Kuro5hin.org is smarter than me

Some of our readers might have heard about the landmark Supreme Court decision regarding Grokster and the legality of P2P software. As someone deeply concerned about P2P issues I wanted to point you guys in the direction of some enlightened commentary on the subject from kuro5shin:

To quote the ruling itself on inducement:

The rule on inducement of infringement as developed in the early cases is no different today. Evidence of “active steps … taken to encourage direct infringement,” such as advertising an infringing use or instructing how to engage in an infringing use, show an affirmative intent that the product be used to infringe, and a showing that infringement was encouraged overcomes the law’s reluctance to find liability when a defendant merely sells a commercial product suitable for some lawful use.

What this means is that simply making a product that can be used for infringement is not illegal. Even if the overwhelming majority of the people are using the product for infringement it is still not illegal. Grokster, the company, is only in the wrong because it marketed its product as being a tool specifically for infringement. Take note of how I say the company as opposed to the product. The Supreme Court of the United States has just ruled that P2P software is legal. Grokster — the product — is legal, but Grokster, the company, may be sued. I don’t see how one could reasonably want a better decision than that.

Read the rest and learn. Most reporting on the issue, like the above Post article, says the decision means that any P2P service can be sued successfully if it is used for infringement. Kuro5hin disagrees, claiming that the decision merely faulted Grokster because they specifically marketed their product’s infringing abilities. If he’s right (and it looks like he is) then things like BitTorrent would seem to have a much better case — and a more substantial reason to exist in terms of non-infringing uses.

Highlights From Today’s State Department Press Briefing

I went to another State Dept. briefing today. I even got to ask a question:

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we’ve got one more in the back. That’s it?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) [ed: they censored where I said I’m from West Japan Daily] Private Charles Jenkins has been issued a passport by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and he wants to meet with his 91-year-old mother in North Carolina. When is he coming and will he face charges when he arrives?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the issue of charges and the military has already been dealt with. I don’t think there’s anything more on that. You can check with the Pentagon.

As far as when is he coming to see his mother that would be between him and his mother. I don’t have anything on it.

Ouch. Some unscrupulous (kidding!) journalists at TBS ripped off my question and used it in their broadcasts. You can watch it here. At least I wasn’t the only one who thought it was newsworthy!

The same “French” guy I mentioned last time had another colorful exchange with Boucher today. He’s actually Serbian or something (Something Seprus):

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, since this coming Friday, May 27th, is the beginning of the process of the creation of an independent Kosovo, may I raise a couple of questions without interruptions, however?

MR. BOUCHER: I don’t think we’ve put out an announcement like that.

QUESTION: Excuse me?

MR. BOUCHER: I don’t think that’s quite the right way to characterize May 27th [ed: He’s being sarcastic because May 27th hasn’t happened yet], but go on.
Continue reading Highlights From Today’s State Department Press Briefing

Explaining Adamu — a work in progress

Hey, everybody! This is Adamu. Up to now, we at MFT have attracted a wonderful audience without having to explain ourselves, and we are thankful for that. Not that anyone has ever asked, but I feel the need to tell you guys a bit about what this site is about and who I am.

Mutant Frog Travelogue was born one day when the MF and I decided that the countless links we send each other over IM might actually be interesting to strangers. The reason this is a “Travelogue” covering “Japan” even though none of the posters is actually in Asia or traveling at the moment (that will change soon) is because we all have lived there, speak and read Japanese, and feel like blogging about it. Saru is an economist who happens to also be a talking monkey. We brought him on the team in order to raise this site’s average IQ. The wonderful, salamander-poison-yellow design is all MF since I don’t have the patience to sit down and figure out how to use WordPress. If you sniff your monitor while Mutant Frog is loaded the fumes will get you high. Try it now!

While those readers with a keen eye will realize that I used to run Adamu’s Jappanica (and also that I was once fired from Walgreen’s), some of you might be wondering who I am and why the hell I have any authority to write about Japan. Well, the answer to the second question is I don’t, and that’s why I am writing a blog instead of working a full-time job somewhere. All I can offer readers are the ability to read and translate Japanese (though not nearly as well as the ESWN guy can translate Chinese) and my own brand of forced wittiness and garbled politics.

