DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 6 2008

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 6 2008
JAPAN’S HUMAN RIGHTS WEEK EDITION

Table of Contents:
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1) GOJ Human Rights Week commemorative pamphlet includes NJ issues of discrimination

YET
2) Mainichi: NJ cause Tsukiji to ban all tourists for a month
3) Kyodo: MOJ announces it snagged 846 NJ since reinstituting fingerprinting
4) Mainichi: NJ now eligible for GOJ “economic stimulus” bribe. But not all NJ residents.
5) Poll on how yon 12,000 yen econ stimulus bribe sits with Debito.org readers
6) The killer of Scott Tucker, choked to death by a DJ in a Tokyo bar, gets suspended sentence.

PLUS
7) More on nationality law and children born out of wedlock: Conservatives causing policy balk
8) JALT TLT: James McCrostie on NJ job insecurity at Japan’s universities
9) Japan Times Zeit Gist column on Otaru Onsens Case (not by me)

… and finally…
10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Dec 3 2008 on Obama election and Bush II presidency (Director’s Cut)
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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org (updated daily)
December 6, 2008 Freely Forwardable

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1) GOJ Human Rights Week commemorative pamphlet includes NJ issues of discrimination

Good news, of sorts. Today starts Japan’s official “Human Rights Week” (Jinken Shuukan), when the GOJ spends money (and claims to the UN national campaigns of awareness raising) to promote issues of human rights.

The Bureau of Human Rights (jinken yougobu), the window-dressing department within the Ministry of Justice entrusted to spend tax money but not actually enforce any human rights mandate, usually glosses over discrimination against NJ (heaven forfend they actually use the breathtaking word “racial discrimination”!) as a matter of cultural misunderstandings (a wonderful way to reduce the issue down to next to nothing), and holds it low regard in comparison to issues of actual discrimination against Burakumin, Ainu, the handicapped, etc. This has been reflected in GOJ human rights surveys and past “awareness-raising” campaigns in previous Human Rights Weeks.

So it comes as a welcome surprise that this year the GOJ has issued a commemorative pamphlet including discrimination against NJ as a real issue. Of course, the old bone about “cultural issues” is still there to dilute the Truth Octane. But it’s a start.

Well, actually, looking over information from last year, it’s not that much of a change. Except that the BOHR site now actually includes on its official website a new video game for its cartoon characters, called “The Grand Adventure in Human Rights Land”! Have a play! Hey, it’s your taxes, might as well use them.

http://www.debito.org/?p=2078

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2) Mainichi: NJ cause Tsukiji to ban all tourists for a month

Tsukiji is enforcing an outright ban for a month on all visitors to Tsukiji fish market, the world’s largest. The Mainichi says the Tokyo Govt claims it’s due to NJ tourists and their bad manners (or so the Japanese headline says below the English headline just says they’re too numerous; thanks, Mainichi, for sweetening your translations, again). And the fish market itself claims they cannot communicate the rules with Johnny Foreigner in their foreign tongues (nobody there has ever heard of handing out multilingual pamphlets upon entry or putting up signs?). Anyway, I wonder if this issue is so simply a matter of NJ manners?

Anyway, this isn’t the first time Tsukiji Market has threatened to do this, but this is the first I’ve heard of an outright ban. Moreover, using a purported language barrier as a real barrier to entry and service is becoming the catch-all excuse, as we are increasingly seeing in Japanese businesses, such as banks and insurance agencies. Beats actually making more efforts to cater to the customer, in this case the tourists eating the fish around the marketplace after the marketing, I guess.

http://www.debito.org/?p=2080

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3) Kyodo: MOJ announces it snagged 846 NJ since reinstituting fingerprinting

One thing I’ll give the GOJ: They’re predictable when under pressure. After one year of fingerprinting NJ at the border in the name of anti-terrorism and anti-crime, the MOJ decided to announce the number of NJ they netted, no doubt to claim that all the effort and money was somehow worth it. Problem is, as Sendaiben pointed out when submitting this link, that there is no comparison with how many people get snagged on an annual basis even BEFORE fingerprinting was reinstituted.

To me that’s another predictability: you just know if the information was in the GOJ’s favor, they would have released it as well. But this glaring omission I bet means there’s not much statistical difference. Besides, the GOJ similarly congratulated themselves last year when announced their catch the first day after fingerprinting was instituted, even though the fine print revealed those NJ were snagged for funny passports, not fingerprints. And we’ll throw in data about visa overstayers (even though that’s unrelated to the fingerprinting, since fingerprinting is a border activity, and overstaying is something that happens after you cross the border) just because the media will swallow it and help the public make a mental association.

