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Japan to use Oi nuclear reactors despite overwhelming oppositon and unknown dangers

June 17, 2012 Comments off

Though only a small number of Japanese protest in the streets, opinions polls cited in recent Japanese news reports show a majority of Japanese want a move away from nuclear power.

It’s taken a bit of time but the govt have announced “local approval” for the Oi reactors. About 2/3rds or so of the Japanese people oppose it, but as long as a few politicians say yes the go ahead is given. These are a few reasons why it makes no sense to me:

  1. The investigation into the causes of the March 11 disaster is incomplete, and the role the earthquake/tsunami is not yet fully understood (was it the EQ that knocked all power out first?)
  2. The new safety standards cannot take full lessons from the March 11 disaster because some lessons cannot possibly have been learnt
  3. The “standards” they have chosen will not fully be implemented until about 2016
  4. Oi appears to be sitting directly above a fault which could cause an EQ it is not designed to withstand
  5. Only the Daichi and Daini plants have a completed sea wall (obviously it didn’t work, but there is something there)
  6. The new nuclear agency will at best not be in place until after the summer is over
  7. Bringing the reactors to full capacity will give them time to generate much electricity in time for summer demand
  8. J-media says about 66%-70% of public oppose using the reactors at this time
  9. A minimum of 7.5 million signed a petition Nobel laureate Oe presented to the govt, or 6.25% of the population – significant for Japan

These facts lead me to conclude the govt’s only concern is a) the profits of the power monopolies (buying natural gas costs them more than nuclear energy) and b) ensuring that nuclear energy is not allowed to be proven unnecessary. If it is as necessary as they claim, let the population go without power and have higher rates this summer. If there are significant problems then perhaps nuclear energy is needed for the factories in this economy – a ridiculous premise but ok fine . I suspect they refuse to allow a test because if there are no significant power shortages, and there might not be, opposition to nuclear energy might become more active.

A true independent media would discuss these and other concerns in a clear manner. Instead EX-SKF reports they are ignoring the 15th protest and a lot of what is happening at the PM’s residence in Tokyo. This brief conversation published in EX-SKF illustrates why ignoring the public and focusing on irrelevant things turns so many people against nuclear energy; it isn’t the Fukushima disaster, it is it the government’s and media’s absolute refusal to listen to the people.

Some people who participated in June 15 demonstration reported that they were asked by a reporter from one of the major weekly magazines in Japan about Taro Yamamoto, actor-turned-antinuke activist. He recently got married, and is evacuating to a less contaminated area. According to these people, the reporter asked them:

What do you think of Mr. Yamamoto? Don’t you think he is deserting under enemy fire?

One countered the reporter with a question:

Why don’t you instead report on this protest, as it is happening?

The reporter’s answer, according to this person, was:

I cannot write about it, I am just a reporter.

The person further asked: Isn’t it because writing about it is against the editorial policy of your magazine?
The reporter didn’t answer.” (see original)

No wonder the Economist is praising Noda. All it is concerned about is corporate profit and Noda, the nuclear lackey, just restored millions in profits to the 12 energy monopolies in Japan. 2013 election? The DPJ is going to lose anyway, what do they care? It isn’t like the LDP are against nuclear energy. And those hoping in Hashimoto realised he was just as crooked as any other politician when he “suddenly” supported nuclear energy use when it looked likely Osaka would get the same status as Tokyo. Ah, Japanese politics. The only difference with the American version is the Japanese aren’t as good at propaganda. At least the Americans tell a good story when they force something on their people. The Japanese just do it in your face and smile. About 70% oppose something and the government does it anyway. Now that is democracy!

This is an op-ed piece submitted by Commodus Dio. The views therein do not necessarily coincide with those of the editors or staff.

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Categories: Japan, op-ed Tags: , , ,

Japanese govt’s new ideas on Oi nuclear plant defy common sense

May 31, 2012 Comments off

Though only a small number of Japanese protest in the streets, opinions polls cited in recent Japanese news reports show a majority of Japanese want a move away from nuclear power.

And indeed the ideas being floated by Noda’s regime at the moment do resemble the sort of looney ideas one would expect from people committed to making others laugh. Prime Minister Noda excels at nonsense but is empty on substance.

