Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2009

Poet Bunmei Tsuchiya (1890-1990) penned a work that reads:

 

Because of this mother and father,

I exist here, but this isn’t

something to be said presumptuously

 

In a House of Representatives election called 3-1/2 years ago by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito gained more than two-thirds of the lower house’s 480 seats, winning a public mandate for Koizumi’s pet policy project of reforming the postal service.

The current Aso administration came into existence thanks to the enormous number of seats obtained in that election. In other words, the combined will of the people in favor of the postal service privatization can be seen as the “father and mother” of Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Aso has touched on the possibility of reexamining the management structure of the four privatized postal companies. The law on postal service privatization has a review provision that allows for a reassessment of the reform’s fundamental direction. But if Aso seeks to alter the way the four privatized postal firms are run, he should consult his “father and mother” first.

When Aso was asked why, despite being one of the ministers of the Koizumi Cabinet, he had indicated the possibility of reviewing the management setup of the four postal companies privatized in October 2007, he responded angrily, saying: “I was against it [the postal service privatization]. I won’t find it amusing if I’m held responsible for it.” I wonder how different he is from a petulant child who complains to his or her parents, “I didn’t ask to be born!”

If Aso wants to redraw the blueprint of the postal service privatization, he had better seek the opinion of his “father and mother” by dissolving the lower house for a general election.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings.The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

 歌人の土屋文明は一首に詠んでいる。〈この母あり父ありて吾(われ)ぞありたりし亢(たか)ぶり思ふべきことにもあらじ〉。母がいて、父がいて、お陰でいまの自分がある。胸を高ぶらせて語ることでもないが、と

 3年半前、小泉政権下の「郵政選挙」で自民、公明の与党両党は衆議院の3分の2を超す大量の議席を得た。麻生政権もその獲得議席から生まれている。民営化を支持した民意が麻生首相のいわば父であり、母である

 民営化で発足した日本郵政グループ、4分社化体制の見直しに首相が言及した。改革の進み具合を検証する「見直し規定」が法律にあるものの、民営化路線の根幹をなす経営形態を改めるのならば、まずは父母に相談すべきだろう

 小泉政権の閣僚だったあなたがなぜ、緒に就いたばかりの分割民営化を見直すのか――と問われて首相は、「自分は反対だった。濡(ぬ)れ衣(ぎぬ)をかぶせられると、おれは面白くない」と答弁で気色ばんだ。「産んでくれと頼んだ覚えはないぞ」と親に悪態をつく子供とどこが違うだろう

 民営化の絵図面を描き直したいのであれば、解散・総選挙で父母の意思を問えばいい。

Read Full Post »

The legend of the “overnight castle” built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) in Sunomata (now Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture) and Ishigakiyama (now Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture) has been passed down from generation to generation.

People would have been unable to believe their eyes when they saw emerging from the morning mist a huge castle on the mountain top, where no structure had been seen at dusk the previous day.

Knocking down the stone structure of a pyramid to make it cylindrical would be no less difficult than building Toyotomi’s overnight castle. I am referring to the major task of putting an end to the brokering of postretirement jobs for bureaucrats by government ministries and agencies by the end of this year–a pledge made by Prime Minister Taro Aso.

While some of their colleagues who joined the civil service in the same year have climbed the career ladder, many bureaucrats find themselves prodded to leave their ministries or agencies before retirement age. The personnel structure of a government ministry is pyramid shaped with the veteran administrative vice minister–the most senior in the organization–standing at the peak and new recruits at the base.

The elimination of the amakudari practice of bureaucrats landing cushy jobs in the public or private sectors, would lead to many bureaucrats not on the fast track remaining in their ministry or agency until retirement age.

Bureaucrats in the Kasumigaseki district in Tokyo, where government offices are concentrated, are likely to fight every inch of the way to thwart the planned transition to a cylindrical personnel structure.

The prime minister’s spirited intention of doing his utmost to eradicate the amakudari practice, which has sown the seeds of corruption, is praiseworthy. But, this “construction project” will hardly succeed without detailed blueprints and unbending faith in the initiative.

According to some accounts, the overnight fortress in Ishigakiyama was a papier-mache castle created overnight by building a skeleton structure in the woods, covering it with paper to give the impression of white walls and then cutting down the trees surrounding it.

I hope the “11-month castle” the prime minister has confidently said he will build will not turn out to be a structure of papier–mache.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings.The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

 豊臣秀吉「一夜城」の伝説が、墨俣(すのまた)(岐阜県)や石垣山(神奈川県)に残っている。暮れ方には何もなかった山の上に朝靄(あさもや)をついて巨大な城郭が姿を現せば、人々は目を疑ったことだろう

 ピラミッドの石組みを崩し、円柱形に組み直す作業も、むずかしさの度合いでは秀吉の一夜城に劣らない。麻生首相の明言した「天下り斡旋(あっせん)の年内全廃」とはそういう大工事である

 同期が出世するにつれ、多くの人が定年前に退職していく諸官庁は、入省年次の最も古い次官を頂点に、新人を底辺にもつピラミッドである。天下りの全廃で、出世コースを外れた官僚も定年まで勤めることになる。円柱形への移行を嫌い、霞が関は死に物狂いで抵抗するだろう

 汚職の温床、天下りの根絶にかける首相の意気やよし…としても、綿密な設計図と不動の信念なくして工事の成功は期しがたい

 石垣山の一夜城は樹林の中に骨組みをつくり、紙を張って白壁と見せかけ、周囲の樹木を一夜のうちに伐採して出現させた“張り子の城”であったとも伝えられる。首相がドンと胸を叩(たた)いた「11か月城」が、張り子に終わらぬことを祈る。

Read Full Post »

One of the dozens of possible winning techniques in sumo is gassho-hineri (clasped-hands twist-down) in which a wrestler puts his hands behind his opponent’s back, as if in prayer, and twists him down.