Likewise, there is no ultracentrifuging of the data below to see how many were done for passports or fingerprints again. And of course, predictably, the J media is not asking analytical questions of their own. The closest we get is the admission that the GOJ is collecting these fingerprints to submit to other governments. Which is probably the real intention of this, Japan’s “contribution to the war on terror”. What a crock.

http://www.debito.org/?p=2072

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4) Mainichi: NJ now eligible for GOJ “economic stimulus” bribe. But not all NJ residents.

The GOJ has finally made it clear, after overmuch deliberation, that the “economic stimulus” cum political bribe to voters package will also be disbursable to non-voting taxpayers, i.e. NJ. However, not all. Only those with Permanent Residency or marriage with a Japanese. So too bad you taxpaying residents who don’t marry or haven’t been by the grace of Immigration been granted permanent leave to remain. You don’t get a sou for your contributions. It’s better than nothing, and indeed is a sign of progress, but why the lines are drawn there are still mysterious. Anyone with an address in Japan who is paying taxes should be eligible for the rebate. But no.

http://www.debito.org/?p=2074

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5) Poll on how yon 12,000 yen econ stimulus bribe sits with Debito.org readers

Looks like some NJ will get the 12,000 yen PM Aso “economic stimulus” dividend after all. How’s that sit with you? (multiple answers OK)

Great! I qualify. Show me the money! (27%, 35 Votes)
Not happy that NJ who are not Permanent Residents or married to Japanese don’t qualify. (41%, 52 Votes)
Nuts. That small payout doesn’t affect my bottom line positively. (15%, 19 Votes)
I don’t qualify. Bronx cheer to Aso. (9%, 12 Votes)
It’s a waste of tax money and won’t really stimulate the economy. (55%, 71 Votes)
Why should NJ qualify anyway? They can’t vote, so who cares what they think? (8%, 10 Votes)
PM Aso should give Japan a month holiday from 5% Consumption Tax instead. (23%, 29 Votes)
Don’t know / Can’t say / Don’t care etc. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 128 (as of this evening)

Feel free to vote on any page on Debito.org

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6) The killer of Scott Tucker, choked to death by a DJ in a Tokyo bar, gets suspended sentence.

I made the case some months ago, in a special DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER on criminal justice and policing of NJ, that NJ get special (as in negative) treatment by courts and cops. An article I included from the Japan Times mentioned that a case of a NJ man killed in a bar “was likely to draw leniency” in criminal court. It did. The killer essentially got off last September. Here’s an article about it, from Charleston, WV:

Charleston Gazette: Prosecutors in Japan have decided not appeal the sentence in the murder conviction of a man placed on five years’ probation for murdering Charleston native and West Virginia University graduate Scott Tucker.

“Prosecutors decided not to even present the appeal,” said Kenneth Tucker II, Scott Tucker’s brother. “They said the witness’s testimony was strong enough not to appeal.”

Tucker’s wife and family had hoped prosecutors would appeal the sentencing in an attempt to get the man jail time. But prosecutors said Thursday they would not pursue an appeal before the two-week window to file ends on Monday.

On Sept. 8, Atsushi Watanabe, 29, was sentenced to three years in prison or five years’ probation for killing Scott Tucker. Under Japanese law, probation in murder cases can begin immediately so Watanabe will serve five years probation rather than three years in prison, David Yoshida, who attended the trial with Tucker’s wife, Yumiko Yamakazi, said previously.

Yamakazi is weighing her options in pursuing a civil case against Watanabe, Kenneth Tucker said…

http://www.debito.org/?p=2060

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7) More on nationality law and children born out of wedlock: Conservatives causing policy balk

More on the debate on recognizing paternity and plugging loopholes in the nationality law — and how the conservatives are throwing up roadblocks in between houses of parliament… and blaming a “constituency” of blog messages for it:

Japan Times: With the revised Nationality Law expected to clear the Diet soon, some ruling party lawmakers are at the last minute claiming the amendment may spark problems, such as possibly creating a “black market” in false paternal recognition.

However, it seems too late in the day for them to block passage, because the revised bill cleared the Lower House last week and the Upper House Justice Committee is entering the last stage of deliberations and is expected to vote as early as next week.

