DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 16, 2009

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 16, 2009

First off…
Get Japan Times Tuesday May 19, Zeit Gist article on the New IC “Gaijin Cards”.

My next article next week in the JT will be on the proposed legislation to make things more “convenient” and “protected” for NJ residents: New Zairyuu Kaado with biometric data stored on IC Chips.

Convenient? Yeah, for the police, not NJ. I make the case that, if the legislation is passed, policing and punishments will only get stricter, and the chipped cards will act as “bugs” encouraging further police checkpoints and racial profiling. Read all about it next Tues (Weds in provinces)!

Now for the Newsletter:

Table of Contents:
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ILLNESSES AND RESUSCITATIONS
1) Wash Post on GOJ border controls of Swine Flu,
Mainichi/Kyodo on hospitals turning away J with fevers or NJ friends
2) GOJ shuts down NJ academic conference at Josai University due to Swine Flu
3) Revamped article on the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, and BBC on what’s happening to returnees
4) Tokyo Shinbun: GOJ to amend Nikkei Repatriation Bribe exile to Mar 2012
5) Japan Times: “Immigrants” magazine & advocates’ moves to establish J immigration policy
6) Kirk Masden resuscitates debate on TV Asahi show KokoGaHen

DEBATES FROM BIZZAROWORLD
7) Hokkaido Kushiro gives special Residency Certificate to sea otter
8 ) AP on resuscitating discriminatory Buraku historical maps on Google Earth
9) Chunichi Shinbun May 11, 2009 on New IC Gaijin Card debate
10) Thoughts on May 11’s TV Asahi TV Tackle on NJ issues
11) Thoughts on May Day 2009 in Odori Park, Sapporo
12) Kambayashi Column: Self-censoring media abets incompetent politicians.
13) Sunday Tangent: Obama’s March 8, 2008 speech on race, link to full text

… and finally …
14) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column May 5, 2009 on Alberto Fujimori’s 31-year sentencing
(full text)

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By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org)
Freely forwardable

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ILLNESSES AND RESUSCITATIONS

1) Wash Post on GOJ border controls of Swine Flu,
Mainichi/Kyodo on hospitals turning away J with fevers or NJ friends

Wash Post: Armed with thermographic guns, Japanese health inspectors in surgical gowns, goggles and masks boarded United Flight 803 from Washington Dulles. They prowled the aisles, pointing their fever-seeking machines at jet-lagged faces.

Asia was stung in 2003 by an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which killed about 800 people and caused temporary harm to the economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Malaysia. As a result, governments and health bureaucracies across the region are ready and willing to move aggressively against swine flu.

For jumbo jets arriving from North America, a shortage of health inspectors [in Japan] has meant that considerable time is being spent by passengers in parked airplanes. Thousands of travelers have waited for hours in their seats before inspectors could clear them to pass through immigration.

“We’re just about managing to handle the situation with a limited number of inspectors,” a government official told the Yomiuri newspaper. “But I wonder what will happen if more outbreaks occur in other countries.”

COMMENT: My critique of this situation might surprise you…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3195

But then it turns out, according to the Mainichi and Kyodo, that unprofessional hospitals are turning away people with fevers or a foreign friend! Read on:

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2) GOJ shuts down NJ academic conference at Josai University due to Swine Flu

Anonymous: A friend of mine was supposed to come to Tokyo from the U.S. for an academic conference next week. There would be around 800 mostly North American participants good business for hotels and lots of tourism money in general in these tough economic times. Last week, the GOJ started pressuring the host university to cancel the conference. The host, Josai University, managed to negotiate the following conditions to have the conference:

1. Detailed location/contact info for participants during conference and 10 days after
2. Temperature taken every day of the conference; those with 100.4 F given additional test and possibly quarantined
3. Fill out health declaration every day
4. Wear masks every day
5. Participants are required to pay all quarantine and medical costs

Needless to say, many did not want to attend under these strict conditions, and the conference ended up being canceled…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3263

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3) Revamped article on the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, and BBC on what’s happening to returnees

DEBITO: How has a government policy for a developed country disintegrated into something so ludicrous, where even officially sanctioned exclusionism has a hierarchy?

