Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Better late then never. The State Department announced Tuesday that their report that terror has been decreasing was in fact incorrect. Terror actually ROSE in 2003. However, they are still arguing that they are "winning the war on terror." (AP/NY Times - Amended Report Shows Terror Rose in 2003)

On our home front, the Japanese diet passed the controversial pension bill (the pension that 1/3 of the cabinet members have been shown to have evaded at some point). It is shown that an inflated fertility rate was used for the bill to show rosier numbers and lower, more accurate numbers that had been finalized for more than 2 weeks by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry were withheld. Public sentiment has already been very negative about the pension system. The government had been pushing this new bill, were paying commissions to retired bureaucrats to collect such pensions from normal citizens, and the politicians themselves not paying. Now this. (Japan Times -
Inflated fertility rate used for pension bills

What surprises me is the stupidity of these lies. Neither of these lies were likely to remain unchallenged. Did these people believe that they could just fudge numbers to make some false short-term point. Amazing.


Don't be so surprised. Instead, look in the mirror. In (relatively) democratic societies our own failure to handle unpleasant truths is usually what prompts such lies. If the Japanese gov't thought the public was politically prepared to face the full implications of Japan's pension system, you'd get pension bills that reflect that. The people in charge are a reflection of our own weaknesses, and desire to live in comfortable delusion.

Peter, define "failure to handle". I do agree that generally speaking, "you get the politicians you deserve," but I don't think believe this is the case with the pension system. I think it's more about corruption and an inability to address deeper problems.

Also, I'm surprised at the shallow and poorly hidden nature of these lies, not that they're lying.

In trying to delete a dupe, I deleted the original too. Sorry!


Comment from mike on June 24, 2004 12:07 AM

On the one hand I agree with Peter that the often gov shows the public what they want to see/hear. On the other hand I also do believe that some governments, like the current administration in the US, is deliberatly lying in oder to influence public opinion in their own interest and to win support for their actions. In general, Americans are peaceful and freedom loving, and no administration would be able to stay in power if it became obvious that their actions have neither brought peace to the Iraqui people nor have they helped to make the world a safer place or done anything to contain worldwide terrorism. By deliberatly publishing false reports they knowingly confuse the public in oder to further thier own causes. Look at the Bush administration over the last four years, all they have done is lie to the people. Just to name a few examples, the tax cut did not benefit the siimple people, fact: 80% of the tax cut went to the richest 1% of the US population. Lie #2: we went to Iraq to destroy the threat of weapons of mass destruction, fact: no weapons of mass destruction there. Lie #3: Saddam supported Al Quaida, fact: there was never any connection. Lie number four, going to Iraq helped contain international terrorism. Fact, there have been more terrorist attacs last year, then in the previous 21 years. I could go on and on about this, but I guess you get my point.

Have you read the book 1984 by George Orwell? It bears scary resemblance to current events.

hmmm. have we always been at war with oceana?

Include among the liars the new Canadian Prime Minister, who says the WMDs still exist.

Also UN weapons inspector Demetrius Perricos, who claims that evidence of their existence, which he has found, somehow indicates that they exist:,5478,9802308%255E1702,00.html


They are certainly low quality lies. I will admit that. Nixon would be disgusted at their lack of professionalism ;)

By failure to handle, I meant a failure to fully face up ourselves to the full costs and implications of the various alternatives before us when making policy decisions.

I'm not as convinced as Mike that Americans, like all people, are always peaceful. Rather, I think when it comes to war peoples of the world often more closely resemble the ancient Hawaiians, whose mood was set by the belligerence of the God's that owned the moment (Capt. Cooke died mainly b/c he had the bad luck to return in the season of a war god.) And after 9/11 it seemed clear to me that we were under the sway of a war god (and perhaps rightly so: the attack made Pearl Harbor seem completely legit by comparison). I personally felt very angry (people I knew personally died in the WTC). Face it: on some level Americans wanted someone to pay for this. They wanted a target. Anyone would have felt this way. The only difference between Americans and everyone else is that we had the power to make it so. The other points you raise all have a certain legitimacy, but there as well the world is complex. I am a bit surprised that we haven't found any WMD in Iraq. I thought Bush might have inflated the threat, but...The one point you made which I really disagree with, however, has to do with terror. We may have affected the timing and place a bit, but this fight was coming no matter what.

By the way, please forgive any sloppiness in my writing today: this morning I took a relative out to learn how to drive a standard with my car and I am going to need a few days to fully recover from the experience.

It reminds of reading how the Canadian govt repeatedly hid or mislead the public over the role Canadian peacekeepers had in the former Yugoslavia. Basically they felt that the Canadians would not stand for the idea that our peacekeepers were in danger and actually in shooting battles so they glossed it over.

I don't know what is more disturbing, the fact that our governments feel the need to hide the truth or the fact that they just might be right in realizing that the electorate can't handle it.

There is an old saying to the affect of "history is a lie agreed upon." I've heard attributed to various people (Napolean, Mark Twain, Voltaire, etc.). Something along these lines is probably true of the political and social contract in many democratic nations. If we wanted the truth that much, we'd have it. The natural implication is that, for most of the polity, well, they really don't want to hear the truth.

Someone who has "The book of Lies" on his bookshelf should be under no illusions about Lying.

I'm not following this last point.

This reminds me of a recent budget/tax bill passed in the US congress. To make their shifty numbers look better, they pretended that the 75k$ tax exclusion for Americans living abroad did not exist. With an estimated 3 to 6 million American's living abroad, that is a lot of money to fudge. After the budget/tax bill passed they dropped the ploy and explained to everyone that it was an oversite.

There is an interesting technical article about the screw-up in Federal Computer Weekly and the errors in the database inputting system.

Cong. Waxman (D), who initally raised the issue and who has studied the systems involved rather intensely, accepted Powell's explanation, though that hasn't stopped some of his colleagues from screaming bloody murder.

"To make their shifty numbers look better, they pretended that the 75k$ tax exclusion for Americans living abroad did not exist."


The issue of the American's abroad tax exemption was HEAVILY debated and discussed, as was it's impact on the budget numbers. Simply because it didn't pass in the final bill doesn't mean they were simply "pretending it didn't exist."

Try google: Tax "Section 911" repeal

do not be suprized for them we the oridnary peple we are yust cannon foder. They have to much money to be punished for those lies.

I fully agree with Peter's first (and maybe many others ensuing) post. The real issue is that, the pension system in Japan (and many other developed economies to a lesser extent) is not sustainable and cannot afford to continue generous payments to rich senior citizens in Japan. It's either these non-producing retirees receive less and/or working population pay more for this pyramid scheme. It's that simple. They can't avoid facing this choice no matter how many politicians avoided payment at some point in their life. Corruption as Joi put it is an issue to deal with but no excuse for no-pain. But people there don't seem to understand. Let me be very politically incorrect in the context of this blog - when it comes to pension issues, the core of the problem is these "ordinary people" who keeps postponing a resolution only to be punished by the economic forces on a much grander scale later. Politicians and other "liers" are just part of it, and bashing them is fun but no fix of the true issue.