Not sorry to see 2013 go – it wasn’t the worst of times, but it certainly wasn’t the best of times either.
Those of us on the West Coast spent a lot of time keeping track of events across the Pacific, searching maps of water currents and air masses and just generally feeling more than a little nervous about the meltdown at Fukishima.
The government of Japan has made every conceivable error in its handling of the situation, one which no one seriously ever contemplated, apparently. Offers of help came from everywhere, but as far as I know, all were refused.
More recently, reports have emerged that the job of clean-up has been given to organized crime and if anyone has a complaint, put a sock in it. To make sure of that, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe got a secrecy bill passed that makes it a crime to leak information about anything the government decides should be secret and equally a crime to make the information public. Penalties are max 10 years for the first and 5 years for the second.
Read more about the Secrecy Act in this New York Times editorial.
That was bad enough – and incidentally, 82% of the Japanese people opposed the act, wanting repeal or revision. But the wishes of the people do not matter to the politicians, one of whom declared that the affairs of the government and the affairs of the people are not the same.
Now comes something so unconscionable, so immoral and unethical, that it really is hard to believe. The contractors in charge of the clean-up are hiring the homeless to do the work. Untrained, desperate for jobs, these men sign up to clean the contaminated areas for minimum wage, about $80 a day. They are assigned to dormitories, then charged as much as $50 a day for room and board.
This is spelled out in a very detailed report here. One wonders how all this information evaded the secrecy act.
It’s all just a huge bloody mess and the government of Japan has a lot to answer for. But rather than opting for transparency, Abe is working to get rid of the Constitution that was written during the post-WWII occupation and substitute one with a number of changes, notably the deletion of the guarantee of fundamental human rights.
And the Japanese people in the photo below? They are demonstrating against nuclear power – but a ruling party politician calls them terrorists.