Put bluntly, the policy is: train one percent (5,000) to stay; bribe the rest to go and become some other country’s problem. In fact, the government stands to save a great deal of money by paying the nikkei a pittance in plane fares and repatriation fees, while keeping their many years of pension contributions (usually about 15% of monthly salary). By using this economic sleight-of hand, offering desperate people short-term cash if they foresake their long-term investments, this anti-assimilation policy becomes profitable for the government, while beggaring foreigners’ retirements

This is what happens when people are brought into a country by official government policy, yet for unofficial purposes at odds with official pledges. Japan has no immigration policy. It then becomes awkward for the government to make official pronouncements on how the new workforce is contributing to the economy, or why it should be allowed to stay. So the workforce remains in societal limbo. Then when things go wrong in this case a tectonic macroeconomic shift and the policy fails, it is the foreigners, not the government, who bear the brunt.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3151

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

BBC: The advice centre used to get 200 inquiries a month. Now they have 1,000, many from Brazilian workers who have been laid off. Wellington Shibuya is one of them. He not only prays in a local church. After losing his home, this is also where he sleeps.

Now he is taking an offer from Japan’s Government of 300,000 yen, around 3,000 dollars, to go back to Brazil. But the Government help comes with a catch. He won’t be allowed back into Japan on the same easy terms to seek work. Effectively it is a one way ticket.

“They told us ‘come, come, welcome to Japan’,” he says in halting Japanese. “‘We’ll give you a job, a place to live. Welcome, welcome.’ Now they don’t have a job for us, they’re saying ‘we’ll give you a little money, but don’t come back. Bye bye’.”

Supporters of the scheme say the Government had to do something to help people in need far from home…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3168

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4) Tokyo Shinbun: GOJ to amend Nikkei Repatriation Bribe exile to Mar 2012

The Tokyo Shinbun reports that the 300,000 yen Repatriation Bribe for Nikkei (with consequent bar on reentry on the same special “Long-Term Resident” (teijuusha) status) is to be amended, to shorten the length of exile to the end of March 2012. After that, Nikkei are welcome to reapply for the same status and come back to work in Japan.

Anyone know whether Japan has a pension treaty with the Nikkei-origin countries so their work contributions overseas will be counted as part of their Japanese pension for the duration of their exile, or in case they don’t get their visa renewed to come back from exile?

http://www.debito.org/?p=3233

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5) Japan Times: “Immigrants” magazine & advocates’ moves to establish J immigration policy

Japan Times: “Japan’s immigration policy has always been a patchwork. We need to have proper laws and regulations in place when accepting people from abroad,” Susumu Ishihara, 57, president of the Japan Immigrant Information Agency, said during a recent interview with The Japan Times.

Motivated by a sense of urgency, Ishihara recently spent 5 million of his own money to launch a quarterly Japanese-language magazine, called Immigrants, focusing on immigration issues. The goal is to provide more information on foreigners living here to Japanese people to bridge the gap between the two sides.

The first issue of the quarterly, circulation 10,000, included messages from ambassadors of South American countries as well as interviews with immigration policyexperts, including Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Taro Kono, and Shigehiko Shiramizu, a professor of global media studies at Komazawa University…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3203

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6) Kirk Masden resuscitates debate on TV Asahi show KokoGaHen

Kirk Masden unearths an opening segment of controversial TV Asahi show “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo Nihonjin”, a show long off the air but definitely not forgotten. Remember the format? A group of 100 NJ panelists in tiered seating being egged on to make a ruckus and, according to Kirk’s analysis, being portrayed as scary. He shudders to think that people might take this show (which is still being seen a lot on YouTube) as something serious or indicative of NJ or foreign societies. See his critique of the show (and mine) from this blog entry. Tell us what you think.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3202

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DEBATES FROM BIZZAROWORLD

7) Hokkaido Kushiro gives special Residency Certificate to sea otter

Continuing in the eye-blinkingly ludicrous trend of issuing government residency documents to things that can’t actually reside anywhere, we have the fifth in the series, behind Tama-Chan the sealion in Yokohama (2003), Tetsuwan Atomu in Niiza (2003), Crayon Shin-chan in Kusakabe (2004), and Lucky Star in Washinomiya (2008), of a juuminhyou Residency Certificate now being granted to a photogenic sea otter in Kushiro, Hokkaido.

