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Torture victim’s records “lost” at Guantánamo April 21, 2008

Posted by fukumimi in crime, law, Overseas.
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From The Guardian….


Ah, how very convenient.

Mind you, at least they have the infrastructure to record audio/video evidence.

Which is much more than suspects in the Japanese criminal system are afforded.

The Japanese police must have much to hide. How safe are convictions in a system which does not force the prosecution to share evidence with the defence? Not much better in the civil courts either…

Guess who gets Comsn’s care businesses? September 13, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Economy & Business, Japan, Society.
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A previous post relating to Comsn’s divestiture of its care businesses.

Comsn has announced their plans for divesting their care businesses.

The residential home business goes to Nichii Gakkan.

The homebound care businesses are to be divested on a prefecture by prefecture basis (PR). Japan Care Service gets 13 prefectures, Nichii gets 5. (Various others make up the balance)

Why do I mention Nichii and JCS? Because they were both also implicated by the Tokyo metropolitan government for illegal practices.

I guess Comsn/GWG’s statement regarding their selection of buyers for the businesses – specifically that part about selecting buyers who can show that they are lawabiding corporate citizens with solid compliance trackrecords – has gone out the window.

As I had predicted, the MHLW seems to be spinning this as a Comsn problem, they announced that the amount Comsn has been billing illegally now stands at nearly JPY1.5B. No mention of other companies in the report, though.

I guess they have managed to do their job and make everyone forget that it isn’t just a Comsn problem. The fact that the mainstream media is willing to let this one go unnoticed seems to be par for the course. It still makes me sick, though.

Different headlines for different audiences September 11, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Media.
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via Japan Probe

The Yomiuri reports the significant decline in burglaries in the Tokyo area after a couple of groups of thieves were arrested.

The English headline reads: “Tokyo burglaries down 30% after arrest of 2 theft rings

The Japanese headline reads: “荒稼ぎ「悪知恵」中国人窃盗団、摘発後は都内の被害3割減” (“Crafty Chinese theft group made a killing, burglaries drop 30% after their arrest”, is the Japan Probe translation – too lazy to attempt my own)

Whilst the content of the articles is pretty much the same, one does wonder why they made a point of editing the headlines in significantly different fashions. It isn’t the first time newspapers have been found to be channeling different messages to their domestic and english language audiences.

Maybe this can become a series.

Horie gets two and a half years March 16, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Economy & Business, Internet, IT, Japan.
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So, the Tokyo District court has handed down a sentence of two and a half years to Takafumi Horie, the disgraced ex-CEO of Livedoor.

Horie had been charged with being actively involved in Livedoor’s false accounting and market abuse (manipulation of its share price by disseminating false or misleading information). The court ruled that Horie was guilty on both counts.

Horie is appealing his sentence.

More thoughts to follow…

Statistics for crimes committed by foreigners February 8, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Japan.

Continuing on the topic of the foreigner crime “surge”….

The National Police Agency apparently released statistics for crimes committed by foreigners in 2006. (No sign of the statistics on the NPA page however. I guess they give some numbers to the press to circulate, and get around to posting the statstics later, once the news has done the rounds. We don’t want people dissecting the raw numbers and calling out inaccurate or biased journalism, do we?)

Anyway, the headline number is that foreigner crime is down 16.2%.

For a taste of Japanese journalism, I point you to the reporting of the statistics by the Mainichi newspaper.

The Japanese version.

The English version.

The Japanese headline reads: Foreigner Crime: Increasing in the regions (ie outside Tokyo) – Up 35-fold in the Chubu Region in 15 years
The English headline: Number of crimes committed by nonpermanent foreigners declines in Tokyo (I see they can’t even concede that it decreased on a national aggregate level)
The problem with this parroting of NPA statistics is that it doesn’t really help us understand who is causing the trouble.

Whilst foreigners are overrepresented as a source of crime (about 2% of crimes are attributed to foreigners whilst they comprise a little over 1% of the resident population – 2.2% for H1 2006, compared with 1.7% 10 years ago), so are organised crime syndicates (who are responsible for approximately 5% of crimes – I’m guessing that one in twenty people are members of organised crime syndicates) or juveniles, who are responsible for around 30% of all crimes (even that is down from just under 50% 10 years ago). Juveniles comprise round 20% of the population, but I’m guessing the 0-9 year olds don’t commit that much crime, so the majority of the 123,715 cases for 2005 are attributable to the 10-19 year olds, who comprise 9.7% of Japanese population according to latest census numbers. (Percentages are all from NPA statistics)

I’m scratching my head at the growth in foreigner crime which apparently is reported, 35-fold increase in Chubu and 21.5-fold in Shikoku. According to the statistics in this NPA report (top table on page 7) which only go back 10 years, Chubu foreigner crime has increased 3.3-fold, and Shikoku foreigner crime has increased  4.5-fold.  A significant increase, but still a far cry from the 35-fold and 21.5-fold numbers cited in the articles.  It should be noted that no other regions registered more than a doubling of foreigner crime compared to 10 years ago. This during a period where foreign residents and foreign visitors have grown significantly.

Trash Media and Convenience Stores February 2, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Japan, Media.

Via JapanProbe

Whilst the convenience store isn’t the place you would go to buy any real book, this piece of publishing trash must be about as bad as it gets.

It is bad enough that porn magazines are on public display next to the normal periodicals (most of those have smutty content as well, but at least in the case of those publications, the smut subsidises for what appears to be the closest thing to published investigative journalism that the Japanese media can muster), not even an attempt to key them out of sight or reach of small children. Then there is the level of sex in comics targetted at teens and even pre-teens.

But, although I’m a firm believer in the freedom of speech, I certainly can’t agree with the distribution of a pathetic xenophobic piece of crap like the “mook” (=japanglish word for a m(agazine)-(b)ook) shown above, albeit from the well known publishers of porn featuring lots of girls wearing high school attire, Eichi Shuppan who probably account for a decent proportion of sales of convenience store magazines (especially late at night).

Eichi also publishes a bunch of magazines/mooks profiling Korean celebrities, catering for the sad but probably harmless Fuyu-no-sonata bored housewife set. How’s that for covering all the bases.

I wonder what logic drove Family Mart, Amazon, 7&Y (the company behind 7-11 and Itoyokado), Kinokuniya (the book store), Yamato Transport, and Rakuten, to name the more famous names behind the places where the title can be bought to stock these titles.

Freedom of speech is one thing, but in this day and age, I think it is a pretty dangerous strategy to stock books that prominently feature rascist caricatures of foreigners and (admittedly inside the book – sorry, mook) the n-word in huge type under the pretext of publishing “a collection of crimes committed by foreigners”. Definitely not very PC.

The scary thing is that the sentiments expressed by such provocative publications may not be too far from the privately held sentiments of many (although by no means all) Japanese, only varying in degree. It isn’t helped by the bad behaviour of a small minority of foreigners who live in Japan, and the media’s fascination for selective reporting of stories involving foreigners. There is much simmering discontent in Japan, and it is being expressed by picking on a minority. So what else is new….

Why do I draw attention to this embarrasing situation? Because time and time again, Japan, its businesses, and many of its people, have shown that, left to their own devices, they have no particular inclination to change their ways, and unfortunately only by airing dirty laundry and attracting voices of criticism from the global community, can Japan be forced to change.

Of course, that doesn’t mean everything that global pressure is trying to force on Japan is, in my opinion, good. Far from it. But rascist rubbish (and, perhaps more importantly, its tolerance by the general public and businesses) needs to be addressed, and this is an instance of a need to air dirty laundry in public.

Apa Group and the structural engineering fraud scandal January 26, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Japan, law, Media, Society.

The media started reporting that 2 Apa Group hotels in Kyoto have been shut down by local authorities who have announced that they have found that the two buildings did not comply with building code regulations relating to earthquakeproofing.

I first wrote about Apa’s scandals back in October, and Togo Fujita, the disgraced CEO of eHomes (a private building inspection agency  which had been one of the original whistleblowers in the Aneha/Huser scandal – albeit they were also the ones that rubberstamped the inspections previously) had mentioned that Apa Group buildings were suspect as far back as March 2006 (his comments were not widely broadcast by the media at that time, and most of the media also ignored the issue when it was widely reported around the blogosphere in October when Fujita communicated several statements through the mysterious and widely read Kikko’s Blog).

