Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dispatches From the Front

Last night's NHK broadcast had reports from two fronts of the ongoing war between the Hatoyama Administration and recalcitrant elements of the Ancien Régime.

It was grim viewing

In the first segment, six governors of the Kantō Plain are (the governors of Gunma, Tochigi, Saitama, Ibaraki and Chiba Prefectures and the Tokyo Metropolitan District) paid a visit the site of Gunma Prefecture's miserable Yamba Dam project, demanding in a photogenic way that the project be continued. Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintarō, taking his loss in Olympic vote out as he should -- that is to say upon the citizens -- served as the spokesman of the spitting mad half dozen. NHK should have perhaps mentioned the backgrounds of the sextet but it did not.

So let us see.

Ōzawa Masaaki, Gunma, the aggrieved prefecture - member of the LDP running an LDP stronghold. In addition, the Ōzawa family business is a construction company.

Ishihara Shintarō, Tokyo - shock author, right wing celebrity, member of the Diet for the LDP for 25 years.

Morita Kensaku, Chiba - actor and celebrity. Originally elected to the Diet as an independent with leftwing support. Joined the LDP in 1994. Member of the Diet for the LDP until 2003. Elected governor of Chiba in 2009 with LDP support.

Ueda Kiyoshi, Saitama - former member of the Diet for the Democratic Party of Japan, but as a part of the DPJ's now extinct nationalist right wing. In his last run for governor he received official support from only the LDP and the New Komeitō, though DPJ friends did campaign work for him.

Hashimoto Masaru, Ibaraki - former central government bureaucrat in the Ministry of Home Affairs. First elected with broad center-left support. In most recent reelection (for his fifth consecutive term) received official support of only the LDP and the New Komeitō

Fukuda Tomikazu, Tochigi - former bureaucrat in Tochigi Prefecture's construction bureau. Resigned to become a private contractor in the construction business. Elected governor with official support of the LDP and the New Komeitō.

I think that the point is made.

In the second segment was a long video essay on the attempts of political appointees to take charge of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The editors of the segment clearly felt sympathy with the politicians, selecting the video clips where the bureaucrats appeared to be either stone-faced organization men or grinning sycophants.

The segment revealed the bureaucracy's entirely predictable response to DPJ's demands for control of the Ministry: the bureaucrats give it to them. All of it. The right and responsibility to make a decision about every single, painfully obvious item in the budget.

Micromanagement hell.

Last night's report followed the very young parliamentary secretary Ogawa Junya, himself a former MIC bureaucrat, from his first day when he boldly tells the assembled grim top echelons of the ministry "Bureau chiefs and directors, staying around in the office means nothing to me. If you stay late on the job, I will not value your effort!" to the point a few weeks later when he is driven over the edge of exhaustion by his former superiors as they seem to be unable to make even the most basic of decisions by themselves.

If Kan Naoto does not get his Strategy Office up and running soon -- and through it provide a template against which the political appointees can measure the significance or insignificance of the decisions they are being asked to make -- then it will be difficult to keep some bureaucrats from eating the political appointees alive.

No comments: