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Posted in: Japan's whaling is not science, expert witness tells int'l court See in context

The logic does seem fairly simple, though the argument will continue: an international law is a system of rules that particular countries recognize and agree to. If a signatory isn't going to support an agreement, in intent, then it probably shouldn't agree to it in the first place. The signatory doesn't have to support the agreement, in intent, but it isn't going garner much respect from other members of the international community.

In response to a previous post, I have to say my statement at least, is pretty dispassionate. I and others, have eaten whale meat before, but still make the argument for Japan, or any other nation, honoring an agreement that it has signed.

Whaling has been a "passionate" issue among Japan's ultra-nationalists for quite some time, even though Japan's current stance on whaling only does harm to its international standing. It seems counter-intuitive, but so are many actions coming from Japan's uyoku-dantai that seem designed to provoke members of the international community over anything else. Irregardless, once Japan's ultra-right wing groups latch onto an issue, the media, and politicians back down and don't want to touch it.

Non-profit groups have been trying to get the Japanese media to address the core issue for years (Japan has been taking as much as 1000 whales per year and calling it "science") but for the most part, most people in Japan still assume that Japan's "scientific whaling" amounts to taking a few individuals per year. Without the media ever addressing the core issue, whaling has been spun into an issue about food preferences: why can't foreigners respect the fact that 'we Japanese' like whale meat".

As a trade-based nation that relies almost entirely on the outside world for resources, Japan's image means a lot: some people already avoid Japanese products because of Japan's stance on whaling, and today it is just as easy to buy Korean instead. Sadly though, if this trend continues, most people in Japan will never know why.

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Posted in: Japan's whaling is not science, expert witness tells int'l court See in context

There is a difference between the "letter of the law" and the "spirit of the law". Naturally some sociopaths might disregard the latter, but naturally, there was intent behind the international agreement. If the Japanese government "wins" the current lawsuit because it has followed the "letter of the law", it really wouldn't have won anything but a further tarnished image within the international community.

If someone murders another by exploiting some loophole in the law, is it still wrong? Most people have heard the same familiar maternal advice: "what would happen if everybody did that? If other nations exploited the same loophole in international law, it is unlikely that the current estimates of 300,000 to 700,000 minke whales would exist at all (not to mention the threatened fin and sperm whales that government whaling continues to take). Is their much point to an international agreement in the first place?

Of course, Japan would be far better off to resume more "honest" commercial whaling. People once ate whale meat in their school lunches, and it was often the most dreaded item on the menu. Today, people fight against whale meat in school lunches, not because they don't like it, but because it is unsafe. Given that 95 percent of the population has never eaten whale meat or has only tried it, and given that many people are acutely aware that they can consume over 900 times the safe limit of mercury in a single serving, it is unlikely that whaling in Japan would survive anyway without government subsidies, and the population is probably unwilling to support the subsidies unless the industry continues to call it "research".

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Posted in: Abe's 'stealth' constitution plan raises civil rights fears See in context

One key point that is being overlooked is that the changes Abe is proposing effectively abolish the constitution--a constitution drafted by western powers, but that is arguably better than that of many other western nations. As a body of fundamental principles under which a society is governed, modern constitutions require a certain amount of supremacy over statutory law so that it is not easily circumvented. Almost all constitutions require a supermajority to make amendments, for replacing the requirement with a simple majority effectively reduces the constitution to statutory law. The current ultranationalist faction that is ruling the LDP, as well as Hashimoto, is also proposing the removal of the whole upper house and well as a number of representatives from the lower house. They are proposing exactly the same political environment that was in place in Japan during the military dictatorship, and it is no surprise that many people in Japan are concerned that Japan currently looks too much like it did before the war.

How conferenced should people be? First, Japan is a nation of individuals with highly contrasting political views just like anywhere else, despite the extent to which ultra-right wing Japanese argue that Japan has a uniquely, deep-rooted "homogenous, group-oriented culture". Japan's problems are purely socio-political and are based upon problems that started during Japan's pre-war history and weren't effectively dealt with afterwards.