The news media have ignored the cases reported in October, which related to residential complex developments by the Apa Group in Chiba and Saitama. People who had put down deposits for their new homes complained that they did not recieve adequate communications from Apa, who eventually refunded the deposits. Apa had sent Fujita a letter threatening legal action back in October, which apparently was just bluster as Fujita has not received notice of legal action even three months later.

The question seems to be, why now?

Timing of such disclosures by government related agencies are so often politically motivated so let us consider what the government would like the media to stop reporting about…..

Closing arguments for (ex-)Livedoor’s Horiemon’s criminal case were scheduled for today. Does the government suspect that the criminal case is weak and will not be able to lock him away? (Verdict on March 16th)

I don’t think the Abe government are going to pull out all the stops to protect either Livedoor/Horiemon or the prosecutor’s office. So, moving along….

Abe’s cabinet continues to leak stories of misusing political funds. In the last couple of months, we’ve had Honma (who was shacked up in cushy bureaucrat housing with his mistress), Ibuki (Education minister, who was claiming he spent tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on office rent, although his registered office was in the rent-free diet members’ building. Rent bills do not need a receipt under the lax rules pertaining to politicians’ expenses, and it now appears many people are abusing this by spending the money on non-rent related things (like food) and then just claiming an arbitary amount of rent – politicians’ expenses merits a separate post of its own) , Matsuoka (Agriculture Minister, ditto), and now Kyuma (Defense Minister, whose registered offices appear to be a mahjong parlour and an ex-secretary’s residence). Abe’s popularity is now down below 40%, and a quiet news week would probably have resulted in the Kyuma issue given much exposure in the mainstream press.

Why has it taken so long to uncover these problems? Is it because Apa Group is close to Shinzo Abe?

Perhaps, but I’m guessing the powers who control these things were also sitting on it to use when they needed to deflect attention from some even worse (but less likely to caputre the public’s imagination) news, such as the political scandals. And just think, people like Huser’s Ojima and Apa’s weird dressing female CEO thought they had bought their way into the inner circle of power by supporting (I don’t think it was just vocal support) Abe. I bet they are feeling like right tools now when they realise they have been milked and then dumped to change the subject. Perhaps they should ask for their money back. But then I don’t expect that they got a receipt for their contributions.

The Australian’s revisionist history December 22, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Economy & Business, IT, Japan.

via JapanProbe

Original article here

Horie is a discredited figure and his attempts to blame his downfall entirely on the system are clearly self-serving. Yet he has a point. Well before he was accused of breaking the law, members of Japan’s business elite had already condemned him as a pariah. In their eyes, his biggest sin was daring to challenge vested interests and the status quo. Doing so was worse than impudent – it threatened the existing order.

Take the Keidanren, the influential business federation, whose head, Fujio Mitarai, has doggedly fought plans to allow foreign bidders to use their shares to finance takeovers, a step that could put many Japanese companies in play.

It is funny that the article mentions the Keidanren, as  Livedoor was actually admitted to this cozy old guard club. (And then chairman Okuda-san was terribly embarassed when the scandal hit, calling Livedoor’s acceptance into that club an embarassing mistake) If that club isn’t the epitome of the old guard business elite, I don’t know what is. (Well I do, it’s the regular meetings of the keiretsu CEOs that have names like the “Friday Club – Kinyokai – 金曜会”, “2nd Thursday Club – Nimokukai – 二木会”, “Whitewater Club – 白水会 – Hakusuikai” all of which get the big keiretsu CEOs together for regular meet-ups, ostensibly to hold study sessions over lunch or somesuch.)

Livedoor seemed cozy enough with the LDP top brass too, and those PR opportunities don’t happen without serious consideration and consultation.

Without doubt, the established old guard did initially resist, but in characteristic ovine behaviour, they seemed to embrace the new guard (as they did with Rakuten and Softbank before Livedoor) as a pretty coherent unit when some invisible signal (a dog whistle?) was sounded (albeit perhaps begrudgingly).

