Monday, August 27, 2012

Do Japan's Progressives Have To Lose Their Minds?

Something has gone wrong
Sighing, sighing
Faces have turned long
Crying, cryin'
Hear them sob and whine
Tearful, tearful
That's a real good sign that they're feelin' glum
Sad sad times have come...

- REM and CTW, "Furry Happy Monsters" (1998) *
In the same edition of the Tokyo Shimbun as the cartoon featured in yesterday's post (thank you again Jordan) the powers that be there printed an editorial that simply boggles the imagination.

Read it, please.

But wait! Before you do, get down in a prone position! I was luckily already on the tatami when I read this piece. Otherwise I would have hit the floor at a possibly injurious velocity. (Link)

For those with neither the time, inclination or capacity to read the original, here is the deal.

The Tokyo Shimbun, while it is only a prefectural newspaper and the offspring of the Nagoya-based Chunichi Shimbun, is fairly well established as the broadsheet of progressivism. Some might ask whether or not The Asahi Shimbun is not the standard bearer here. Sadly, the Asahi is not progressive, merely confused.

Anyway, the Tokyo Shimbun is the reliable voice of the non-Marxist left.

Which is why the editorial so shocking: it echoes the rhetoric of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito regarding the need for a Diet dissolution and elections.

Since a direct translation will take too long, here is a synopsis:

1) The "politics of being able to come to a decision" (kimerareru seiji) was just a cover story for the passage of a bill raising the consumption tax.

2) Now that there are only 10 working days left before the official end of the Diet session, what could the DPJ-LDP-New Komeito working arrangement hope to "decide"?

3) The first thing that needs to be decided is the matter of the disproportionately represented districts. The DPJ submitted to committee its version of a reform bill (I have argued previously that this bill is a red herring, meant to fail or never be voted upon - MTC). Opposition parties boycotted the session, leaving the DPJ representatives voting to send the bill to the floor of the House of Representatives in a show of force (kyoko).

4) This was no way to handle a matter as fundamental as the means by which Diet members are to be chosen.

5) Since the opposition parties control the House of Councillors, the sending of the DPJ bill to the floor without the consent of the LDP and the New Komeito is pointless, especially as the current bill is a patchwork of ideas without a guiding principle.

6) Did they DPJ not send to the floor this ragbag bill without a hope of passage only to delay the House of Representatives election where they are predicted to go down to ignominious defeat?

7) In order to put the questions of the necessity of raising of the consumption tax to the voters, hurry up and pass the minimal +0/-5 revision, then dissolve the Diet.

8) As for fundamental reforms such as cuts in the number of Diet members, what is realistic is to leave the problem to be solved in the interval between the upcoming election and the election after, through the setting up of a commission of experts to debate the problem.

9) Before attacking the proportional seat numbers, which reflect the people's will, try the more painful cuts of the number of districts; of the amount of public campaign finance extended; of the salaries of seat holder salaries and stipends for PR and research purposes.

10) The DPJ decided to send to the floor the bill on the issuance of new bonds without the LDP present at the committee meeting. This was impermissibly impolite conduct of Diet business.

11) The LDP intends on submitting a censure bill to the House of Councillors on the 29th. If it passes, the Diet will thereafter be just spinning its wheels. The disproportionality issue will be left in abeyance and the bond issuance bill will be put off for later.

12) It is difficult to accept a "politics of being able to come to a decision" when its result is the increasing of the burdens shouldered by the populace. It is time to put an end the politics of that fails to decide what should be decided, leaving only each side blaming the other.
This is the product of a diseased mind. Point #8 is beyond bizarre: no one could possibly believe that anything approaching fair and unbiased redistricting would be possible were the LDP to regain power, as the LDP would should the +0/-5 solution be adopted. The LDP had 54 years in power during which it could have installed a mechanism for assuring the proper representation of all the citizens. For its own profit it did nothing. Only under after its brush with life in the opposition in 1993-94 did it consent to the first serious reforms of the districts. To belive that a panel of experts would achieve diddly squat under an LDP regime is flat out nuts.

As for the lack of politesse in voting of bills out of committees when the opposition is boycotting, when did the LDP ever restrain itself on this issue during its years in power? Besides, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, if the other side does not want to show up, you cannot stop them.

Some folks are angry that the DPJ has not been able to fulfill the promises of its manifesto. Many are furious that Noda Yoshihiko staked his and his party's political life on rasing the consumption tax, an LDP manifesto promise.

However, that the editorial division of a major newspaper should forget history and despise political reality (where the LDP-New Komeito's control of the House of Councillors gives them a perverse control of the government's agenda) to the point where it is screaming "Oh, just tear it all down!" indicates we are on the precipice of a descent into nihilism.

C'mon boys and girls (and furry monsters too): things are not so bad. So the Augean Stables are taking a bit longer than a weekend to clean up. What do you expect after a fifty-four year-long elective dictatorship?

* The original version of this song has an East Asian history angle. The first line of the chorus, "Shining Happy People Holding Hands," was the title of a PRC poster lead vocalist and lyricist Michael Stipe saw in 1991. The poster had been issued as a part of the propaganda campaign encouraging national unity in the aftermath of the Tien An Men protests and subsequent crackdown. The song was meant to be sickly ironic. However, as was the case with the band's song "The One I Love," the story of an abusive relationship, the public absorbed the meaning of the song in a manner exactly opposite the way the artists had intended. The band had to just go with the flow. As a result the above linked video is a subversion of a subversion of a subversion of a suppression of a subversion.

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