Juuminhyou been impossible to issue, despite decades of protest, to taxpaying foreign residents because “they aren’t Japanese citizens” (and because they aren’t listed on the juumin kihon daichou, NJ aren’t even counted within many local government population tallies!). Oh, well, seafaring mammals and anime characters aren’t citizens either, but they can be “special residents” and bring in merchandising yen. Why I otter!

We now have GOJ proposals to put NJ on juuminhyou at long last. But not before time (we’re looking at 2012 before this happens), and after far too much of this spoon-biting idiocy.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3154

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8) AP on resuscitating discriminatory Buraku historical maps on Google Earth

AP: When Google Earth added historical maps of Japan to its online collection last year, the search giant didn’t expect a backlash. The finely detailed woodblock prints have been around for centuries, they were already posted on another Web site, and a historical map of Tokyo put up in 2006 hadn’t caused any problems.

But Google failed to judge how its offering would be received, as it has often done in Japan. The company is now facing inquiries from the Justice Ministry and angry accusations of prejudice because its maps detailed the locations of former low-caste communities…

Castes have long since been abolished, and the old buraku villages have largely faded away or been swallowed by Japan’s sprawling metropolises. Today, rights groups say the descendants of burakumin make up about 3 million of the country’s 127 million people. But they still face prejudice, based almost entirely on where they live or their ancestors lived…

COMMENT: A very good debate about this ensued on the blog. Check it out at:

http://www.debito.org/?p=3185

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9) Chunichi Shinbun May 11, 2009 on New IC Gaijin Card debate

Excellent article in May 10’s Chunichi Shinbun on what’s the problem with the new proposed IC Gaijin Cards, and how the extra policing that NJ will have to endure will just make life worse for a lot of people. Again, the goal is only to police, not to actually help NJ assimilate and make a better life here.

In particular, read the contrarian arguments. Now this is how we proceed with a debate. We get people who know what they’re talking about to express the minority view (for where else is it going to be heard?). As opposed to last night’s TV Tackle, which basically had the status quo maintained with the same old commentators spouting much the same old party lines.

http://www.debito.org/?p=3256

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10) Thoughts on May 11’s TV Asahi TV Tackle on NJ issues

Regarding abovementioned TV Asahi program “TV Tackle”: It was, in a word, disappointing.

Maybe that’s par for the course in a 55-minute (minus commercials) show edited for content, and it did try to take on some serious issues. Eight commentators participated: three academics a Korean, a Brazilian, and a Chinese plus two media pundits and three politicians LDP’s Kouno Taro, plus Koumeito, and DPJ. All people of Asian background (save an overlong and as incomprehensible as ever commentary from Koko Ga Hen TV show bomb-thrower Zomahoun Rufin), all reasonably informed, but all clipped for airtime before much of substance came out.

The show had four segments: 1) the new Gaijin Cards with IC Chips, 2) The historical issue of the Zainichis and other Permanent Residents and their right to vote in local elections, 3) the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, and 4) the new Tourism Agency and the new tightening of Immigration controls (fingerprinting etc.). Synopsis follows…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3247

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11) Thoughts on May Day 2009 in Odori Park, Sapporo

A little post for the holidays: I was cycling on my way to work on May 1 and going through Odori Park, where the 80th Annual Hokkaido May Day labor union rallies were taking place. They’re fun affairs (you get the pretentious lefties spouting off about protecting human rights, but then with no sense of irony whatsoever refuse to give me a flyer as I’m walking past), and it’s always interesting to see who’s speaking. In addition to Hokkaido Governor Takahashi and Sapporo City Mayor Ueda, we got wait for it Suzuki Muneo and Ozawa Ichiro! Who hijacked May Day for their own purposes.

