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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….

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/21/guantanamo.humanrights

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…

Comsn June 7, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Japan, law, Politics.
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Just as I was going to bed last night, I caught the news that Goodwill Group was going to circumvent the sanctions imposed on its (fully owned) subsidiary Comsn related to the fraud (of taxpayers’ money no less) by transferring the care business to another group company, NSS corporation. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (hereafter the MHLW) apparently doesn’t have a problem with that and the existing licenses will be renewable by NSS. As far as Goodwill Group is concerned, it will basically be business as usual.

This is total Bullshit. (excuse my French)

I was so pissed off at the MHLW for allowing such a blatant attempt at circumnavigating the rules that I woke up at 4am in a really foul mood. I’m still angry as I begin to type this post at 4:10am.

(I don’t have much anger directed at the company, because I’d already decided based on past performance that they really don’t give two hoots about anything more than basic compliance to the letter of the law and have given up on them)

Comsn has a history of evading sanctions by winding businesses up when a realistic threat of an official sanction appears. The legal corporations are dissolved, and a new corporation is formed to pick up where the old one left over. All directed from HQ.

This latest attempt is much the same, albeit on a much larger scale.

It doesn’t surprise me that the MHLW is fine with this slight of hand, either. The timing of their announcement regarding the Comsn affair also appears to be a diversionary tactic, as they are also involved with the scandal surrounding the Social Insurance Agency and the 50million pensions records which are unaccounted for. Nice distraction, eh.

Wasn’t the Aneha scandal exposed just when the media started probing politicians’ finances? And Livedoor….? (Not saying that these wrongs should not be exposed, just that the timing of many of these scandals seems to be convenient. I guess they have a whole bunch of stories in their cache which they can whip out and offer to the media, so that the media can jump on these stories and plausibly explain the shift in attention from stuff which is embarassing to the government and bureaucrats, whilst the media is rewarded for its cooperation….)

Regardless of the timing of this current round of sanctions, Goodwill Group (a group who have been implicated on multiple occasions of illegal labour practices, and not just at Comsn) needed to be punished. Pity the central government bureaucrats colluded with the company to insure that no substantive punishment will be forthcoming.

The CEO of Goodwill Group is certainly well connected, and has a post within the Keidanren, who historically have been large clients of non-full time labour providers.

Crystal Group, which was shipping out labourers to various manufacturing giants in contravention of labour laws is now part of Goodwill Group, and Goodwill are also the people behind Mobaito.com, the leading mobile portal which is a marketplace to attract cheap, casual, day labour.

(Companies who have been found to be exploiting labourers by using firms like Crystal and breaking the employment laws reads like a who’s who of Japanese manufacturing – Canon, Toyota, Matsushita, Ricoh, Fuji Xerox, Nikon, NEC, Sony, Sharp, Sanyo, Fujitsu, Toshiba, NTT, Komatsu…. Fujio Mitarai, Chairman of Canon and head of the Keidanren criticized the labour laws for being too restrictive when his company was implicated for having thousands of labourers working under illegal schemes. The “miracle” of Japanese manufacturing companies’ financial performance during the decade+ long economic malaise is exposed as having been built upon the exploitation of the workforce, but as usual the media circus died down very quickly)

For all the drum beating that goes on about having to improve labour conditions and increase full time labour and reduce the number of especially young people who are not in full time employment, the establishment continues gleefully exploiting the situation.

At least some people are taking a stand. Governor Nisaka of Wakayama prefecture has stated in his weekly press conference today (June 7th) that he is not going to approve license approval requests from NSS.

Hopefully there are other politicans with a backbone who will follow Gov. Nisaka’s stance and say NO to exploitation of workers.

Update: 24 hours later, the MHLW is now saying that it will oppose Goodwill Group’s plan to transfer Comsn’s care practice to another subsidiary and thereby avoid sanctions. What has changed materially in the last 24 hours, apart from public criticism? Clearly these people are unfit to oversee anything.

I have a feeling that Goodwill’s founder will again claim he is being victimized. (for whatever reason….)