However what I lack in authority or talent I make up for in enthusiasm for my subject. Japan’s not a great place, but I spent the two most interesting years of my life there. Some might say two years is nothing, and for some it might be. I’m different. I skipped my senior prom to go to Japan. I turned both 18 and 21 there. Where some people have bittersweet memories of their youths, I have often fond, sometimes tragic memories of Japan. My first beer, my first girlfriend, my senior trip — experienced them all in Japan. When I say, as some may remember, that Japan “irrevocably damaged my psyche” I’m not joking. I am constantly shocked at the ease with which my fellow expats are able to return home and all but forget what they did there. My fate is unmistakably intertwined with Japan, boom or bust, mockery be damned.

Being away is not unlike leaving a bagel out of the package — I’m slowly going stale. This blog is one of my many efforts to maintain a connection to my “adopted home” and its language while struggling to make a living in DC.

That’s not to say that life in Washington isn’t interesting. Far from it! There’s all sorts of interesting people, like the fat homeless guy who spends so much time leaning on a newspaper machine that his gut has begun to droop down due to gravity, or the guy who spends all day outside the Vatican Embassy holding a sign that says “VATICAN HIDES PEDOPHILES“. A multitude of black homeless people and wacky protestors — two things that are rare even in New York these days.

I’ve had some interesting jobs as well — babysitting a Kuwaiti prince and the First Daughter of Kansas and doing corporate espionage for a “hotel research firm” among them — but nothing I’d call a career. Right now I work two jobs: 1) translating legal documents that I don’t actually understand and 2) teaching English to Japanese men who make way too much money to get away with coming all the way to the East Coast and speaking the crappy nonsense English that I am forced to endure daily. And no, they don’t really want to improve, so can it. I am also a part-time slave at a Japanese newspaper’s Washington Bureau, which lets me call myself an official member of the press (ask nice and I’ll show you my press pass).

That’s who I am, but what are my politics? I’d gauge myself a pragmatic anarchist. The cynical jerks in power have no business being there, but I can’t very well kick them out, can I? So I’ll continue to vote far-left and hope for the best. You won’t find much political commentary coming from me unless something is obviously out of whack. My primary moral influences are Noam Chomsky, John Stossel, Asahi Shimbun, Utada Hikaru, Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Onion AV Club, and Miura Ayako. I’m not religious but I do pray that I can keep my weight down. My hobbies include avoiding my coworkers, blogging, and hanging out with Mrs. Adamu.

That’s all for now and surely more than you ever wanted to know about me.

My first State Dept. Press Briefing

In my search for gainful employment I began an internship at the Nishi-Nippon Shimbun last month, and so far it has been pretty rewarding. I already have a press pass, making me a real live journalist (now I just need to learn how to write!) and yesterday I got to attend my first Daily Press Briefing at the State Department. I’ll be going to many of these and other similar functions in the future so let me know if you have any questions you want asked (especially on Japan issues).

My boss hailed us a cab, as he so often does, and we arrived at Foggy Bottom a little late, but they didn’t seem to mind. All I had to do was present my press pass, give my nationality, walk through the metal detector, and I was free to enter. A short hallway led to a huge wooden door emblazoned with the words “Carl T. Rowan Press Briefing Room”. It was a scene I had seen dozens of times on TV: a well-dressed Richard Boucher speaking calmly on every world issue you can think of, reporters asking angry questions, all in an immaculate, velvety-blue room designed to look good on television.

A few things surprised me about the visit: a majority of the reporters were 30-something “hardcore journalist” types who had obviously done their homework and then some and seemed to know Boucher personally. They asked questions like this one about the Newsweek story that got people killed in Afghanistan:

QUESTION: Richard, just to follow up on the timeline — and excuse me if I’m wrong — it’s not a week from Monday, I think it was two weeks from Monday that the actual Newsweek thing came out, right?

They called him Richard! How cool is that?

Another thing: Richard Boucher is sharp as a tack. Say what you want about the State Department, but you can’t claim that they hire idiots. Check out this exchange between Mr. B and an angry French (?) man who sat in front of me:

QUESTION: Mr. Richard Holbrooke, a close friend to Nicholas Burns, stated in Washington Post, “No way U.S. troops to leave Kosovo.” I’m quoting. He predicted that Kosovo will become independent, there is no way about that, there is no question about that, and Montenegro will separate from Serbia. Any comment on this multiple division of the Balkans in the early stage by the U.S. policy? What exactly you are trying to do in that area?

