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Japanese democracy: Govt likely to restart all reactors, public opinion irrelevant

April 8, 2012

Oi is the power plant that has been chosen to put the reverse domino theory into motion. Source AJW.

Those who follow events in Japan might recall the meetings between Prime Minister Noda and Yukio Edano, Minister of Economy – among others. The discussions have dealt with convincing the Japanese public that restarting nuclear power plants is a necessity (1 of 54 is running). There has been some talk of possible power shortages – as there was last year. Interestingly, the massive blackouts the government and nuclear power companies had predicted in 2011 never materialised. They never expected them to. Now, as Japan is on the verge of going a summer without nuclear power, there is a massive propaganda campaign to restart them.

The greatest focus has been on “local approval” or “local understanding,” which is code for ensuring nobody disagrees with Japanese politicians/business publicly. This helps to solidify the narrative that only crazies or left-wing nuts complain – since everyone else “understands” and shuts up – and allows the government to more or less govern as big business want it to (see recent articles here).

There have been subtle hints recently that the government might not be too interested in obtaining “local approval,” as was evidenced by such phrases as “While the agreement of local residents is not legally necessary, the administration has said it is important to win their ‘understanding'” (see Japan Times here). In other words, it would be nice to have everybody smile, say “yes, we agree” and have restarts, but the government are seriously considering ignoring them altogether. This was evident when politicians began to quibble over what “local” meant. It was not far from the sort of word games President Clinton used when he discussed the definition of “sexual relations” in the Monica Lewinski scandal.

That was not enough. The Japanese government have now essentially declared they will go ahead with or without “local approval”

but his [Noda’s] government faces pressure from big businesses to quickly get reactors back on line and maintain nuclear power to keep the economy afloat.

First, the Japanese economy is not on the verge of collapse. The idea that the deficit caused by importing more oil and gas will somehow tank the economy is absurd in the extreme. It is up there with the Bigfoot, aliens and mothman myths. Economic indicators used by economists show that Japan’s economy, whilst not perfect, is far from going under. In fact, some areas actually show improvement. Unemployment is down (5.1 in 2010 to 4.5 in 2011), and the Yen is at 122 to the dollar – a new trend in February and March, and an improvement from months near 130. A weaker currency has led to increased confidence in the market with the Nikkei going over 10,000 in March (see here). There are problems but Japan is not Greece, and its economy will not go into recession because of a move away from nuclear power. This is the sort of nonsense that the Wall Street Journal publishes in its opinion pieces (see here); it is not sound economics (see here).

The real issue at stake is the profits of the Japanese power companies, which are monopolies concerned only about their own profit (see here). That does not make them “evil.” It is just a fact that for-profit business are in business to make money, and these companies are no exception (see here). That they are exerting political pressure on the Japanese government to restart reactors is not even hidden from the public – at least not well. The reason they so strongly favour restarts is because they are obligated to supply electricity, and what they cannot generate with nuclear power must be made up by using gas and oil.

Running a summer without nuclear reactors is anathema to them because it will reduce their profits. Oil and gas prices are high. Also, if there are no power outages this summer and no plants are running, it will show nuclear power is unnecessary. This test cannot be allowed because it will show plainly just how dishonest the Japanese are to their own people, and because it means an end to huge profits for the power companies. These are the easons Prime Minister Noda and Economic Minister Edano are trying to force the public to accept a restart at the Oi reactor. In their view, once one reactor starts the rest will follow. It is the “domino theory” in reverse. Secretary of War McNamara, General Westmoreland and President Johnson would be proud their ideas have current application, albeit in one of the very countries they feared would develop an independent foreign policy. It behooves the Japanese companies and their government employees to force restarts to the 53 reactors offline.

Public opinion is currently at “57 percent of people opposed the restart of nuclear reactors with 80 percent not trusting the government’s safety measures,” says a recent poll by the Asahi newspaper (see here). That is fairly representative. Does that matter? It would in a democracy. But this is Japan. There are also many unanswered questions about Fukushima. There were many lies and coverups, and the new nuclear agency is not operational due to the incompetence of Japanese politicians (see here). Few people believe the stress tests are anything but a charade, and the power plants are not much safer against tsunamis than they were last year because only two have sea walls – yes, larger tsunamis than Fukushima are expected and what will stop them? (see here & here) None of this matters to the government or big business. They will restart the reactors as soon as possible. If one reads their argument that there is no specific date for the new safety measures to be in place, then  some will not be in place before the restarts. What is the point of new standards if they will not applied of months or years? They would need to be in adequate and in place before the restarts for some measure of public confidence to be restored. Obviously Japan’s decisions are not being made by the public. Well, not much has changed since 1945.

Talk about Edano having to make a “decision” on the restarts of reactors is a show. It is not Edano’s decision to make. It is something industry expect Noda to do, and he – like other unelected and newly minted leaders in Greece, Italy and most recently Mbaye in Senegal (see here) – must deliver the goods if he is to retain power (see here).

The Japan Today (with the Associated Press in this example) does a poor job of trying to obscure these facts with its mindless claim that the electric companies’ concern is to “get reactors back on line and maintain nuclear power to keep the economy afloat.” People are supposed to believe this stuff. But the Japanese are highly indoctrinated people (so are many infatuated “westerners” who worship their culture). Many of them swear, for instance, their country has a “self-defence force” rather than an army or navy. Possessing more surface ships than the British Navy does not pose a problem to this belief. Having the military currently deployed in their new base in Djibouti, Africa, is still not enough to cause them to question this idea (yes, it is called a “military base” here). We need not discuss troop deployments to Iraq or the navy’s role in Afghanistan. We know, it was humanitarian to resupply American destroyers helping to bomb Afghans. So much for a peaceful country that “forever renounce[s] war.” It is not the Japanese fault. They did not even write their own constitution. That honour fell to a military dictator.

This is one example of how Japanese media are often a mouthpiece for powerful interest groups instead of an independent media organisation. Not all their reporting is bad, but to print such a phrase without comment can hardly be considered an oversight. This sort of doublespeak is nothing new to readers of the paper. Fortunately the Japan Today allows comment (most do not). Let us examine a few comments the public left on the article’s page.

Why is this even being discussed when the public has made it clear that they don’t want nuclear power?? Stop wasting time on thing and start looking at other methods and in the meantime, get those solar panels up and going. – tmarie

i was wondering up to this point why the government suddenly give a crap what the public think anyway – now I understand. It is all for show, and they are going to restart anyway, on the basis that no one should worry because they will be implementing the 30 NISA recommendations. Eventually….- Nicky Washida

My morning chuckle has been delivered – Ayler

The new safety standards are a joke. They’ve parked a few portable generators behind the plants, that’s all. Just a storm the other night shut down part of Onagawa’s cooling system…- Warner Bro

These are just a few of the comments that show the scorn many readers have to such messages. One in particular understood that talk on the economy was code for profits when he rhetorically asked whose pocketbook the closed reactors would affect: “What big businesses, TEPCO and the other nuclear plant operators?” These are the ones who yield political power in Japan, in case anyone was not yet aware. This is democracy a la Orwell.

Civis Journal

The AP article in the Japan Today can be accessed here.

  1. Emmaus Road Projects
    April 9, 2012 at 03:07

    It’s a complete travesty! The Japanese people I speak to on the street all comment “The Government just dictates to us what is going to happen and they just look after their own…”
    Where is the democracy in that? It’s not a Left-wing or Right-wing issue, this is basic Human Rights and Civil Liberties!!

  2. April 9, 2012 at 05:02

    Reblogged this on lisparc.

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