What might have been?

Speaking of the Philippines and historical predictions, there is a great discussion going on over at the blog Coming Anarchy over the past, present and future status of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines were all transferred from Spanish to United States control together, with the 1898 December 10 signing of the Treaty of Paris that concluded the Spanish-American War (as well as a payment of $20 million from the US to Spain.) Both Puerto Rico and Guam remain unincorporated territories of the United States of America, but the US and the Philippines parted company long ago. Reading this discussion gives you a pretty good idea of why the Philippines was spun off into an independent country instead of being either incorporated into the union or kept in colonial status. Today Americans are concerned about being demographically overwhelmed by Hispanics, but true annexation of the Philippines would have been a massive and sudden demographic shock that would have profoundly changed the subsequent development of both. For the people who think the Puerto Rico situation is complicated, try and imagine what might have happened if the Philippines, with a population twenty times that of Puerto Rico, and speaking a polyglot of languages, had all become US citizens overnight.

If only they had known…

You know that feeling you get watching a suspenseful scene in a movie, where you know for example that the vampire snake is on the other side of a door, a hapless character says something like “gosh, I’m glad that vampire snake went back to Las Vegas,” puts his hand on the door and you just want to yell out STOP to the screen before certain doom commences?

For the non-English majors out there, I’m talking about dramatic irony, defined so on Wikipedia:

Tragic (or dramatic) irony occurs when a character onstage is ignorant, but the audience watching knows his or her eventual fate, as in Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King.

This morning I encountered something much like dramatic irony when reading a 1966 article about the foreign relations of the Philippines. Within the piece were two specific statements that made me wish I could send a telegram back through time warning Mr. Onofre D. Corpuz about the horrible misfortune to come.

First was this one, in his section discussing how an orientation in economic relations towards Southeast Asia would be good for development.

The Philippines is well situated to play a leading role in this process, and economic interests, therefore, promise to lead the nation’s foreign policy closer to Southeast Asia. Barring a sudden deterioration which could result from escalation of hostilities in Vietnam, we are presently on the threshold of a period in which the necessary economic underpinnings of diplomatic projects, such as ASA and Maphilindo, will emerge.

[Note: ASA is Association of Southeast Asia, predecessor to ASEAN]

So, how did that Vietnam thing go after 1966? I forget now. Anyway, I’m sure it couldn’t have destabilized the regional economy or anything.

The second quote mixes retrospective irony with a case of be careful what you wish for.

As a result, political power is widely dispersed and the bases of power are fragmented. No Philippine president has ever been re-elected after a full presidential term of four years. There are no political institutions in the Philippines that have enabled a leader to stay in power as long as have Indonesia’s Sukarno, India’s Nehru, Burma’s Ne Win, and Malaysia’s Tungku Abdul Rahman.

1966 was the second year of Ferdinand Marcos’ first term as president, after which he would in fact be re-elected, just like Mr. Corpuz was hoping. What Corpuz probably was less happy about was when Marcos declared martial law in 1972, and continued his Presidency until 1986, when he was driven from office by mass protests indirectly in response to the assassination of opposition politician Benigno Aquino.

Amazingly weird DPJ commercial gets party leaders in trouble at annual convention

ZAKZAK reports (as have other news outlets) that the DPJ’s annual convention has been something less than a show of unity (not that the LDP’s convention, which starts tomorrow, is likely to be any more amicable). The most colorful of comments came from Lower House member Kansei Nakano, who disapproved of the DPJ’s latest ad campaign: “If I ask 100 people all 100 would say, ‘What the hell is that? It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars!'”

You can watch the aforementioned waste right here (courtesy transpacificradio) You can tell it makes no sense even if you don’t understand Japanese:

Another member complained that the public has decided that the LDP is no good, but that the DPJ isn’t all that great either.

ozawa-mm20070116111307793l0.jpgYomiuri explains the intraparty discontent as stemming from the party’s continuing low poll numbers — though one recent TBS (slightly left-leaning) poll held that 47% of people “want the opposition parties to beat the LDP” (vs 45% who wanted the LDP to win), another perhaps more reliable figure is the Yomiuri poll comparing DPJ support with LDP support. That figure gives the DPJ just 12% support versus the LDP’s approx. 48%.

But the unnamed DPJ official has a point that gets to the heart of the DPJ’s troubles – they look like just another LDP with the exception that they have zero experience running the country. Although the party has always had internal divisions (not that much different from the LDP in that regard), the DPJ has nevertheless presented an image of a left-of-center party that carries none of the LDP’s baggage (patronage, ultrarightists in the ranks, close relationship with the entrenched bureaucracy, etc). What’s more, the party has represented Japan’s shift to a 2-party system in which the major parties compete on policy rather than through backdoor deals and stable electioneering. This idea has enjoyed broad support in theory as a part of Japan’s supposed transition from a bureaucracy-dominated development state to a “normal country,” even if in practice the second party has yet to win the premiership.

Now DPJ President Ozawa, a former senior LDP man himself, is preparing to try and beat the LDP at its own game as he puts his “political life on the line” to win the July Upper House elections, reports ZAKZAK. If the DPJ wins the upper house, it will attempt to then force a lower house election and take the reins of government.

To that end, in addition to teaming up with the more minor opposition parties (and of course putting their best face forward as the top opposition party in the Diet), Ozawa has secured candidacies from people hailing from traditional LDP support bases (such as the Jaycees), in an attempt to split the “organizational votes.” He is also appealing to anti-Koizumi forces within those support groups by pushing for populist policies like “raising Japan’s food self sufficiency” through pro-farmer reforms.

So under Ozawa’s leadership the DPJ would become an anti-structural reform party that courts votes from the same groups that have been lining up for a slice of the pie from the LDP. Oh, and they are for a more active Japanese role in international peacekeeping efforts, very similar to the LDP’s policy of pushing for a more proactive defense posture and allowing for collective defense. Just what would be difference with the LDP at that point? Well, there is one thing: the DPJ has never formed a coalition with the Soka Gakkai-backed Komeito. But depending on the party distribution that results after the upper house election (and possible but unlikely general election that could follow), the DPJ could be in a position to grab the government with the little extra push that the Komeito could provide. What’s to stop Ozawa, whose former party Shinshinto was once in an election tie-up with the Komeito, from former just such a coalition with the Komeito, which wants to cozy up to the party in power no matter who it is?

Well, rest assured that the DPJ rank and file, far from walking in lock-step with their leader, are thinking about these issues, and some don’t like seeing Ozawa sully what’s left of their party’s credibility to rig the system just to put Ichiro Ozawa in power. Or maybe they’re just mad because it looks that way. Whatever the case, Hatoyama has made the startling statement (in the Nikkei no less) that the party’s future would be in serious jeopardy if the DPJ shows poorly in the election. They’ve had 4 years since taking their present shape in 2003 to win the government, and so far it’s proven a tough task. Though Ozawa’s attempts to virtually pimp out the DPJ could very well work, is it worth throwing out the baby (a 2-party system in which political parties compete on policy) out with the bathwater?

Personally, I don’t think the DPJ would be considering such radical changes if it weren’t for it’s stumbles over the past year and change. Up until the Sept 2005 lower house elections, in which Koizumi’s powerful call for postal reform was the overwhelming issue, the DPJ had been gradually gaining seats in both houses under the leadership of Kan Naoto, Yuki Hatoyama, and Katsuya Okada. After the 2005 election, however, the party lost its direction and selected youthful defense policy wonk Seiji Maehara to lead them, and after Maehara mishandled a scandal in early 2006 Ozawa replaced him and was seen as an elder who had the wherewithal to get things done. If Ozawa’s tactics work, he’ll clearly be seen as a genius and the party may see itself transformed. If not, I’d like to see Kan or Hatoyama make a comeback, perhaps away from the DPJ. (And if Koizumi makes a comeback, as some hopeful rumors contend, the DPJ might as well just go home as they wouldn’t stand a chance!)

35-year-old plaintiff to force 2ch founder Hiroyuki into bankruptcy!

The axe may indeed fall on Hiroyuki, though 2ch itself is unlikely to actually change hands. ZAKZAK reports that the man who filed to seize Hiroyuki assets has decided to file to force Hiroyuki into bankruptcy. This is a move that was taken by shareholders of Kinmirai Tsushin Co. recently when cmopany officials tried to flee with their money, and it works:

Kinmirai Tsuushin is suspected of defrauding some 3,000 individual and corporate investors of 40 billion yen by promising to pay lucrative dividends on the basis of its nonexistent Internet telephony operations.

The Metropolitan Police Department began questioning former Kinmirai Tsuushin executives earlier this week over the alleged fraud, investigative sources said. Ishii is now abroad, they said.

On Dec. 7, a real estate company, one of the 3,000 investors, asked the court to declare Kinmirai Tsuushin bankrupt. The real estate company had invested 55 million yen in response to Kinmirai Tsuushin’s solicitation of investments.

The plaintiff noted that he only decided to go forward with this action because the initial reports on Jan 12 of his moves against Hiroyuki sparked further harassment from 2ch readers.

Depending on how things work out, Hiroyuki’s irresponsibility may cause a major disruption in the regular functioning of the Japanese Internet culture. Not that I feel that bad — though it’s a great site in many respects, 2ch is, as Joe just noted, the best example of what happens when the Internet Fuckwad effect goes unchecked for almost 10 years.