MR. BOUCHER: We’re not making predictions. We’re setting up a process where the outcomes can be decided in a way that stabilizes the region, that helps the region as a whole find its destiny in Europe and Euro-Atlantic institutions.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, to be honest with you, and I hate to make comparisons, my only weapon is, as I’ve told you many times in this room, history. And allow me to ask how the two gentlemen, Nicholas Burns and Richard Holbrooke, and besides with them, the State Department itself, ignore totally the fact that Kosovo, the so-called sarcoma-kaposis, was created by Adolf Hitler, transferred Albanians from the mainland to fight the Serbs in order to control southeast of Europe seeking an exodus via the port of Thessaloniki to the Aegean Sea.

MR. BOUCHER: I don’t think either — first of all, Nicholas Burns and Richard Holbrooke are two different people so I wouldn’t lump them together in terms of their views. Second of all, I don’t think either one ignores history. I will speak for Under Secretary Burns, since he works for us, and the point here is to overcome that history, is to have a future that’s different from the past, and not to — not to repeat mistakes of the past but rather to move forward where this region can find peace and stability within our Euro-Atlantic framework that makes them part of the whole and not separate chunks to create problems.

QUESTION: But since the end of the Second World War, America was trying to reverse whatever Hitler did, with only exception of Kosovo. Why?

MR. BOUCHER: I don’t think I would characterize U.S. policy as that way.

Notice how Boucher is not only somehow able to formulate an answer to the man’s question (which was delivered in a thick accent from the back of the room) but also manages to totally refute his claim and dress him down.

The coolest thing of all was that at the end of the conference everyone got up and huddled around Boucher for an “off the record briefing”. Obviously, I won’t tell you what was said, but it’s generally known that it’s an opportunity for reporters to ask more candid questions in exchange for agreeing to quote the spokesman as “a senior State Department official”.

I almost feel like a real journalist. Now all I need to do is find someone who will pay me!

Classic Jappanica: Chinese Language Schools to Open Worldwide

Here’s a blog post from my old Adamu’s Jappanica (now continuing as DC Honyaku) that takes us back to the good old days of December 2004:

Nihao, everybody! I’m back from Thanksgiving break and don’t want to do any work, so I’m back blogging. This right here is the last sign I need to prove to me that the Chinese are taking over. We might as well just sign up for these classes now before it becomes mandatory. Here’s part of a Japanese report on it:

“Confucius Institute” aims to open 100 schools

China has embarked on a project to spread the Chinese language around the world. In cooperation with universities in various countries, they plan to open 100 “Confucius Institutes” specializing in Chinese education.

Increased interest in learning Chinese as a result of China’s rapid development may behind this effort, but it is likely that far-reaching nationalist strategies to strengthen China’s global influence and presence may be afoot.

Before the opening, a National Chinese Language Guidance Group signed a pact with Washington, DC-area University of Maryland to open America’s first Confucius Institute in an effort to promote the Chinese language in America’s legal, financial, and government centers.

A representative of the Group, Vice Chairman Chang, said “Japan’s educational institutions are also cooperating on opening an Institute.” It has been reported that Sweden, Uzbekistan and other countries have also signed pacts to open schools. The Institutes work by the hosting institution providing the land and facilities for the schools while the Chinese government provides teachers and materials.

Why the choice of “Confucius” for the name of the front-line headquarters for Chinese language propagation? Experts say it’s because it’s not only well known but also easy to understand, making it perfect as China’s “unified brand.”

Chang pointed out that “there is a strong demand for the development of Chinese language guides in Africa and Egypt due to the rise in overseas tourism by Chinese people.”

And here’s an excerpt of Xinwha‘s report:

Zhou Ji, Chinese minister of Education and Li Bin, Chinese ambassador to Republic of Korea attended the opening ceremony, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Zhou said the Confucius Institute, as the school is called, is the first of its kind in a foreign country. He said his administration will spare no effort in promoting Chinese learning in the Republic of Korea by supporting the institute’s operations.