In his government’s latest desperate attempt to force a restart of the Oi nuclear plant, the government have proposed “to have senior vice minister or other senior political officials stationed in Fukui.” What a politician would do in an emergency remains to be seen, though if said individual is like other incompetent Japanese officials in the past then one can be assured he – for women are never appointed in a land that loves to preach human rights to the rest of Asia – will only get in the way or simply be irrelevant. In either case this is just smoke and mirrors.

In fact some of these very same people complained ad nauseum  that former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, far senior to a vice minister, was just another politician who got in the way (it is not known for sure if Kan kept Tepco from abandoning the Fukushima plant and making things worse as he states, and there are many unanswered questions about the events on those days). Is having a politician present on-site sensible? Is it a substitute for nuclear regulatory agency that does not yet exist? The Japanese government say it is, but these are the same people who think all of Japan should eat radioactive food because it is harmless.

It gets better.

“In the event of an emergency, we will link the Oi nuclear power plant, Kansai Electric, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and prime minister’s office via a videoconference system.”

What the Mainichi newspaper does not say is that the government had a multimillion dollar video conference system in place. They just failed to use it. That is correct. On March 11, 2011 and the days and weeks following the world’s worst nuclear disaster – mislabelled “accident” – the Japanese government did not take advantage of the tools at its disposal. Not only did they fail with the video conferencing system, one could argue it would have made absolutely no difference whatsoever.

This week Kan went to parliament and testified that his personal visit to the Fukushima plant on March 15 and his demand that the Tecpo not withdraw personnel from the plant were necessary because “We could hardly get information” and  “We couldn’t do anything” due to the failure of Tepco to provide the government with timely data. What difference would using the video conferencing system have made? Kan said “he and his key ministers were not adequately briefed about the plant’s situation in the first few days” (here).

Either Kan is misrepresenting what occurred and/or Tepco simply refused to provide information to the government about three full meltdowns some experts say they would have known about at that time.

Noda’s idea to put a politician at the Oi reactor also raises another question: If Oi is so potentially dangerous why not just shut it down? Also, if Oi needs a politician on such high rank, what about all the other reactors? With this logic every reactor in Japan (there are 54) should have a senior vice minister on standby and satellite hookup on call to beam to the prime minister’s office. Really what is the point? These people would not be nuclear engineers or safety personnel. The necessary technicians are already employed at the plant reactors. Japan’s best experts are already on standby. And they too will be powerless to stop another meltdown when a large earthquake or tsunami swamps the walls that do not exist (only the Fukushima plant has completed seawalls and they were 100% ineffective against the tsunami).

Noda is misleading the public by saying he will make a decision in future about the restart of the Oi plant. His decision was made the to support nuclear power the day he assumed office. This is nothing more than the shameless game the Japanese government have been playing for years. The latest cowardly announcement by the Union of Kansai Governments  “We will accept the government’s decision.” It also released a statement saying “On the assumption that the government’s safety judgment is provisional, we call on it to make a definitive judgment.” This rubber stamping of the central government’s dictatorial policy is the opposite of democracy. The opinions of a few governors matters not. It is the majority of the Japanese people who are opposed to the restarts, and the Japanese government does not care what they think.

For those in the anti-nuclear camp or those simply opposed to restarts or nuclear power until a thorough investigation of the Fukushima disaster is completed and new standards and procedures are in place, they are stuck relying on their fake opponent of nuclear power, Toru Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka, who is manipulating them for his own anti-democratic political goals. They are mistaken if they see an ally in him. Hashimoto is not opposed to the restarts. He even floated the idea of supporting temporary restarts to prevent power outages. As soon as his party gets more power it will turn on those voters, which is to be expected.

If Japan and the Japanese people are truly concerned about global warming, developing and harnessing alternative forms of renewable energy, the time to invest in the technology is now before the Germans and Chinese get leap years ahead in the technology. Even the number of businesses would support move in this direction, despite Keidanren’s lobbying, numbers around 75% according to recent Japanese press reports. The future is here and if Japan is going to compete on the energy battlefield it will need a renewable arsenal. Prime Minister Noda’s ideas are sinking Japan’s chances to levels in-line with the unelected dictator’s – he is demanding a restart to nuclear plants with no electoral mandate – approval ratings. So much for democracy in Japan.