Clearly Son and Mikitani are more intelligent and/or more well connected than Horie and pals, as Son especially has done (and is doing, though I feel to a lesser extent these days – maybe he has learnt to play by the “rules”) a lot more to ruffle feathers of the old guard and disrupt the old order of things, at least on the surface.

The article continues:

 The key to raising the economy’s anaemic growth rate lies in the services sector. Its backwardness ought to be an opportunity for entrepreneurial innovators ready to have a go. But while Japan does not lack promising start-up companies, few have broken through to become big businesses.

That statement contradicts the facts. If you look at IPOs on MOTHERS and Hercules and JASDAQ, you’ll see a whole host of services companies who have become significant players. Everything from restaurant businesses to outsourced professional services to wedding planning companies to internet advertising firms (a whole bunch of them….), investment funds and debt recovery services have seen IPOs this year. (not all are equally valuable to society in my estimation)

I think the problem isn’t that there aren’t successful companies in the services sector. There are 2 problems.

1. The vast majority of companies in the service sector are (almost 100%) domestically focussed, and as such they are just redistributing the pie, taking share away from the backward businesses the author alludes to. Only by marketing its services overseas and repatriating the profits does the pie really grow. I know it that is simplistic and it is not a zero sum game, but I think that is the big difference between the Japanese service industry and national economies which have successful service industries who are competitive internationally. In the end, if Japan depends solely on the manufacturing sector to be competitive in international trade, the future is bleaker and bleaker as low cost (and increasingly high quality) competitors become more and more competitive. (Not to say that Japanese manufacturers aren’t trying (and suceeding) in being competitive by innovating and pushing the envelope – they are, but the lower value businesses are being decimated by competition from other nations and that means less of the pie for the Japanese)

2. Consumer spending remains weak, and with corporate-world’s recovery having been built in no small part on the backs of redundancies and switching from a predominantly full-time workforce to one that is increasingly dependent on contract, temporary, and part-time employees who are naturally paid a lot less for their time (in terms of both hourly wage and benefits), I’d say the odds of a resurgence in consumer spending (especially to the levels seen in the heady days of the bubble) are bleak. Of course, you wouldn’t think that is the case if you went shopping in Ginza or Omotesando, but that is just a factor of the increasing disparity in disposable income.

I do agree that Abe isn’t going to make things much better. He doesn’t even have the Koizumi talent of making bold but substance-less assertions and making the electorate feel warm and fuzzy inside whilst not actually changing anything material at all.

Problems with the amended consumer products safety law December 19, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Economy & Business, Japan.
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Following a rash of publicised incidents where products have failed in the field causing deaths and injuries, an amendment to the consumer products safety law has become law as of the 6th of December. The law requires reporting of all “serious” accidents within 10 days.

The problem with this law is that a serious accident is defined as an accident where death, injury (includes CO poisoning – has the Paloma and Matsushita incidents in mind) has to take place before companies are obliged file a report under the new guidelines.

Basically, unless physical injury or death has not occured, reporting is not required. This is exactly the situation which occured with the Sanyo/Mitsubishi Electric/NTT DoCoMo battery overheating incident, where the companies were aware of multiple cases of overheating batteries months ago but none of the 3 concerned parties publicised the problem until another overheating battery caused a physical injury in November.

The law should have been drafted to say (IMO) that serious accidents are accidents where death or physical injury are foreseeable consequences of an accident of a similar nature, caused by the same failure mode which is due to a manufacturing/design/lack of correct usage directions/warnings (all of which the company is rightly responsible for).

Decent corporations require reporting of “near-miss” incidents specifically because awareness of such incidents and addressing of same is a good way to prevent an accident where physical harm does arise. Such reporting does not prevent the injury or death of the person(s) involved in the accident for which the report is compiled. Is one death or injury a suitable threshold against which manufacturers and service providers should be held accountable? Personally I think the parties should be held to a stricter set of guidelines. A battery which may spontaneously explode or ignite sure seems to pose a foreseeable likelihood of death or injury in my book.