Students from the Republic of Korea are the largest overseas student source in China and vice versa.

The institute is seen as an effort to expand Chinese language in foreign countries, said Zhang Guoqiang, deputy director of National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOCFL), sponsor of the institute.

A rising number of international students are showing a keen desire to learn Chinese, he added.

Confucius institutes, which have been globally approved, will be established in Asia, Africa and Europe.

A search for “Confucius Institute” at Google News these days reveals that the University of Maryland is about to open its Institute in the near future.

Korean Diaspora hits DC: Annandale, Virginia aka “Koreatown”

Go to downtown Annandale, Virginia, and you’ll see more Korean-language signs than English ones. In addition to the Korean markets and dozens of restaurants, the area sports a kick-ass karaoke box with tons of Japanese songs. But a lot of the Korean business owners don’t join the chamber of commerce and don’t want to participate in building one of those newfangled “walkable” downtown shopping centers that have been springing up all over the country. The Washington Post has the story:

‘Koreatown’ Image Divides A Changing Annandale

When a contingent of Annandale’s civic leaders named their downtown “The Annandale Village Centre,” they were aiming to re-create the experience of Old Town Alexandria, where people can walk to specialty shops on brick sidewalks along quaint streets.

The Annandale Chamber of Commerce’s Web site and brochures published by Fairfax County try to convey old-fashioned charm, with photos of downtown scenes: a Civil War-era church, a rustic barn and a farmers market.

In reality, the face of downtown Annandale — a collection of aging strip malls and low-rise office buildings — has changed from white to Asian, and its unofficial, oft-invoked moniker is Koreatown.

The census says there were only some 66,000 Koreans living in the area as of 2000, but I suspect that it’s grown much higher by now. Also, the relatively small number of Koreans actually living in Annandale is deceptive. The bedroom communities for Koreans are sprawled out just like the rest of the area, so Annandale is just a concentration of shops. The evidence of the Korean diaspora in the DC area is impossible to miss: Korean groceries abound, there are more Korean convenience store operators than Indian ones, Korean churches are everywhere, and there are several competing chains of Korean grocery stores. I love it because it means I can get Japanese food ingredients wayyy cheaper than I can get them at the Japanese market in Bethesda.

I thought Korea was supposed to be a developed country. Why is it that there continue to be so many immigrants to the US? Don’t know if you’re reading this, Mr. Marmot, but as someone who attended one of those Korean churches, maybe you can shed some light.

Registered Japanese Foreign Agents in America

Tokyo Rose -- Not Registered
I found this site by Googling a company name (Civic Service, Inc.) that was listed as part of a useless resume distribution service that I paid $30 for.

At first I couldn’t figure out what the hell it was but then it hit me: FARA stands for Foreign Agents Registration something (Upon further investigation the A somehow stands for “Unit”), so this must be a 1997 list of Japan’s registered foreign agents! Nice!

According to its website,

“The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit administers the FARA and maintains a public office to make all registration materials available to the public. In addition, it administers and/or provides advice for certain other statutes related to either matters requiring registration with or notification to the Attorney General.”

And from the Q&A:

The purpose of FARA is to insure that the American public and its law makers know the source of information (propaganda) intended to sway public opinion, policy, and laws. In 1938, the FARA was Congress’ response to the large number of German propaganda agents in the pre-WWII U.S.

On a side note, this fear of German propaganda agents continues to this day. A good friend of mine was recently rejected by the CIA because his great grandfather and grandmother came to the US from Germany in 1932, a time when Ellis Island record-keeping was shoddy and there were many Nazi exiles from Weimar Germany. Are we really in danger of Nazi brainwashing these days?

Anyway, check the Q&A for what exactly a foreign agent is. Basically, it’s any individual or corporate entity that is in the country operating under the direction of a foreign country. US law requires these people to register with the government and disclose their activities and funding.