This is an op-ed piece submitted to Civis Journal by Commodus Diop. The views expressed therein do not necessarily reflect those of the editors or staff at Civis Journal.

Categories: Japan, op-ed Tags: , , ,

Radiation is not the farmers’ biggest problem

May 30, 2012 Comments off

With a still damaged plant nearby nothing is “safe” in Fukushima. AP/Tepco

At least that is the conclusion a person attributing the government’s decision to allow farmers to consider selling rice from highly contaminated areas would be. The Japan Today describes a “challenge”

producing safe-to-eat rice in contaminated soil.

“Safe” is not yet defined. The equipment the government has is capable of detecting “the tiniest speck of radiation” the Japan Today says. “Safe” includes up to 100 Bq/kg of caesium-137, to say nothing of caesium-134 or the numerous other isotopes that are not screened for or entirely ignored in other foods. If the rice tests follow the same sort of testing there is little chance people will know what is in it. It is little matter, then, which equipment is used. Will there be strontium, plutonium or other harmful substances present? The closer the proximity to the Fukushima Daiichi plant the greater the possibility of greater concentrations of radiation other than caesium.

It appears that all rice this year from the farms “right next to the no-go zone, in Minami-Soma” will be destroyed, but farmers are participating with the government in the hope that they will be allowed sell their rice next year. The government is sowing false hope – to them and the public. It is extremely unlikely anything produced 12 miles away from the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl will be “safe” unless “safe” includes radioactive food. The fact is the government cannot claim radioactive food – even with low levels (say under 100 Bq/kg) is “safe” because there is little scientific data to support it. It might be safe and it might not be. Consistent exposure – especially internal – to radiation below a certain threshold is a sort of grey area. No problem. There are plenty of human guinea pigs in Japan just waiting to gobble up the samples – and farmers all too eager to sell them their fix.

“Fukushima farmers pray for radiation-free rice” Pray? To whom? Maybe the great deities in Tepco or the Japanese parliament will wave a magic wand and make their rice “safe.” In fact, maybe that same deity will go to Chernobyl and make all the radiation there disappear too. Radiation is just going to go away. It is kind of irrelevant if the rice produced has low levels of radiation anyway. Growing rice in radioactive soil is akin to growing food in a sewer, testing it and saying “there is no sewage in it.” It is an unethical, dirty and disgraceful way to bamboozle the public into buying something that people have no business eating period. The same could be said about growing food in radioactive toxic waste zones like those around the Fukushima plant.

“The balance that the government is now trying to strike is between allowing people to stay in the Fukushima area and recover their lives, and keeping the rest of Japan happy about buying food,” said the Japan Times. This illustrates the governments deception: the people in the immediate vicinity of the plant will never “recover their lives” and live the way they used to. What the tsunami and earthquake left, the radiation destroyed. They are lying to the people. “Radiation is expected to decline year by year.” Who expects this? Caesium-137, for example, has a half-life of 30 years. It is not going anywhere for hundreds of years. Plutonium? Thousands. Yes caesium-134 will go more quickly, but the land will hardly be “safe” to grow food in during anyone’s lifetime. Telling people otherwise is sowing false hope and selling food from there is possibly putting people’s lives at risk.

Why? So that some farmers can earn a living off the land? So that Japan does not have to change its unfair trading practices an import foreign foods in greater quantity? The government is not helping the farmers in the Fukushima area by trying to sell their poison. It is hurting them by not admitting the fact their plight is hopeless. It is also forcing these people to live in zones too dangerous for humans. It is joining Tepco by refusing to properly compensate these people, providing a new and safer place to live elsewhere in Japan. The farmers biggest enemy is not Tepco or radiation. It is their own government.

This is an op-ed piece submitted that does not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of the editorial staff.

Japan Today article here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Food, Japan, op-ed Tags: , , , , ,

The tattoo inquisition in Japan has begun – heretics may be punished

May 24, 2012 Comments off

Mayor Hashimoto is against public employees right to tattoos, to refuse to sing national anthem and now workers political rights outside of working hours. Source: Japan Times

People who reacted with disbelief over news of Soichiro Takashima’s decision, mayor of Fukuoka City, to ban alcohol for a month for city employees might find his actions mild in comparison to his counterpart to the north, Toru Hashimoto.

Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka, created a controversy when he demanded city workers fill out a survey listing their tattoos. Some might recall his comments that he would not hire Johnny Depp or Lady Gaga to work in his city because the two of them have tattoos. Neither of the celebrities needs a job anyway, but city workers in Osaka that have tattoos are largely sanitation or transport workers and need their jobs to survive.

In some police departments in the Unites States this sort of question is routine before hiring begins. It is part of an attempt to know if a candidate had gang affiliations or was perhaps involved in a crime. One could understand the necessity of looking at police who may have tattoos or other marks due to the nature of their work. It goes without saying, however, that many officers have tattoos and that they are not necessarily anything more than a legitimate form of self-expression.

Why should all city workers have to report tattoos in Osaka? A bloke carrying rubbish has nothing to do with law enforcement. Is there a cultural explanation? Tattoos were linked to the Yakuza, or organised crime and so were sanitation workers. “During the 1970s, large numbers of city sanitation workers were also affiliated with yakuza in Nishinari Ward,” reported the Japan Times. That does not mean, however, that today’s sanitation workers are involved with Yakuza. Today “tattoos are now a common means of self-expression in Japan and are no longer indicative of gang membership,” says the Japan Today. They may not be tolerated in public baths and they be may not be as common as in other countries, but they are not quite “taboo” as some media outlets reported. It is nothing more than a harmful stereotype under the guise of Japanese “culture” which equates a tattoo with criminal behaviour.

Mayor Hashimoto gave his reason for starting the tattoo inquisition:

“If tattoos of city employees are seen by the public, the city government will lose its credibility because they will make people feel nervous and intimidated”

The public might feel “intimidated” if they conflate wearing a tattoo as indicative of being in the mob, but there is little reason to confuse the two. Mayor Hashimoto apparently pointed to an incident in which “a worker [a city employee] at a children’s home threatened kids by showing them his tattoos,” as reason to stop city workers from wearing tattoos, as reported by the Japan Today. The story has inconsistencies and few details are available. The Guardian reported there were “complaints”  that  “a welfare officer had intimidated children by showing off his inkwork.” Some man allegedly showed some tattoo to children of unspecified ages and that someone complained, alleging it was a threat.

Even if it is true the children were somehow “threatened” by seeing a tattoo, what is mayor Hashimoto’s point? A worker could conceivably threaten children by showing them a cigarette. After all, many Yakuza smoke. Would Hashimoto demand a survey of city workers to identify who smokes because cigarettes “will make people feel nervous and intimidated?” It would be a ridiculous witch hunt, which is what some feel mayor Hashimoto’s order on tattoos is turning into.

Mayor Hashimoto seems to be taking an isolated incident that may never have occurred to claim that the Japanese public would be intimidated by city workers with tattoos. This is quite a jump and is the opposite of scientific thinking where such extrapolations are the hallmark of less than a scientific observation. The mayor seems to be saying city workers with tattoos look like Yakuza and intimidate the public. What studies have been conducted on the people of Osaka that verify the mayor’s claim? Is it really true a tattoo is going to scare adults?

One has to differentiate the types of tattoos in order to answer this question. “The poll found that 110 workers reported having tattoos, including sea turtles, moons and dolphins,” which are very different from “large, intricate motifs of mythical beasts and shogun-era courtesans” typical of a person in the Yakuza. How many adults would be “intimidated” by seeing a glimpse of a “dolphin” on someone outside their homes for two minutes to collect the rubbish?

These are the sort of tattoos members of organised crime tend to wear. Source: The Guardian

Teachers and some members of the board of education have resisted the order to fill in the survey. This is not the first time they have clashed with the mayor. Last time mayor Hashimoto demanded they all stand and sing the national anthem even though it has links to Japan’s wars of aggression in WWII and teachers opposed it as a violation of their free speech. Though the teachers lost in court, “union officials have complained that the order [to fill out the tattoo survey] is a breach of employees’ human rights and illegal,” reported the Telegraph.