But it looks like he is helping pioneer new ways of making the court system effective against harassment campaigns. Meanwhile, there’s more activity on the 2ch site than ever before, and angry 2channelers have been swinging wildly at people who have sued Hiroyuki, such as American-born activist Arudo Debito.

Crazed 4chan users shut Debito down

The ongoing 2channel litigation just claimed a collateral victim: Debito’s website. Those who read his blog/newsletter will know that he also recently sued 2channel for libel, although he has yet to try collecting on his judgment.

Unfortunately for him, some otaku read the news stories the wrong way and though that it was Debito who was seeking to shut down 2channel. (It’s actually another Japanese guy who’s making the threats to seize the server and the domain name.)

Here’s what happened next, according to an e-mail Debito sent this morning:

From Monday morning Jan 15, the hate mail began trickling in. Then the death threats. Finally, according to my website domain admin today, debito.org has been zapped–i.e. people with large bandwiths have aimed internet guns and fired millions of page accesses onto my the debito.org server, overloading it and closing it down. Which means I am stuck without a site, or a blog, or email, until they get bored.

…The most ironic thing is that most of the hate mail and death threats are in English. Native English, for the most part. Claiming responsibility for all this is some place called “4chan” which is apparently the overseas version of 2-Channel, with the same attitude towards information, anonymity, and personal responsibility.

Here’s the thread that seems to have started it. (Be warned, though, that 4chan is pretty much the realization of the “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.”)

At any rate, Debito’s site appears to be back up and running now.

Correction & the latest on white collar exemption

In my earlier post ““White Collar Exemption” and the danger to the LDP” I noted that Chief Cabinet Yasuhisa Shiozaki remarked that the government would try and submit bills that would make it possible to exempt workers making more than 9 million yen from overtime payment. I originally said that the move would affect 20,000 people, but that was a typo. It would actually affect 200,000 people. And as this new article from Asahi Shimbun notes, some politicians with sense don’t want to anger 200,000 voters 6 months before a major election:

Despite concerns about a backlash from voters, the government plans to submit legislation to the Diet that would introduce U.S.-style working rules exempting tens of thousands of white-collar workers from overtime pay.

Ruling coalition officials said pushing the so-called white-collar exemptions for labor standards would hurt them in this summer’s Upper House election.

However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki reiterated on Thursday that the government would submit the legislation to the Diet session scheduled to start later this month.

“We are making efforts now to move in that direction,” Shiozaki said at a news conference.

To alleviate concerns among ruling coalition officials, labor minister Hakuo Yanagisawa met with Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Shoichi Nakagawa and others Wednesday and explained the broad outlines of the proposed legislation.

Yanagisawa said the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare was contemplating applying the white-collar exemption to workers making more than 9 million yen a year and who have discretion over their work responsibilities.

Yanagisawa said that under those conditions the new exemption would affect only about 200,000 workers, or about 0.4 percent of the total working population of 54 million.

Those employees will not be paid overtime allowances even if they work more than the legal standard of eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.
Continue reading Correction & the latest on white collar exemption

2ch safe? Lawyers weigh in on the forcible execution question

First off, two lawyers note on their blogs, 2ch.net is registered to Tucows Inc. and not Hiroyuki Nishimura:

Domain Name: 2CH.NET
Registrar: TUCOWS INC.
Whois Server: whois.opensrs.net
Referral URL: http://domainhelp.tucows.com
Name Server: NS1.MAIDO3.COM
Name Server: NS2.MAIDO3.COM
Status: clientDeleteProhibited
Status: clientTransferProhibited
Status: clientUpdateProhibited
Updated Date: 13-oct-2006
Creation Date: 22-jul-1999
Expiration Date: 22-jul-2007

Based on this, lawyer Toshimitsu Dan explains:

At any rate, the 2ch domain’s registrar is not Hiroyuki. forcible execution of assets in a third party’s name is very difficult. It would be a surprise if they could do it.

Did you wonder what kind of procedures need to be taken for forcible execution of a domain name? Since it’s a a forcible execution, the court would carry out auction procedures, decide on the winner of the auction, and when the winner pay the amount, I guess they would go through procedures to change the registrar.

In that case, how would they change the registration?

Would the court send its decision to ICANN? Or would they send it to VeriSign, which maintains .net domains, or Tucows, the registrar for 2ch? I don’t think any of them would respond…

In order to carry out forcible execution procedures on a foreign corporation, a proper treaty is necessary between the two nations, so if there are no conventions then I feel it would be difficult.

The original ZAKZAK story claims:

There is a period from now in which Nishimura may file an objection, but if he does not show up in court as he has been doing, the forcible execution could start as early as 2 weeks from now.

The upcoming provisional seizure is likely to have a big impact not just on Nishimura himself but also the 10 million-plus users of 2ch. That is because, based on the Tokyo Regional Court’s judgment that “it is possible to seize anything that has a price,” his domain names will also be provisionally seized, a move “unprecedented in Japanese history” (according to Japan’s domain management institution).

