed the readmission date into the blur that is late December.
Way, way past the Okinawa gubernatorial election.
I have to go over the numbers but I would venture that the number of rural prefuctural seats the 11 might conceivably help the LDP keep or gain are far fewer than the number of at-large seats, suburban seats or urban seats the party could lose through the inevitable tarnishing of its reformist image.
I do not often compliment Ozawa Ichirō for his smarts. Here, however, he played a cool hand.
He very openly sought the cooperation of the rebels throughout the summer, declaring he will work with anyone intent on toppling the LDP.
Should his efforts to seduce the rebels fail, he saddles the LDP with all their baggage, and revives the ancient, hated image of the LDP as the party of unscrupulous powermongering.
If, by contrast, the LDP stiffs the rebels--something Abe has to consider, now that Mori Yoshirō has once again demonstrated all those blows to the head he absorbed in his many years of rubgy playing were not in vain:
Way to go, Scrumsfeld! Way really tick off duly elected members of the Diet and your party's projected future stars!
Anyway...where was I? Oh yes! Abe seriously has to think about calling the whole thing off in order to preserve the Koizumi shift. If Abe does stiff the postal rebels, then Ozawa wins the their cooperation in prefectures where the Democrats have traditionally been slaughtered ("Dreams of Gif--with you...")
Finally, on the left, in the biggest juiciest font of all, the ringer controversy involving the town hall meetings organized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
(Does anyone else share my conviction that The Mikado solution-- "And the Ministry of Everything Else"--applies here?)
It seems the Monkashō bureaucracy was disastisfied with the opinions that the people were expressing at town meetings it was organizing around the country. Now while these meetings were, for many, the one chance an individual might have to put a question directly to a minister, the Monkashō bureaucrats felt they needed to "improve the quality of the discussion". So they planting their own representatives in the audience in predetermined locations to ask the minister questions.
Questions exhibiting an oddly detailed knowledge and an unexpectedly positive view of the government's draft of the Basic Law on Education.
It turns out that the Monkashō has been salting the audiences with ringers-a lot of them--for a long time.
Now I must confess I know former Monkashō Minister Kosaka Kenji. I find it heartbreaking to think he might have been party to such dishonest stage managing.
Bizarrely, I find myself in complete agreement with an Asahi Shimbun editorial. It is outrageous--an outrageous abuse of the taxpayer.
Now the Mainichi Shimbun, not willing to let go of past gripes, screams, "Well, what did you expect? It wasn't called 'Koizumi Gekijō' for nothing."
Still, one would have thought that bureaucrats whose job it is to guard against cheating, against presenting another's work as your own, against plagiarism or falsification of records, that such individuals might get a bit queasy about having phoney citizens plying the panel with predetermined questions.
One would have thought...
It is a long time from now until July--but if Abe cannot get a grip on his party's image, on the perception that bureaucrats running amok and his ministers (to whom he owes big, big favors) are embarking on ideological crusades --the he is going to have a heck of problem convincing the people that reform is still alive...and worth voting LDP for.
* Seriously, who is the producer of NHK's 9 p.m. newscast? It is an insult to television's evolution--as if we were suddenly warped into an ugly alternate universe where Kume Hiroshi had never clipped on a microphone.