Many worldly and informed Japanese will quickly argue that Japan isn't a democracy. It doesn't help that the US propped up the same ultra-nationalists during the Cold War that the US had originally defeated, in the name of fighting communism. But since then, the LDP has maintained almost uninterrupted rule with as little as 20 percent of the total vote in many districts, in most elections for roughly 50 years. Japan doesn't require party primary elections, or runoff elections if one party received less than a majority of the vote. In the last election, the current "Mori" faction of the LDP, due to unusual election rules, won the party presidency despite losing its party chapter votes. The LDP won the last election in a landslide, with one of the lowest turnouts in modern history, despite having only a 25 percent support rate and a popular vote of only 43 percent. There is no effective opposition party anymore. In the last election, the district that I live in saw a choice of two extreme right wing candidates or a communist candidate (which of course had little chance of winning).

To make matters worse, Japan has a weak system of checks and balances. The Supreme Court's authority is considerably weak compared to other countries, and due to an unusual law that allows a 2/3 majority in the lower house to override the upper house, the upper house has already been effectively removed from power (with exception to a vote on constitutional amendments) in the last election. Even if some new opposition party wins the next upper house election, it won't prevent the LDP from passing any statutory law it wants, unopposed, at it's own leisure. The Supreme Court has already ruled, repeatedly, that the Japan's elections were unconstitutional due to a voter disparity that favors some districts (usually LDP dominated) by an unheard of disparity of as much as 5 to 1. Some people were hoping the Supreme Court would rule the last election void, but so far, only Hiroshima Prefecture would rule it's election invalid.

The Japanese media is highly monopolized, and due to the fact that Japan has atrocious foreign language skills, the general population has little access to alternative viewpoints. Abe's controversial appearance at an "uyoku dantai" (the equivalent of "skin heads") rally in Tokyo, barely got any press coverage. A man in his 90s, who saw the evils of the military dictatorship, cashed in his life savings to run against the LDP in Tokyo, but apparently received no media publicity in Japan despite quite a bit of international media attention. Many academics in Japan are aware of Abe's grandfather's disturbing history, though disturbing amount of the general population remains grossly unaware. Abe has been a vocal fan of his grandfather and even published a book about him. He is the grandson of Nobosuke Kishi, a former "class A" war criminal who administered Manchuria during Japan's occupation, made an enormous personal fortune with one of the biggest money laundering operations in history, and oversaw the operations of highly controversial Unit 731, which conducted biological experiments on live human subjects. Kishi escaped the death penalty and was pardoned by the US government in exchange for biological weapons knowledge (which later turned out to be useless information). Kishi, along with other prominent politicians with direct ties to the former dictatorship, formed what would later become the current ultra-nationalist "Mori" faction of the LDP.

The military coup that took over Japan before the war, was effectively a backlash against an increasingly open population and a period of political dissent. What separates Japan from other nations with similar histories, is that there was no effective social revolution against the former dictatorship after the war. Unlike Germany, many war criminals weren't effectively prosecuted, but returned to prominent positions in society. Unlike Germany, which banned the Nazi Party and its symbology, "uyoku dantai", the political equivalent of the ultra-nationalist groups that assassinated politicians before the war, still terrorize the population with seeming impunity, and would even assassinate the president of the Socialist Party on live television during the 1950s. The seeds for change actually were there after the war; an effective opposition was in place, but the only organized opposition happened to be the Japanese Socialist Party, which was vastly curtailed during a period of US sponsored "red hunting" that saw far more prominent individuals removed from government than during the McCarthy years in the US. Unfortunately, there is a tremendously inadequate education about Japan's military past and a significant portion of Japan's population grew up with military brainwashing rather than education.

In recent years, a number of other nations have seen a disturbing rise and later defeat of ultra-nationalist parties, but none of them took 80 percent of the vote. I can't see much of any way out of Japan's situation, without massive public protest, but so far that looks unlikely. People only talk about leaving the country and many people (there is an enormous population of Japanese living overseas) already have and aren't interested in returning. If anybody takes foreign citizenship, Japan's unusual laws requires them to give up their Japanese citizenship. Today, there doesn't appear to be any organized dissent. Only 5 percent of the population sees a brighter future for Japan in the latest survey, and effectively too many people have already thrown in the towel. Japan has serious socio-political ills that don't exist in the public psyche due to a surprising amount of naiveté, denial and intentional cover up. Be worried. Be very worried.

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