The punishment meted out Monday by the Japan Sumo Association to Wakakirin, a juryo-division wrestler who was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana, could be likened to gassho-hineri, with the JSA clasping its hands together in prayer. Instead of meting out a punishment of expulsion, which would mean Wakakirin would not be entitled to receive a retirement allowance, the association decided on the lesser punishment of dismissal to allow him to receive the retirement benefit if he so requests.

A favorable interpretation of the punishment might view the JSA as having shown clemency by praying for the wrestler’s rehabilitation. The organization’s chairman, Musashigawa, said: “He’s only 25. Expulsion is too severe a penalty when considering the rest of his life.”

But it is also possible to interpret the punishment in a negative light. With the lynching death of a young sumo wrestler carried out under the pretext of training still fresh in our minds and court trials on suspected match-fixing, public attention is focused on the state of professional sumo.

In light of the sensitive timing, it is difficult not to wonder whether the JSA clasped its hands in prayer in hopes the wrestler would not disclose something detrimental to the sumo world after it handed him the lesser punishment of dismissal to allow him access to a retirement allowance. I hope this is nothing more than a petty suspicion.

The JSA currently is experiencing a mitokorozeme (three-pronged attack) over drug scandals, bullying during training sessions and the controversial behavior of yokozuna Asashoryu.

I would have preferred to see the JSA hand down an authoritative tsukidashi (pushing out), instead of the more equivocal gassho-hineri punishment.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings.The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

退職金の出る「解雇」妙な暴露だけはしないでくれよ・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

 数ある大相撲の決まり手の一つに「合掌ひねり」がある。片方の手を相手の腋(わき)の下から差し、肩の上からまわしたもう片方の手と合掌するように組み合わせてひねり倒す

 大麻所持で逮捕された十両力士、若麒麟真一容疑者に日本相撲協会が下した処分も、協会が祈るように手を合わせた合掌ひねりと映らなくもない。退職金の出ない「除名」を見送り、退職金の出る「解雇」にとどめた

 善意に解釈すれば「まだ25歳、第二の人生を考えると除名はかわいそう」(武蔵川理事長)と温情を示し、更生を祈ったのだろう。別の、意地のわるい解釈もできる

 リンチ死事件の記憶が生々しく残り、八百長疑惑が裁判になり、相撲界の内実に世間の耳目が集まっている時である。退職金はもらえるようにしてやったのだから、妙な暴露だけはしないでくれよ、そう祈って手を合わせた処分と疑うこともできる。下世話な勘ぐりであればいい

 薬物汚染、“かわいがり”体質、横綱の品格…協会は角界不信の「三所(みところ)攻め」にさらされているさなかである。紛らわしい「合掌ひねり」よりも明快な「突き出し」が見たかった。

Read Full Post »

The late writer Kuniko Mukoda never simply pocketed money she happened to come across. As money that had fallen down to her from the heavens, she would accept it with gratitude.

“Even though the action of putting the money into your pocket is the same, this difference in attitude will later affect the strength or weakness of a person’s integrity,” writer Teruhiko Kuze said in “Furemosede” (Without Even a Touch), a collection of essays to mourn Mukoda’s death. (The book is published as part of the Kodansha pocketbook series.)

Kuze, who was Mukoda’s close friend, has also died.

This passage from Kuze’s essay came to mind when I read an article quoting Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto as saying, “I want talented people from outside–people who are tightfisted with other people’s money.” Hashimoto, who will soon celebrate his first anniversary in office, made the remarks during a joint interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun and other media organizations.

Interpreting Hashimoto’s expression, “tightfisted with other people’s money,” I would say it probably means he is seeking people who will not squander the money of others–taxpayers’ money–as if spending money they had just come across. Hashimoto is probably seeking people who see even 1 yen as a gift from the heavens not to be wasted.

The second supplementary budget for fiscal 2008 was approved by the Diet yesterday.

Did the government allocate the “gift” of taxpayers money to policies seen as sufficiently effective in stimulating the economy? Wasn’t there any notion of money being lavishly thrown at voters?

To borrow Kuze’s words, I am still unable to make out the strength or weakness of the integrity of the man who stuck to this widely unpopular flat-sum cash handout plan–Prime Minister Taro Aso.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings.The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

「他人の金にせこい」天からの頂き物として1円たりとも無駄にしない・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

 作家の故・向田邦子さんは、お金を〈拾わなかった〉。天から降ってくるお金を感謝して〈いただいた〉

 「同じお金を懐へ入れるにしても、この姿勢の違いはあとあと心の高さ低さに関(かか)わってくる」と、親交のあった作家、やはりいまは亡き久世光彦(くぜてるひこ)さんが追悼の随筆集「触れもせで」(講談社文庫)に書いている

 まもなく就任1年を迎える橋下徹大阪府知事が本紙などとの共同インタビューで「外部から人材が欲しい。他人の金にせこい人を」と語っているのを読み、久世さんの一文を思い浮かべた

 「他人の金=税金」を拾い物として濫費(らんぴ)することなく、天からの頂き物として1円たりとも無駄にしない人を。「他人の金にせこい」という橋下流の表現を訳せば、そういうことだろう

 きのう、第2次補正予算が国会で成立した。税金という頂き物を、景気浮揚効果の十分見込める施策に振り向けたか。拾い物として、選挙民に気前よくばらまく心理は働いていなかったか。久世さんの言葉を借りれば、世評の芳しくない定額給付金に固執した麻生首相の「心の高さ低さ」がいまだに見極められないでいる。

Read Full Post »