The amendment will allow children born out of wedlock to Japanese men and foreign women to obtain Japanese nationality if the father acknowledges paternity after the birth

“If a law like this is misused, what will happen to the Japanese identity?” asked Takeo Hiranuma, a former trade minister widely considered a hardcore hawk, at an emergency meeting with 13 Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers last week to discuss issues arising from the revision

One reason that made them act at this late stage was what they claim is the public questioning the amendment. Some lawmakers said there have been hundreds of comments written in their blogs, mostly warning of the potential problems the revision may bring.

“The comments will keep increasing and would go crazy if the revision clears the Diet,” said LDP Lower House member Toru Toida, who has been getting hundreds of comments in his blog.

If the revision clears the Diet, then “people would claim that the Diet is not doing a proper job,” Toida said.

http://www.debito.org/?p=2073

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8) JALT TLT: James McCrostie on NJ job insecurity at Japan’s universities

Behind the Music: An explanation of the university shuffle

James McCrostie

Behind the Music: An explanation of the university shuffle
James McCrostie
Published in the April 2007 issue of JALT’s The Language Teacher
in the Job Info Center column (p. 45 – 46).

Working at Japanese universities resembles musical chairs. Every year the music starts and instructors with expiring contracts run around looking for a new job. Most universities hiring foreigners full-time offer one-year contracts, renewable three or four times. Contrary to popular belief, universities don’t cap renewals at three or four because if a teacher works long enough they can’t be fired. Schools remain safe as long as they state the number of renewals and a few have contracts renewable up to ten years.

To most thinking people, forcing instructors to leave every few years appears short sighted. Yet, university and government officials have their own reasons for preferring term-limits.

Keeping costs down is one reason…

http://www.debito.org/?p=2070

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9) Japan Times Zeit Gist column on Otaru Onsens Case (not by me)

Japan Times article critical of the Otaru Onsens Case: The problem is that the case was fought and won on the issue of racial discrimination when the policy being employed by the Yunohana onsen could more accurately be described as the racial application of “group accountability.”…

America is a truly wonderful country with some particularly obvious virtues, but these do not include its level of safety and social cohesion. While the rights of the individual are certainly more strongly upheld in America than in Japan, the presence of rogue individuals within America is disproportionately high. America is unquestionably a more dangerous place than Japan.

And this brings us to the point that Arudou ignores or simply fails to see. Group accountability is not employed in Japan simply for the sake of pushing people around. It is employed for the purpose of making Japan cohesive and safe. It is a major reason why Japan, unlike the U.S., is a nation in which the fear of random violence is relatively low. If Arudou succeeds in his quest, Japan will become one more nation in which the individual is to be feared. That is an outrageously high price to pay for the occasional racial, national, generational or gender-driven slight.

http://www.debito.org/?p=2076

I commented this evening:

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DEBITO: I’ll start with my conclusion. Look, this article is basically incoherent. We have a flawed academic theory (which somehow groups people into two rigid ideological categories 2.5 categories if you slice this into “American standards” as well) regarding social sanction and control, and proceeds on faith that this pseudo-dichotomy actually exists. As evidence, we have citations of women-only train carriages and border fingerprinting both fundamentally dissimilar in content, origin, and enforcement to the onsens case. And presto, the conclusion is we must maintain this dichotomy (and condemn the Japanese judiciary for chipping away at it) for the sake of Japan’s safety and social cohesion.

Get it? Sorry, I don’t. That’s why I’m not going to do a paragraph-by-paragraph commentary on what is essentially ideological nonsense.

But I will mention some glaring errors and omissions in the article:

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Continued at http://www.debito.org/?p=2076#comment-171979
(Page down to Comment #32)

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10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Dec 3 2008 on Obama election and Bush II presidency (Director’s Cut)

I had 700 words on some stray thoughts regarding Obama’s election published in the Japan Times yesterday. I cut 200 words of what I considered to be a stray but original-sounding point, regarding popular culture’s legitimization of an African-American in the presidency, but in retrospect the published version is more consistent without it. I’ll reprint it all below as a “Director’s Cut”:

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THOUGHTS ON OBAMA’S ELECTION
By Arudou Debito
Column 10 for the JUST BE CAUSE Japan Times Zeit Gist page.
December 2, 2008. DRAFT SEVENTEEN

Published version at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20081202ad.html

Regarding Obama’s election as American president, I welcome the groundswell of hope about “change”. It’s about time. The past eight years have been, well, awkward for Americans overseas.