I’d be inclined to agree with him a bit if the other firms who have been similarly defrauding the taxpayers get off without similar punishment, but regardless of the punishments doled out (or not) to others, it doesn’t change the fact that Comsn has been engaging in a pattern of behaviour which was designed to avoid sanctions by dissolving a huge number of group companies just as these companies were being audited by local authorities, and this pattern is nothing if not premeditated and directed from the top of the organization.

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

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

Winny developer found guilty December 13, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Internet, IT, Japan, law.
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Isamu Kaneko, the developer who created Winny, the Japanese P2P file swapping application, has been found guilty of aiding and abetting violations of the copyright act, and fined JPY1.5M (a little over $10k). He says he will be appealing.

Given that Ikeda was a public critic of the current system of copyright, and that he is said to have stated that something needed to be done to bring the copyright system down, this appears to be a major motivation in the development of the anonymous P2P application. Mens rea would appear to be obvious if he did indeed make statements to this effect in the period leading up to and during the development of the application.
If Ikeda had stated that the software was intended to provide anonymity to its users to protect freedom of speech, the prosecution would have had a much more difficult case to prove.

I cannot agree with software industry supporters of Ikeda who are claiming this ruling will stifle software innovation in Japan. They are claiming this ruling will lead to talent fleeing offshore. (I think they’ll find that the long arm of the Japanese law provides for jurisdiction over criminal acts committed overseas by Japanese nationals anyway, so unless people want to live in self-imposed exile overseas, moving overseas temporarily to commit criminal offenses isn’t going to work – additionally, the statute of limitations is suspended when the fugitive is out of the country, so it isn’t a matter of waiting until the statute of limitations expires)

P2P technologies and anonymization technologies are not illegal per se, and this current ruling does not change the situation at all. I wish the public discussion concentrated on the crux of the case which revolves around the intent behind the development of the application, which in this case seems fairly clear.
The fact that many of the public comments made by figures associated with the software industry gloss over the crux of the issue and try to argue over peripheral or general issues seems to indicate a lack of understanding or a deliberate attempt at clouding the issue.

Google/YouTube deal analysis November 21, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Economy & Business, Internet, law.
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An interesting analysis posted on Mark Cuban’s blog.

“Do No Evil”, eh.

We’ll see if this scenario pans out, but certainly the fact that many of the media giants had shareholdings in YouTube  (which was announced just as the Google deal was announced), and it isn’t a stretch to imagine that it was not independent of discussions of a potential purchase (yes, that is an understatement). It may be difficult to prove Google’s involvement directly, but the timing screams Google involvement. WSGR are also known to have been both YouTube’s and Google’s regular outside legal counsel (Google got another firm – Simpson Thacher & Bartlett  – to represent them for the purchase deal, conflict of interest and all that).

Getting the media on-side for the immediate future (even if there are suits which will in most likelihood go ahead after some predetermined time) makes great sense for Google/YouTube. The media lawyers are probably hounding as many YouTube clones as they can as we speak.

My position has always been that virtually all of YouTube’s growth has been built on illegally posted content, regardless of the 建前 (tatemae – public stance) that YouTube has taken regarding its intolerance of IP infringement and the whole facade of it being a “user generated media” (user ripped media is more accurate probably based on actual content consumption metrics)

Google may not have blood on its hands, but I can’t believe that YouTube acted independently to engineer a scheme whereby the media giants get a financial reward in exchange for doing YouTube’s dirty work and taking out its competitors.

I’m sure the artists whose rights have also been trampled upon by YouTube are none too happy to see the media giants get a windfall whilst they don’t see a single penny….  But most of them probably don’t have the time nor the resources to pick a fight with Google.

Very cunning way to kick away the ladder and protect its dominant position.

“Do No Evil”, eh.

It would seem that Google has possibly lost sight of its roots.

On martial law in the US November 2, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in law, Overseas.
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I don’t write about US politics very often because Japan has plenty of problems of its own (and it is a delicate subject when which can touch a raw nerve when “foreigners” start criticising other nations – descent into an unproductive “debate” of the pot-kettle-black type is just around the corner).

However, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act which became law last month has received minimal media exposure for a law which has huge potential implications (yup, let’s just throw out the safeguards against abuses of power defined in the Insurrection Act and Posse Comitatus Act). Buried within the 439-page long Act is a provision which appears to makes it easier for the President of the United States of America to impose martial law. I’m sure supporters of the Act will argue that this will enable the Government to respond more quickly to disasters such as Katrina. Perhaps, but even then it turned out that the public disorder stories were mostly hoaxes, lest we forget. It is questionable if federal commandeering of the National Guard would have been possible before any violence broke out anyway (although the timing of same could be arranged, no doubt), which would have been too late to prevent the damage caused by the hurricane.

“ 333. Major public emergencies; interference with State and

Federal law

“(a) USE OF ARMED FORCES IN MAJOR PUBLIC EMERGENCIES.–

(1) The President may employ the armed forces, including the

National Guard in Federal service, to–

“(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United

States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or

other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or

incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the

United States, the President determines that–

“(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent

that the constituted authorities of the State or possession

are incapable of maintaining public order; and

“(ii) such violence results in a condition described in

paragraph (2); or

“(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic

violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrec-

tion, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition

described in paragraph (2).

“(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition

that– “(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or

possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that

State or possession, that any part or class of its people is

deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named

in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted

authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse

to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that

protection; or

“(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the

United States or impedes the course of justice under those

laws.

 

Senator Leahy in a statement he made at the end of September:

Not only does this Conference Report unfortunately drop the Empowerment amendment entirely, it adopts some incredible changes to the Insurrection Act, which would give the President more authority to declare martial law. Let me repeat: The National Guard Empowerment Act, which is designed to make it more likely for the National Guard to remain in State control, is dropped from this conference report in favor of provisions making it easier to usurp the Governors control and making it more likely that the President will take control of the Guard and the active military operating in the States.

The changes to the Insurrection Act will allow the President to use the military, including the National Guard, to carry out law enforcement activities without the consent of a governor. When the Insurrection Act is invoked posse comitatus does not apply. Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy, and it is for that reason that the Insurrection Act has only been invoked on three — three — in recent history. The implications of changing the Act are enormous, but this change was just slipped in the defense bill as a rider with little study. Other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals.

Why has much of the US media ignored this story?

It seems almost as much of a whitewash as the Japanese media’s marginalisation of Togo Fujita’s whistleblowing re: Shinzo Abe’s friends’ (Apa Group) likely fraud of building safety codes with bureaucratic assistance….

The trial of the year starts September 4, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in IT, Japan, law.
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Takafumi Horie, ex-CEO of Livedoor, has turned up at the Tokyo District Court for the first day of his trial. He didn’t turn up in his usual white t-shirt and jeans, but rather in a sombre suit and white shirt (no tie).

He has plead not guilty to all charges, and has assembled a formidable defense team. It is expected that his ex-colleagues will testify against him, so we have an interesting few months ahead….

[Horie arrived at the court house without a tie but apparently put one on before entering the court room – a dark blue tie if anyone cares about these things. The trial certainly looks like a media circus unfolding, today was day 2 and it was again the top item on the 7pm news]

The Public Prosecutor’s Office continues to sniff around… June 22, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in IT, Japan, law.
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Gee, it seems the prosecutor seems to be on a mission.

My well connected source (who predicted back in December that the prosecutors were sniffing around Livedoor and Murakami, and were trying to decide which one to bust first) informs me that the CEO of another leading internet company was voluntarily interviewed by the prosecutor's office recently.

Officials shouldn't be short of targets, many of the younger internet companies who have floated in the last few years are the target of plenty of gossip and rumour, and looking at the press releases, financial statements and other documents relating to various transactions in which these companies have been involved, some things seem contrived and artificial. If you looked back at the attendance list of the extravagant parties that were part of the Bit Valley phenomenon, or even just looked at the younger companies inhabiting Roppongi Hills, you would get a good list of potential suspects.  

asahi.com:Supreme Court: Life sentence too lenient – ENGLISH June 21, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Japan, law.
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asahi.com:Supreme Court: Life sentence too lenient

It seems that Japanese courts and public opinion are going against an international trend towards the abolishment of the death penalty.