Especially ironic, given that mere days later, Ozawa would be resigning his post as DPJ head…

http://www.debito.org/?p=3163

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12) Kambayashi Column: Self-censoring media abets incompetent politicians.

Kambayashi: Media outlets here have been heralding an apparent jump in the approval ratings of Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Cabinet, with a recent poll by major daily The Sankei Shimbun and the Fuji News Network suggesting that 28.2 percent of Japanese approve of the government’s performance, up from 20.8 percent in late March. But what the media doesn’t want to talk about is the 60 percent of those surveyed who still disapprove of the Cabinet.

Aso continues to struggle to win over the rest of the Japanese public because of his lack of leadership and because of his predilection for embarrassing himself. But this begs the question: why was such a weak and controversial politician able to climb to the top of the political heap in the first place?

Why doesn’t the media do its job? One reason is that it is common knowledge that, in the quirky world of Japanese journalism, when a politician is awarded an influential post, the reporter covering that politician earns a promotion.

Yasushi Kawasaki, himself a former political reporter for NHK, told me that many political reporters become politicians of a sort themselves, seeking to bolster their backroom influence. Major news organizations are “in collusion with those in power.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=3163

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13) Sunday Tangent: Obama’s March 8, 2008 speech on race, full text

As a Sunday Tangent, here is the speech which probably sealed Obama’s image as a serious thinker and candidate: his 2008 remarks on race.

To me it is a very sophisticated version of MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech few speeches have taken such a complex issue, i.e. race in America, and dealt with it with such insight, balance, and disarmingness. We need more of this insight in discourse about race in Japan. Unfortunately, too many people would prefer to think that there is NO issue of race in Japan. We’ll get to that. Meanwhile, read and savor the full text of Obama’s speech on race, and glean what you can about the approach to the issue. Ultimately, I believe, this got him elected.

Debate on the blog, however, doesn’t quite agree:

http://www.debito.org/?p=3156

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… and finally …

14) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column May 5, 2009 on Alberto Fujimori’s 31-year sentencing
(full text)

JUST BE CAUSE
Fujimori gets his; Japan left shamed
Finally, an outlaw president sets a good legal precedent
The Japan Times: Tuesday, May 5, 2009
By ARUDOU DEBITO

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090505ad.html

Director’s Cut with extra paragraph. Sources at http://www.debito.org/?p=3199

News item: Alberto Fujimori, former president of Peru, was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison by a Peruvian court for connections to death squads.

In my humble but loud opinion, hurrah! World media headlined it “a victory for the rule of law.” It was the first time an elected world leader in exile had been extradited back to his home country, tried, and found guilty of human-rights abuses. Take that, Pinochet, Amin and Milosevic.

That’s the only positive precedent set by an outlaw president who made a career of putting himself above the law. Lest we forget, Fujimori spoiled things for a lot of people, exploiting his Japanese roots in a ruthless pursuit of power.

Recap: Fujimori was elected in 1990 as South America’s first leader descended from Japanese immigrants. As the Japanese government likes to claim anyone with the correct blood as one of its own (recall 2008’s emigre Nobel Prize winners), out came the predictable cheers and massive investment.

Giving credit where credit’s due, Fujimori’s much-ballyhooed successes included economic development, antiterrorism programs, and a famous hostage situation at the Japanese ambassador’s residence (which ended with every insurgent executed). But Fujimori’s excesses eventually caught up with him. His corrupt administration (right-hand man Vladimiro Montesinos is serving 20 years for bribery) skimmed at least $1 billion of public money. He also suspended Parliament, purged the judiciary, and amended the constitution, allowing him to claim a hitherto illegal third term after rigged elections in 2000.

(BTW, I saw on the Discovery Channel April 12 2009 a Canadian documentary about the siege of the Japanese Ambassador to Peru’s house in 1996-7. When the commandos were on tiptoe for 34 hours ready to go in, deputy Montesinos was trying to contact Fujimori to get final approval. Guess what. It took a while to reach Fujimori, because he was dealing with personal stuff his divorce hearing! One would expect Fujimori to be on tiptoe too, what with a looming assault on your biggest national donor’s sovereign territory! Not as high a priority for a president like Fujimori.)