One might conclude this latest attack on human and civil rights is a way to challenge labour unions and weaken opposition to Hashimoto’s political agenda. This looks all the more likely when one takes into account Hashimoto’s announcement of a new “proposed ordinance [that] includes banning [city workers from] the issuance and distribution of newsletters by political organizations, marches and protests with political intent, and expressions of political views at assemblies using loudspeakers.” If city workers cannot take part in politics outside of their work hours, are they being allowed to practise their constitutional rights? Professors cited in the Japan Times feel it would be a violation.

Speaking of intimidation, is it not “intimidation” when mayor Hashimoto says he will not promote workers who refuse to fill out the tattoo survey or that he “threatened to dismiss any city worker who has tattoos,” according to Fuji Tv? He is quoted as saying, “If they insist on having tattoos, they had better leave the city office and go and work in the private sector.” Hashimoto is right now demanding a list of names of all those workers who did not fill out the survey. Who knows, maybe some of those on list are communists, gypsies, Jews, homosexuals or left-wing anarchists. Joseph McCarthy once claimed to have a list. Now Hashimoto will have his own.

This is what the dolphin tattoos may look like, though no representations are currently available. Source: Free Tattoo Designs

Why stop there? The Catholic Church once demanded an inquiry into heresy. Bishops and clergy all over Europe sought out traitors to the Church who would not adhere to official doctrine, and described punishments for those who would not repent. With Osaka the question is not religion per se, but obeying orders is the Japanese civil religion and heretics who refuse to follow orders are a threat to bishop Hashimoto. Their tattoos and defiance are anathema to the authority of people like mayor Hashimoto who have little tolerance for democracy or differences of opinion.

Hashimoto’s dislike for democracy, for instance, is evidenced in comments like “What Japan needs most now is a dictator” instead of ineffectual prime ministers, reported Reuters. Japan may not have a “dictator” in the prime minister’s office, but the city of Osaka does. If this politician, with aspirations on the national level, should win enough seats in the upcoming national election it may very well see a shift to the right that will make the 15 century Catholic Church proud. Hashimoto has a lot to be proud of. A search google’s images under the name “Toru Hashimoto” brings up images of Adolf Hitler, a figure to whom he is sometimes compared, though his style is more in-line with Japanese fascists of the 30s and 40s.

Theodora Dio

This is an op-ed editorial submitted to Civis Journal. Civis Journal does not necessarily endorse, agree with or condone third-party opinion pieces.

Dictator Japanese mayor bans 20,000 from drinking alcohol without legal authority

May 22, 2012 1 comment

This political cartoon well expresses the sort of ideology behind the sort of prohibition. Source Kaminer, Free Inquiry Magazine

On May 21 the story broke that Soichiro Takashima, mayor of Fukuoka City, had enacted a ban on alcohol for city employees supposedly in response to a few wayward employees who may have engaged in illicit behaviour under the influence of alcohol.

The legality of this has been ignored in virtually all news sources except the Japan Today:

“Legal experts say the mayor’s request is exceptional partly because no law exists to enforce a drinking ban on city employees, meaning public servants cannot legally be disciplined or fired for ignoring the ban.”

At least someone mentioned it. Let that point be reiterated: the mayor has taken it upon himself to add authority not granted under Japanese or international law. That is what dictators usually do, and it is a complicit press that supports such dictators by excusing their actions and focusing on the “extraordinary circumstances” that supposedly justify the removal of liberties i.e. a few people accused of illegal behaviour whist allegedly drinking, which is hardly extraordinary at all. Why is the press not questioning this draconian behaviour on the mayor’s part?

No rational person would argue drunken violence is good, but this rule is not rational. Assuming the four people involved in these incidents  were drunk and guilty of violating the law (numbers change depending on the newspaper), it would still mean that only 0.02% of the 20,000 city workforce were guilty. This problem is statistically insignificant and highly exaggerated by definition. That does not mean alcoholism is not pervasive in Japanese society, just that these “scandals” make a very poor case for the mayor to argue the need to enact a rule he has authority to enforce.

Constitutional?