While most of the entries for Japan are for arms of Japanese government agencies or industries, many are for political consultants and PR firms working for them. I hope none of the people listed mind me outing them since it’s public information and all. Here are some interesting bits:

  • Butterfield Carter and Associates — The registrant contacted U.S. Government officials regarding U.S.-Japan whaling policy. $45,000.00 for the six month period ending December 31,2002.
  • Caparso, Anne Smith (Active Libertarian Activist and Lobbyist) — Employer: Government of Japan, Embassy. The registrant’s activities are designed to advance the foreign principal’s ties with congressional staff and the policy community. The registrant contacted congressional staff to discuss foreign policy and domestic policy issues occurring in the United States and in Japan and between the United States and Japan. The registrant provided reports to the embassy on current events in Congress relating to foreign policy. $9,600.00 for the six month period ending September 30,2002
  • Daniel J. Edelman, Inc. — Employer: Office of the Japanese Consul General. The registrant provided the foreign principal with strategic counseling. $30,344.02 for the six month period ending September 12,2002
  • Hecht, Spencer & Associates, Inc. (Lobbying Firm) — Employer: Government of Japan. The registrant rendered government relations and political consulting services to the foreign principal in connection with U.S. Government positions, actions and legislation regarding claims against Japanese nationals, including corporations. The registrant contacted U.S. Government officials in opposition to H.R. 1198 and S. 1154, bills entitled “The Justice for United States Prisoners of War Act of 2001.” In such contacts, the registrant also addressed related legislative and policy matters on S. 1272, the POW Assistance Act of 2001; H.R. 2835, a bill to authorize the payment of compensation to members of the Armed Forces and civilian employees of the United States who performed slave labor for Japan during World War II; H.R. 5235, the Former Prisoners of War Special Compensation Act of 2002; and the San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan (1951). $180,000.00 for the six month period ending August 31,2002
  • And on and on. In all there are about 60 groups receiving a few million dollars from either government or private sources. I’m sure it’s all very benign — lots of research and legal representation, some image-control propaganda. I’m not saying these people are spies in our midst — just thought it was interesting. Enjoy!

    The Turbulent Promotion Tour: Sadako Ogata

    Sadako Ogata came to DC this week to promote her new book, The Turbulent Decade, which chronicles her stint as UN High Commissioner on Refugees from 1990-2000. I took Mrs. Adamu to see her give a talk at the Library of Congress. You can listen to her Mar 8 appearance on The Diane Rehm Show, a local NPR politics roundup. She also made appearances in New York.

    The audience was, not surprisingly, mostly professional, Japanese women. Ogata is a hero(ine) to Japanese women because she was one of the first Japanese women to secure a major role in Japanese politics, born in an era when few women attended college. She’s been the subject of countless TV shows and books (Including “Sadako Ogata’s Way of Life“), causing a bit of a sensation because of her liberal politics (and pedigree), direct personality, and unapologetic professionalism and cosmopolitanism.

    I couldn’t help but be a little surprised when I saw the diminuitive figure of the elderly Ogata. I was expecting someone larger than life judging from all the hype. She did have an aura about her that exuded confidence. She deserve it — not was she the first woman, the first Japanese, and the first academic UNHCR, she is also credited with changing refugee assistance from the traditional “set up camps when they get here” model to what we know today. Under Ogata, humanitarian aid came first, political solutions were the number one priority, and in general she refused to allow refugee assistance to become a “humanitarian figleaf” that masked a dire situation.

    The talk itself ended up being a kind of disappointment, with Clark sounding off at any opportunity with lines from his 2004 presidential campaign (Inside info: He’s planning to run again). But some interesting points:

  • All refugee crises are inherently political. Today’s refugees are tomorrow’s soldiers, as was and is the case in Rwanda. This makes UNHCR’s job twice as difficult.
  • In Kosovo, the refugees became the weapons. “Ethnic cleansing” by definition means expelling people from their homes, creating large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people, the would-be refugees.
  • Continue reading The Turbulent Promotion Tour: Sadako Ogata

    Born Into Brothels: Charity, Hollywood-style

    I saw this movie, Born Into Brothels, at the E Street Cinema the other day. It’s about this British woman, Zana Briski, who goes into the red light district of Kollkata, India, to shoot photos. Eventually she decides to teach the children living there how to take pictures and tries to use this as a gimmick to raise funds for them to go to good schools. It’s charity, Hollywood-style.