I don’t want to give an excuse to further swell the already bloated ranks of bureaucrats (and quangos employ retired bureaucrats). So a law which forces manufacturers and other parties to have a system in place to monitor near-miss accidents and deal with them in a objectively appropriate manner would seem to be a suitable middle ground.

Clearly, if a stupid individual sticks a knife in their ear canal or some other orifice, a company should not be liable (unless they were marketing their products to children as toys)….

Of course, decent companies probably do have reporting requirements in place. But with the list of companies who have a less than enthusiastic stance towards issuing mea culpas including some of the biggest names in Japanese industry, I cannot be comfortable with laws which continue to be drafted with the implicit assumption that human nature (and especially corporate nature) is fundamentally good.

The penalties are also laughable. 1 year imprisonment or JPY1M fine. I’m sure corporations are so worried about a $9,000 fine or a suspended sentence (if that) for its officers.

Horiemon blames others for his predicament December 15, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Politics.

From the FT (subscription required):

Takafumi Horie, the spiky-haired internet tycoon who once bragged he could buy Sony but is now fighting fraud charges in a Tokyo court, has unleashed a comprehensive attack on the Japanese establishment and what he calls the “jealous elite of old Japan”.

In his first interview with the foreign media since his spectacular downfall in January, the former Livedoor president was defiant, blaming a cabal of powerful bureaucrats and media figures for creating the “mood of resentment” that led to his arrest.

He goes on to say that Japan appears to be an egalitarian society on the surface but the system resembles communism.

I think Horie will find that a “mood of resentment” is insufficient cause for getting arrested. Whilst I would agree that he was targetted by the authorities, he brought that on himself, and it is hard to believe on the reported evidence that he and his buddies did not engage in unfair (and illegal) activities for which the group are rightfully being brought to justice. Rule #1 when you are about to piss off some powerful enemies – Make sure there aren’t any skeletons in your closet.

Any half intelligent individual would know that if they sought to displace the cozy business and political elite, the enemy would be up for a fight. In any case, he seemed fine with cozying up to the elite as he climbed his way to fame and fortune, and his disingenous histrionics come across like the bitching of a jilted ex-lover. To be fair, the way the incumbent elite first fawned over Horie and Livedoor and then dumped him like a cheap whore is no better. The two groups seemed so perfect for eachother.

In any case, looking back at the timeline of events, the alleged criminal activities seem to stem from after the time after Horie had hit the big time. My guess is he thought that he was already part of the cabal, with the cozying up with Koizumi and gushing praise from other members of the LDP, and could get away with a few indiscretions as he felt others in priviledged positions in Japan seem to get away with so often.
He appeared to be someone who actually wanted to be part of the cozy club he now has the cheek to denouce so voiciferously.

Still, he has a point about egaliterianism and communism in Japan. Japan is famous for the self-perception of much of the population as being “middle class”. Self-perception is one thing, reality another. The homogenisation strategies have made class a relatively obscure concept for the common people of Japan. If you look closely though, you’ll see definite class boundaries. They aren’t nearly so apparent as they are in most other nations though, and even many Japanese fail to recognise the glass ceiling projected by the class barriers. The class barrier is easily mistaken for differentiation/discrimination based on educational background, but there are actually two factors at play here, albeit with considerable overlap. (More about the bizzare stories relating to Japanese education in another post)

As far as communism is concerned, when defined as the structure as exemplified by the actual “communist” states of USSR or China – more accurately a hybrid form of state and corporate capitalism, he’s right on the money.

If any group of people had the right mindset to embrace “communism”, it is probably the Japanese. No wonder the US tried so hard to prevent it falling under Soviet influence at the end of WW2.

Indeed, it is ironic that history resulted in Japan belonging nominally to the capitalist/democratic first world, and China to the communist bloc. It would seem that if the roles were reversed, the countries would have had political systems which were actually more suited to their national psyche…. One nation who has about 4 millenia of history as an entrepreneurial trading nation, the other, a nation whose populace seemed content with a rigid caste system and worshipping of a head of state who they considered – until just 60 years ago – as god embodied in a human body. (admittedly, that was just the common folk, the educated elite knew how to exploit the situation and look where that got us)