Prima facie it would appear this “rule” and its enforcement are violation of articles 11, 13, 14 and 15 of the Japanese constitution. The government cannot legally prevent people from enjoying their basic human rights; deciding what to eat or drink is as basic a right as there is. The right to happiness for some includes the right to enjoy alcoholic beverages, does it not? Mayor Takashima has been unable to demonstrate that all the city employees have violated the law – and those roughly 0.02% who are accused must still be proven guilty in court. The mayor has no right to inflict collective punishment period; nor would it be proper to punish  any city employees without due process and a clear legal precedent. The mayor cannot correctly claim that city employees’ behaviour “interfere[s] with public welfare” unless he wants to prejudge a few men before their trial or slander an entire municipal workforce. What evidence is there that the accused men committed a crime? That is for the courts to determine, as it is their job to prove alcohol was involved and decide an appropriate punishment. But the 20,000 city employees?  Why punish them?

Men dumping alcohol during prohibition. This extreme behaviour is the sort of image mayor Taksahima is dredging up with his despotic “rule.” No pun intended.

The mayor’s pretext for the collective punishment of 20,000 innocent people is: “he hoped the shock of the announcement would make employees more aware of the seriousness of recent incidents and of their responsibility to their communities.” In his own words: “It is shock therapy to reform the consciousness of city officials.” The fact the overwhelming majority are law-abiding citizens means they understand their responsibility to the public, since after all they are the ones who do the transactions and business that keep the city going. Why do they need “shock therapy” – torture if done literally, which should cause people to think about what this mayor is saying – when they have not done anything wrong? Is it now a crime to drink if unless one is at a wedding?

Beyond that the rule is illogical because city employees could still hurt others if they drink at their own weddings, which is the exception permitted for alcohol consumption. And what happens after the one month ban is over? What will stop the employees from drinking and hurting others again? If there really is a problem, the way mayor Takashima would have us believe, then he is only preventing the inevitable. He should just ban all city workers from drinking alcohol permanently. Why stop there? If nobody drank alcohol there would be zero violence! Yay, what logic. Prohibition failed in the United States and Afghanistan. But you know, “shock therapy” is an admitted form of torture that might force those wayward Japanese city employees to conform to the Japanese ayatollah Takashima’s new edicts.

Responsibilities

Speaking of “responsibilities” it is mayor Takashima who needs a reminder of his responsibility under the law to his constituents. He can start with Article 15 of the Japanese constitution: “All public officials are servants of the whole community and not of any group thereof.” City employees do not exist to serve mayor Takashima or any group of politicians like they did during WWII. Their job today is to serve the Japanese public when they are at work, hence the term public servants.

Demanding employees do x, y and z outside of work without gives the impression the mayor is using the workers for his own personal reasons. Also the mayor and city government have no legal authority to enact rules of this nature when those people are not at work, and this rule probably violates their work contracts, which raises further questions of labour law. It is one thing to say no alcohol at work, but quite another to ban it off duty. This rule is straight out of the Taliban’s playbook.

Mayor Takashima might want to consider his other responsibility to the people: that of upholding the law. This might come as “shock therapy” to the dictator, but elected officials are sworn to uphold the law, not to invent unjust rules as they go along for whatever cheap political gain they might make. In order to do that the mayor has to understand the Japanese constitution, the Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. A shock indeed.

Why? Because equality under the law is important in any society. Arbitrarily singling out and punishing employees for alleged misconduct (as with the fireman yet to be found guilty they may already be trying to fire), and for the collective punishment of 20,000 innocent city workers who are entitled to equality under the law. At the end of the day they are allowed to drink inside or outside of their homes when they are not at work whether or not this Japanese dictator accepts it.

Mayor Takashima decided to ban alcohol among 20,000 city employees by enacting a rule he has no legal authority to impose or enforce. Source: Reuters.

It remains to be seen how “the city is said to be ‘strictly enforcing’ its no-alcohol policy.” Do the mayor and city officials plan on violating the law themselves? Will the local courts step in to nullify this unconstitutional rule? Or will the mayor abuse his authority and bully the workforce into accepting his demands? Mayor Takashima can always resort to his favourite “shock therapy” and order 80 lashes like the Taliban. Maybe that will stop the drinking problems. And those who get drunk and are not city employees? What about them?

