Monday, October 22, 2007

Please Be Distracted by the Sparkly Objects in the Display Case Before You

The American comedian Chris Rock has routine where he offers a theory that the tsunami of trivial but titillating news on American television is actually a well-planned effort to keep the American people from concentrating upon the absurdity of the Iraq War and the War on Terror (Caution: profanities abound, run rampant).

Watching tonight's 9 o'clock NHK newscast, where the announcers all seem to have had a run-in with a windmachine prior to going on camera, I find myself sharing some of Mr. Rock's rage at the unnameable someones who are trying to distract the populace with hysteria about incredibly minor matters.

The dispute over whether it was 200,000 or 800,000 gallons of diesel fuel that a Japanese oiler transferred to the U.S.S. Pecos which it then supplied fuel to the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk en route for the Persian Gulf and the Iraq War, seems a ploy to suppress serious discussions. The Kitty Hawk burns 200,000 gallons of fuel a day, according to reports. What could possibly be the significance of four days of the Kitty Hawk's operations versus one? Especially since we have an explanation for the discrepancy--that a clerk entered 200,000 gallons in the logs instead of 800,000, that the error twas eventually corrected--but not before officials, including the then Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda Yasuo, had publicly stated the amount provided to the Pecos was only 200,000 gallons.

Tonight's report featured the revelation that the Defense Agency knew of the discrepancy in the fuel logs years ago but did not tell the politicians. Considering that Defense Agency officials were under the directive to not do anything to mess up the Indian Ocean deployment, they had an incentive, indeed an obligation, to not publicizing the discrepancy.

What was infuriating was the elision of the story of the refueling mistake with the story of Moriya Takemasa's golf outings with defense contractors in violation of Defense Agency and then Ministry of Defense rules. The two stories are about completely different issues. However, NHK made them appear to be a single whose only message could be "You cannot trust defense officials in anything"--which is not only misleading in and of itself but confuses the viewer regarding the root causes of Moriya's crimes: his arrogance and greed.

After which came a hyperventilation over the discovery inside the Health and Welfare Ministry of the partially blacked out records of 118 individuals possibly infected with Hepatitis C through a blood-based drug. Health and Welfare Minister Masuzoe Yōichi had stated in Diet session that the drug maker had not supplied the Ministry with the names of 418 potential recipients of possibly tainted blood products. Today, the great "Aha!" revelation: it turns out that buried in the files of the Ministry there were loose documents where in at least 116 cases one could read the Roman letter initials of patient--and in 2 cases read the entire name of the likely infected individual!

Now what happened to the persons who were treated with the drug Fiberigen was tragic. However, to jump up and down over today's minuscule revelation distracts from the Ministry's more massive failures. Did the report once mention that the estimated total number of cases of Hepatitis C infections in Japan is around 700,000? Did it offer the context that the Ministry that had no recollection of two persons full names mistakenly not being blacked out in their paper records was the one that managed to fail to input the basic data on over 50 million pension records?

A little perspective here, please.

Oh, and then the amount of time that was given to the scandal over the unlikely-to-be-lethal but definitely well-aged ingredients of the products of the confectioner Akafuku!

(Full disclosure: I have always hated akafuku with a passion. Every time someone brought akafuku back from central Japan I cringed and found an excuse to throw it out as soon as possible.)

Food safety is all important--but spare me the Claude Rains impersonations at the revelations that after Fujiya got closed down for selling food past its expiration date, the Akafuku company destroyed all of its records of its having done the same.

Hear ye, hear ye! The Akafuku executives figured out what a shredder is for!

Of course they did. They are evil and horrid, t'is true--but that does not mean they are stupid, too.


YY said...

In Australia I only get partially the noon and 7:00 pm NHK news. While I'm pretty used to inanities that sometimes try to pass as news, the fuel discrepancy bizzo of minutia masquerading as meaning is driving me nuts. At least you can change the channel.

Anonymous said...

Crime, I'm conservative, prostitution, I'm liberal

Great choice of video.

I don't understand why the number of gallons is an issue now when the pension could be discussed in the Diet. The DPJ is lost in space.