    While it was interesting watching her navigate the international and Indian systems to try and save the kids from what all can agree is a pretty horrible life, you can’t fight the feeling that for her they are no more than “noble savages” whom she has decided to civilize. Plus she only succeeds in getting one or two of the children to actually stay in school. The rest of them are either held back by their own lack of discipline or by their parents who need the children to sustain their livelihood in the sex trade. Letting these kids play with cameras and taking them to the zoo ends up giving some of the kids false hope. Suchitra, one of the most enthusiastic photographers, ends up becoming a whore despite hoping for the best: “When I have a camera in my hands I feel happy. I feel like I am learning something…I can be someone.”

    Also, the director had a very narrow and gimmicky approach to helping these kids. They were only worth helping insofar as they remained photogenic, their families and the rest of India be damned. There are lots of scenes of hopeless Indian bureaucracy — forms are filled out with old typewriters, moldy records litter offices — but they aren’t put into any context except to serve as barriers to Briski’s mission to save these children through the magic of photography. One gets the feeling that she doesn’t understand much about India’s problems save for what she can see immediately surrounding her.

    Now that the movie has won an Oscar for Best Documentary, however, protests have arisen from a Kollkata NGO that claims that the woman didn’t follow proper protocol. The filmmakers didn’t check in with the largest NGO in the area before filming in a dangerous location, and in addition ignored attempts by the organization to contact them. At first, the NGO’s complaints sound like territorial bickering and sour grapes. Like many institutions, they are looking to get a piece of the pie and are probably bitter that they didn’t get an ounce of credit in the film for the work they do. But take a look at this:

    DMSC officials, who have not seen the film but heard about it from other sources, said they fear the documentary is inauthentic in not being shot in Sonagachi, but in some other neighbourhood in the city.

    Doubts are also being raised about the identity of the children showed as offspring of sex workers of Sonagachi.

    “No one told us that a documentary was being made on the lives of the children of sex workers. We are not unhappy about that, but we wish a balanced view of things were presented. Also, we want the collective uplift of the children and not only a few individuals,” said Dutta.

    OK, now I feel cheated. These people weren’t even in the *real* Red Light District! Was this lady pulling a fast one on us? It sounds like the lady who made this probably had a good reason to avoid a legitimate NGO — this stinks of the crass heart-string pulling filmmaking that Oscar loves. She was doing exactly the kind of stupid crap that they would frown upon — going in and exploiting the kids to get a few good photographs and a lot of recognition.

    I had my doubts when watching the film — not only is the film woefully light on background, the film leads you to believe that these kids are totally uneducated and don’t speak English. But in certain parts of the film you can overhear kids speaking English or they’ll say something in English with a far-too-good accent.

    Don’t get me wrong — you don’t doubt the woman’s sincerity when watching the film — it’s just that her approach is so wrongheaded as to be harmful. Now that it’s won an Oscar, people might actually believe that this kind of behavior is legitimate charity work.

    Dangerous Revolving Doors

    In the course of one of my jobs, I encounter many newfangled electronic revolving doors like the one above. The idea is that you can have all the elegance of revolving doors without the hassle of actually pushing them (a convenience as useful as Mustardayonnaise if you ask me). That would be great if they weren’t DEADLY. Check this out from The Economist:

    Many to blame

    Six executives are facing charges of criminal negligence after a six-year-old boy was crushed to death last March in a revolving door at Roppongi Hills, one of the city’s glittering new skyscraper complexes. Police are charging three executives from the Mori Building Company, which runs the Roppongi Hills complex, and three from Sanwa Tajima, which made the door.

    The police decided to go forward in January after finding out that six other accidents had occurred at the same place. They allege that Mori executives did not act on all of the safety recommendations their companies devised. One of the accidents was nearly identical to last year’s fatality: a six-year-old girl had her head caught in the door, but was freed with minor injuries. Hisanobu Kubo, who worked for Sanwa Tajima, allegedly failed to report a blind spot in the censors that stopped the door, fearing unattractive safety measures and slow sales. The case seems to have spurred many to act: one survey found that 30% of building managers have removed or plan to remove their revolving doors, and 30% more have stopped using them.

    About half of the major hotels in DC use these death-traps, and I almost get caught every time I pass through the things. Stop the killing now!