If the procedures move forward, the domain’s ownership rights are transferred, and the 2ch site loses its Internet address, user will no longer be able to view anything even if they access the original 2ch.net address.

But it looks like 2ch might be safe after all. Nevertheless, the article has scared a lot of people, including this blogger who will be keeping an eye on this story. On 2ch, the story has dominated the news message board, with more than 100 new threads started on the topic.

Sankei interview with Budget Examiner Nakagawa, who learned his survival skills on the streets of rural Brazil

It’s a few weeks old, but this interview with MOF Budget Examiner Makoto Nakagawa is interesting enough for me to translate it in full. Budget examiners in Japan’s postwar bureaucracy historically played a significant role in determining the budgets of the other ministries as they were (and continue to be) the people who investigate each ministry’s budget applications and recommend whether to approve them or not. The struggle for control over budgeting shifted slightly in favor of the Cabinet during the Koizumi years as the PM used the Council for Economic and Fiscal Policy to make numerical budgetary targets for each ministry before they were approved by the MOF. However, nowadays it’s likely that Abe will lose the budgetary process to the bureaucrats once again since he failed to make a bold statement with the CEFP’s general policy outline. Anyway, let’s see just what kind of person holds Japan’s purse strings:

People Talking: MOF Budget Examiner Makoto Nakagawa (age 46): “I want to consider the costs and benefits for Japan”

Budget Examiner Nakagawa 12987_c350.jpgHe joined the Ministry of Finance in 1983 after graduating from Tokyo University’s Faculty of Law. His study abroad, the preferred course for new career officials, was at Cambridge. He had 25 compatriots in his inaugural class. It’s been 23 years since he entered the ministry, but not a single person has left. This is reportedly quite rare.

The MOF’s Budget Bureau, which investigates the nation’s budget distribution, has a Director General, under which are 3 Deputy Director Generals. The Deputy Director Generals, nicknamed “division commanders,” in turn manage 3 Budget Examiners each. The 9 total Budget Examiners are each put in charge of their own ministries and agencies, and Nakagawa’s is the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). He handles a total of 5 trillion yen: 4 trillion for education and 1 trillion for science.

Nakagawa is something of a regimental commander within the Budget Bureau, but his gaze upon MEXT is profound. The chaotic Budget Examiners’ Office is located on the first floor of the MOF Building. Here is where a certain Bureau Director General from MEXT paid a visit.

30 minutes after the usual chit-chat that comes after a first meeting, Nakagawa let loose a line very typical of an elite MOF official:

“As a Budget Examiner, you need the feeling that you’re the commander in chief of the combined squadron that is MEXT. That is how I take command. I always have that attitude.” He goes on, prefacing his statement by saying, “If I may be irreverent…” continuing: “I figure out where the people are in MEXT who can bring forward new ideas. Creating relationships with people like that is the best part of putting together the budget.”

Depending on how you take that, that’s a rather bold statement. He doesn’t just speak, he gets his body moving. To get to know people, he brings bottles of sake to MEXT, and makes visits to the field of education and science in earnest. Nakagawa’s footwork is nimble, as befits a man who has stood atop Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, and even Mt. Everest.

His father was an employee of New Japan Steel Co. who was involved with the workings of a steel plant in Usiminas, Brazil. From age 3-7 he lived in a village 1,000km away from Rio de Janeiro and acquired survival instincts as a child.
Continue reading Sankei interview with Budget Examiner Nakagawa, who learned his survival skills on the streets of rural Brazil

Another Bush administration official who needs to pack his bags

Of all the asinine things that come out of Washington, this latest tirade by Charles “Cully” Stimson, the Defense Department’s point man on the Guantanamo detainees, is ridiculous. In an interview on Thursday, he went through a laundry list of large New York law firms which are representing the detainees… and then suggested that this was inherently wrong, and merited reprisals from big-money clients.

From the Wall Street Journal‘s Law Blog:

Said Stimson: “I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out.”

Trés daft. The right to counsel aside, and every American lawyer’s [aspirational] obligation to do some pro bono work aside, Stimson had just pointed out that almost every big firm is involved on the defense side in the detainee cases. So where are these corporate CEOs supposed to send their legal work? India?

As if this wasn’t enough, he then went on to suggest that foul play was afoot:

“Some will maintain that they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart, that they’re doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are; others are receiving monies from who knows where, and I’d be curious to have them explain that.”

Despite being a GMU law graduate and Navy JAG, Stimson must have missed the defamation section of his Torts class. I hope that someone actually drops a major law firm on these grounds, so the firm can sue the living daylights out of Stimson.

Anyway, there are some good reactions coming out already: Senator Leahy came out against Stimson and the Defense Department stated that Stimson’s comments were not representative of the Department.