Four months later Fujimori bailed out. On the pretext of visiting an international conference in Brunei, he surfaced in Japan, faxed a letter of resignation from his Tokyo hotel room, and claimed he was a Japanese.

Legal contortionism ensued. Although Japan does not recognize dual nationality and spends at least a year deliberating bona fide naturalization applications, our government decided within three weeks to issue him a passport. Reasoning: Fujimori’s parents had registered his Peruvian birth with the Japanese Embassy. Since he hadn’t personally renounced his Japanese citizenship, he was to our justice minister still a Japanese citizen, and therefore immune from Peru’s demands for extradition.

For the next five years, despite Interpol arrest warrants for murder, kidnapping and crimes against humanity, Fujimori lived a comfortable exile in multiple residences within Japan’s elite society. Supported by the likes of Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, Fujimori was for a time the toast of Tokyo, charming all manner of nationalistic authors, rightwing politicians, diplomats and journalists with his celebrity. Meanwhile he plotted his political comeback through the Internet. “I live as if I were in Peru,” he told the New York Times in 2004.

You can’t keep a bad man down. In 2005 he renewed his Peruvian passport, formally declared his candidacy for Peru’s 2006 presidential election, and abandoned his safe haven for a chartered flight to Chile. Chilean authorities immediately put the fool under arrest.

Then it got comical. Fujimori was trounced in Peru’s presidential election, so he ran in absentia in 2007 for the Japanese Diet (under the Kokumin Shinto Party). He was trounced here too. Chile then extradited him to Peru for trial. In 2007 he got six years for abuses of power. Last month he got an additional quarter-century for murder, bodily harm, and kidnapping and there are still more trials outstanding.

That should put him out of harm’s way. Now 70, Fujimori will be three digits old before he sees turnkeys, unless his daughter chip off the old block carries out her platform plank to become president and pardon him. Fujimori is a political vampire who makes one wish wooden stakes were part of the political process.

But seriously, consider the precedents set by this megalomaniac:

First, Fujimori rent asunder Japan’s due process for both naturalization and asylum-seekers (while dozens of North Korean children of Japanese mothers who have clear blood ties to Japan remain STATELESS). He made it clear that Japanese elites arbitrarily enforce our laws to benefit their own.

Now contrast him with fellow nikkei in Japan. It’s obviously OK for an overseas citizen with Japanese blood to assume dictatorial powers, pillage the public purse, then slither off to Japan. But how about the thousands of nikkei Peruvian workers in Japan who are now being told even bribed to go home?

Then contrast him with fellow nikkei overseas. If any nikkei despot can parachute into Japan and be granted asylum through mere tribalism, what country would want to elect another Fujimori as head of state? Although wrong-headed and racist, this precedent hurts future prospects for nikkei assimilation.

But sociopaths like Fujimori are by definition incurious about how they affect others, especially when granted power in young, weak constitutional democracies. At least Peru and Chile had the sense (and the chance) to lock him up and re-establish the rule of law.

No thanks to Japan, of course, from whom the world expects more maturity. Rumor has it the International Olympic Committee has been nudged by rival candidate cities about Ishihara and Fujimori. If this knocks Tokyo out of contention for the 2016 Olympics, more hurrahs for poetic justice.

In sum, Fujimori is a classic case of how power corrupts. A former math teacher comes to power, comes to believe that he can do anything, then comes to a dazzlingly rich society run by elites who shelter him and further encourage his excesses.

A pundit friend said it well: “Fujimori is an accident of birth. If he had been born in North America, he’d have been a dentist, not a dictator.”

At least this time, this kind of “accident” has not gone unpunished.

Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.” Just Be Cause appears on the first Tuesday (Wednesday in some areas) Community Page of the month. Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

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All for this month. Thanks for reading!
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
debito@debito.org
Read updates in real time and RSS at http://www.debito.org

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 16, 2009 ENDS

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