Whilst the brutal rape and murder of a young mother and the murder of her baby are inexcusable crimes, it is difficult to agree with the decision of the supreme court which is basically giving an order to the high court to deliver a death sentence.

The murder was a minor when he committed the crimes.

Even the US has abolished the death penalty for minors.

(There is a difference in that minors are defined as under 20 in Japan as opposed to under 18 in the US, and the international laws draw the line at 18, so Japan is not overstepping the line there, Japan is not a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty, but is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

If there are problems with the criminal law system (and I believe there are), they should be addressed.

Firstly, life imprisonment rarely means life. There have been high profile cases where lifers have gotten out within less than 10 years. Giving the courts the opportunity to pass sentences to exclude the opportunity for parole.

Secondly, regarding the laws regarding minors in general, if we are to believe that 18 and 19 year old should be held to the same standards as adults, they should also be given the same rights. If we are going to execute 18 year olds, there should be a discussion about lowering the age of majority. 18 and 19 year olds cannot legally smoke or drink alcohol, they cannot vote, yet they can be executed. Surely there is a major inconsistency here.

Addendum (added 6/22):

The title of the Asahi Shimbun piece is misleading. The legal term is 無期懲役 (muki choeki) which means indefinite term, and definitely does not mean "a sentence to spend the rest of your natural life in prison".

(Average term served is about 20 years, but significantly shorter terms have been highlighted by the press when they have come to light. There is a decrease in early releases, admittedly.)

Medical Negligence June 15, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Japan, law, Uncategorized.
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Three doctors who were working at the Jikei University School of Medicine's Aoto Hospital, Taro Hasegawa, 37, Jun Madarame, 40, and Shigetaka Maeda, 35 have all been found guilty of professional negligence resulting in death, in the case of the death of a 60 year old man who underwent an operation at the hospital.

Suspended sentences of 24 to 30 months were handed down citing that other members of the hospital were complicit in the patient's death.

It is shocking that the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare sanction for Hasegawa and Madarame was just a 2 year suspension of their license (imposed in Mar 2004, so theoretically they could be practicing already). Both were fired by the hospital. Maeda got a 10 day suspension from the hospital, theMinistry of Health, Labour and Welfare has not imposed any sanction on him.

The doctors, or, indeed the hospital, had absolutely no experience in laparoscopic surgery which was attempted on the victim.

There was an attempted cover-up, and the hospital initially lied to the family of the victim.

These doctors who (tried to) put their own careers ahead of the welfare of the patient need to have their medical licenses revoked permanently.

Japanese doctors are well protected from legal claims, and the relevant ministry(the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare) and the Japan Medical Association (a strong political lobby looking out first and foremost for its members, Hippocratic oath be damned, apparently), are extremely lenient in their treatment of doctors who have committed serious (and often, multiple) cases of negligence. Hospitals have been known to organise cover-ups, and destroy or modify patient records.

Japanese doctors (especially surgeons and senior administrators) often get cash gifts from their patients or their families, money which is not usually declared. It is partly the fault of patients who allow this scheme to be perpetuated.

The Japanese medical system and its legal oversight is in need of a major overhaul.

We need to out doctors who are unfit for the job, and drive them out of the profession. We also need to keep an eye out for doctors such as those involved in this case, and make sure they never get the chance to kill again. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the JMA need to realise that the Japanese public will no longer accept preferential treatment for doctors.

Doctors are no longer untouchable. Same goes for the other professions which were traditionally granted its members automatic social standing and respect from the community.

So many cases of doctors, teachers, politicians (what do these professions have in common? they were and still are addressed using the honorific "sensei") commiting professional misconduct or engaging in activities which are incompatible with the moral integrity required of these professions…..