The real question is: Are they city workers going to fight for their rights and demand the mayor and others respect their? This is where organisation and a decent union would help. Ultimately fighting back against this unjust rule is not about alcohol, but about preserving people’s basic rights from being infringed upon by politicians who appear more concerned about cheap political gain than protecting people.

This is an op-ed submitted to Civis Journal and does not necessarily reflect the view of its editors or staff.

Dictator Japanese mayor bans alcohol

May 21, 2012 1 comment

Soichiro Takashima, mayor of Fukuoka, is acting more like a dictator than a sensible politician.

Soichiro Takashima, mayor of Fukuoka City, has ordered all city employees to stop drinking alcohol “outside their homes” for a month, which will end on June 20. This is in response to a fireman who allegedly stole a car while under the influence of alcohol.

“The sobriety order calls for all regular city employees to refrain from drinking at restaurants and other establishments as well as at friends’ houses,” stated the Mainichi. One could understand that workers be prohibited from drinking while on duty, but does this order affect people when they are not at work? Media reports differ, but this is what the Japan Times had to say:

“The notice orders officials to only drink nonalcoholic beverages at meetings with kin and at work-related parties, and only allows alcohol consumption at their own wedding parties.”

Work parties, if sponsored by their employers, might be legal since they could be held liable for the actions of people leaving a party drunk. However, to intrude into people’s private lives while they are not at work or doing work duties and to tell them they can drink would be a clear violation of workers rights. The mayor would have no authority or right to tell someone what to drink anymore than he has the right to tell someone what to eat, be they city employees or not. What kind of political system is it that allows some mayor to tell people what they eat or drink at a restaurant? It is certainly not a democratic one that respects human rights. If it begins with alcohol, it will only extend further as they presume the right to demand workers do other things the mayor thinks up in a political move that will likely have no impact on crime reduction.

It is true there is a problem with alcoholism, but one guy allegedly involved with the theft of a car several months ago is hardly justification for meddling in other people’s lives. Even if an additional man accused of “beating” a taxi driver is found guilty, banning alcohol for all employees would be nothing short of draconian. The mayor’s actions sound more like a poor excuse to reign on civil liberties under the guise of protecting people for a crime that has nothing to do with vast majority of city employees, unless one takes the position that they are all likely to get drunk and steal cars. That would indicate a vote of no confidence of the mayor in the majority of city employees.

The new mayor of Fukuoka, a 36-year-old former television announcer, appears to need a lesson in basic human rights. Perhaps his age and inexperience have induced him to accept the council of ayatollah-like dictators who believe they have something to gain from preventing innocent people from doing something Japanese law clearly says is allowable. This is politics, not safety. This is dictatorship, not democracy.

This is just one example of the sort of authoritarian control Japanese bosses have over their employees. Human rights, choices, freedoms? Japan can now go speak to the Taliban in Afghanistan and inform them that they have something in common. Maybe they can all ban alcohol together. One wonders where Asahi, Kirin and the myriad of other alcohol companies are on this one.  It looks like they are cowards unable to stand up to him or that this move will not affect their sales enough for them to rise a peep.

An Afghan burns alcohol in Kabul. Mayor Takashima might find he has some interesting allies in Afghanistan who share his love of banning people’s rights. Source: Radio Free Europe.

Takishima, if he was truly concerned about problems, might send in his morality police to look at the brothels in Fukuoka, the largest concentration of prostitution in the nation. He might then have some credibility with the Taliban he appears to emulate so much.

If the workers in Fukuoka had any courage, self-worth or were free human beings they would not only protest this “rule,” but they would stand outside mayor Takashima’s office every day after work and drink in defiance of this political decision. Would this promote drunkenness? It is already a major of Japanese culture and has been for a very long time. Then they would scrutinise the mayor’s life and take a close look at his eating and drinking habits to see if he practises what he preaches. After all, with the sort of rules mayors have been making recently, maybe it would make sense to enact a ban his privileges for a month, and extend it to all mayors across Japan. Ah, hypocrisy’s ugly head steps in. Well, Saddam, Gaddafi, Tojo, Hirohito and other dictators never were subjected to the same rules as regular people.

All hail emperor Takashima. Takashima would make Tojo proud.

Op-ed submitted to Civis Journal, which does not necessarily reflect the views of its editors or staff.