The Bush II Administration undermined America’s image abroad. The Pew Global Attitudes Project, surveying worldwide attitudes towards the U.S. this decade, reported in 2007 that “Anti-Americanism is worldwide. This is not just a rift with our European allies or hatred of America in the Middle East. It is a global slide.”
http://pewglobal.org/commentary/display.php?AnalysisID=1019

There’s plenty to be ashamed of: Election oddities culminating in the 2000 Supreme Court d’etat. Opting out of the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court. The Orwellian Department of Homeland Security. “Preemptive war” as a superpower prerogative. Circumventing the United Nations with a “coalition of the willing”. Lack of policy oversight in a one-party Congress. A vice president with a bunker mentality and extreme notions of executive privilege. Wars in two countries grounded on lies about weapons of mass destruction. Unwarranted wiretapping. Guantanamo. Abu Ghraib. Signing Statements. Renditioning. Torture memos and waterboarding. Forthcoming presidential pardons for connected felons. Need I go on? Even Bush’s own party made “change” a platform plank.

America’s actions affect Japan profoundly because of the closeness of our relationship. America gave us MacArthur, a constitution, a democracy, a postwar era without forced restitutions, a market for our reconstruction, and a collective security agreement. We gave America a Pacific bulwark against communism and a market for their military. We are in a tango with America taking the lead.

It wasn’t seen as a bad thing. When I first got here twenty years ago, many Japanese saw America as “the society with freedoms and opportunities we lack here”, “the country we’d most like to emulate”. We had the “Ron-Yasu” relationship. Compulsory education in American English. More people watching Hollywood than domestic movies. “Top Gun” on TV more than once a year you get the idea. The word most associated with America was “akogare”, akin to adoration. America was a template.

Nowadays it’s more complicated. Although security and business relationships are largely intact, we are looking more towards a future with China (as is everyone), while “big brother” America seems more of a bully. America demands we refuel ships for free in the Indian Ocean, and we do something about Article 9 interfering with Japan’s contribution to the “war on terror”. Tangoing with America even raises fears about terrorist blowback.

In terms of human rights, the American Template cuts the wrong way. For example, last year Japan reinstated fingerprinting for most Non-Japanese based upon the US-VISIT program. We even bought American fingerprint machines. Officialdom’s most common excuse for depriving NJ residents of rights? Anti-terrorism. So we assist in America’s wars, then use them to treat foreigners like potential criminals. Hora, America’s doing it, so can we.

America is hardly something activists can point to as a paragon of human rights. Pass a law against discrimination by race or nationality? Hey, America now denies habeas corpus to its foreigners. Respect criminal procedure and due process of law? Phooey, America abuses people in their extralegal prisons too. Refer to U.S. State Department reports on Japan’s human rights record? That’s rich coming from a country whose soldiers aren’t accountable in international criminal court; the State Department doesn’t even survey America’s own human rights record.

People talk about America less in terms of justice, more in terms of “superpower realpolitik”, especially after it dropped North Korea from the terrorism watch list. Then we hark back to the Bubble-Era heyday, when Japan’s future was bright, rich, and flying in formation with the U.S. Sadly, that was then, this is now. For the past eight years.

Fortunately, with Obama’s election, American politics became a renewable resource, a fount of “change”. Obama is even inspiring opposition parties here to call for “change” in Japan’s government.

Well, maybe. And maybe America can become a template for good deeds again. That is, if Bush hasn’t made America unredeemable, and if America can learn to say “no” to its own excessive powers.

Obama has a hard act to follow, but if he succeeds, human rights activists in Japan will also enjoy the turn of the tide.
700 WORDS

=========================

THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR, from draft six:

Unfortunately, this degree of “change” is not in Japan’s zeitgeist yet, much less in its popular culture. In America, people got used to a major shift of gears even before Obama appeared as an alternative. Here comes a really stray thought:

If Reagan-Era America’s iconic image was the movie “Rambo”, then the Bush II Era’s iconic image has been the TV show “24, with a tabehoudai of ticking time bombs and tortured extremists.

However, like Rambo (which during Iran-Contra became a symbol for excessive militancy) there were seeds for change sowed within “24 too.

I’m talking about President Palmer. America’s first African-American president, portrayed as a rock amidst the chaos, and later succeeded by his brother, also African-American. Both were accepted with no suspension of disbelief or sense of irony.

America is a country, remember, where forty years ago a black woman and white man couldn’t kiss on “Star Trek”, nor vice versa in the movie “Pelican Brief” just fifteen years ago. In 2008, however, America has been softened up enough by popular culture to elect a black man president.

ENDS
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That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, as always!
Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 6 2008 ENDS

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