Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Just Layin' Back"

“I decided it was more important for me to be happy. I wasn’t going to let anybody’s opinion get in the way of that. Even if it’s a mistake, it’s my mistake. After being tormented for so many years, being angry and dark, I’d rather just live my truth and take the backlash. I can handle it.”

Monday, January 28, 2013


In many cultures, in many places, there is a belief that times of crisis reveal the true value of a person. In Japan, applying that axiom proves difficult, especially in light of a recent Daily Beast report that Japan’s infamous mafia, the Yakuza, are providing tons of vital goods to the earthquake and tsunami relief effort. The three largest Yakuza groups (kind of like the crime families of the American Italian mafia), have sent dozens of trucks with a few hundred tons of goods to the devastated regions thus far, reports Japan crime expert Jake Adelstein. They’ve sent everything from diapers to batteries to instant ramen. While this support may seem antithetical to a criminal ethos, one member said, “There are no yakuza or katagi (ordinary citizens) or gaijin (foreigners) in Japan right now. We are all Japanese. We all need to help each other.” In 1995, Adelstein reports that the Yakuza also provided tons of goods and services following the Kobe earthquake.

There is allegedly a philosophy the Yakuza follows that “values humanity, justice, and duty and that forbids one from watching others suffer or be troubled without doing anything about it. Believers of ‘the way’ are expected to put their own lives on the line and sacrifice themselves to help the weak and the troubled. The yakuza often simplify it as ‘to help the weak and fight the strong,’ in theory,” Adelstein writes. However, the reality of Japanese organized crime is such that the Yakuza frequently prey on the weak to become strong, Adelstein reports. In this one instance though, they appear to be actually trying to help. This support is given with great concern, however. The Yakuza said they fear having their donations rejected if their support becomes too widely publicized. One member told Adelstein: “Right now, no one wants to be associated with us and we’d hate to have our donations rejected out of hand.”

The Yakuza: No Longer Welcome in Japan (2)

Why The Crackdown

National Police Agency sources on background explain that it was a number of factors that caused the intensive crackdown but the final straw was the ruling faction of the Yamaguchi-gumi, known as the Kodo-kai, parading themselves in front of the television cameras at the Nagoya Sumo Tournament in the summer of 2009. “There has always been an understanding between the police and the yakuza that the yakuza would keep to the shadows, that they’d cooperate with investigations, that certain rules would be followed. When we saw 50 members of the Kodo-kai brazenly prancing in front of the NHK broadcast cameras on a nationwide telecast—it was like a slap in the face. It was as if they were saying, hey, we can do whatever we want—we’re not afraid of anything. That was unacceptable. ”

On September 29th, 2009, Ando Takaharu, the head of Japan’s National Police Agency directed all police departments in Japan to devote their energies to arresting Kodo-kai members, crippling their businesses and front companies, destroying their revenue sources, removing their spheres of influence, and inflicting as much damage to the group as possible, by any means possible. In his speech, he noted, “The Kodo-kai is belligerent, they antagonize the police, and we can longer turn a blind eye to their money making operations using a network of front companies. They are a serious threat to Japanese society.”
Of course, the economic threat the yakuza posed to the nation have been known for years. The National Police Agency 2008 Special Report on the Yakuza concluded, “they have made such inroads into the Japanese financial markets that they threaten the very foundations of our economy.”
The Unwritten Rules Were Broken
Sources at the Center For The Elimination Of Yakuza (Boryokudan) notes that the crackdown also stems from violations of long existing unwritten rules. “In the old days, cops would go to yakuza offices and have tea with the bosses, exchange information, relations were cordial. If a serious crime were committed in a gang war, the yaks would cough up the criminal. When the Kodo-kai took over control of the Yamaguchi-gumi in 2005, they didn’t follow the rules. They don’t cooperate with the police, their members never confess to crimes, and in fact they gather intelligence on police officers and their families and try to intimidate them. Detectives have raided their offices to find photos of their own family members pinned to the wall, illegal copies of their car registration, and other personal information in the Yamaguchi-gumi hands. When the mafia challenges the authority of the police, they are clearly out of control.” Even former organized members agree. Masato Yamanaka*, a former yakuza boss, says, “We have always existed with the tacit recognition of the police and the government. When we challenged the cops, we really did become outlaws. The Kodo-kai ruined it for us all.”
Akihiko Saruda, a noted organized crime expert, author, and former detective now retired from the Hyogo Prefecture Police Department also points out that the crackdown has been spurred by the Yamaguchi-gumi take over of the organized crime market. The Yamaguchi-gumi based in Hyogo Prefecture has been expanding for years, gaining a huge foothold in Tokyo when they merged with the local crime group, the Kokusuikai, in 2005. The group, often called the Wal-Mart of organized crime has kept expanding. “Early this year, the head of the Inagawa-kai, the third largest crime group passed away and his successor was hand-picked by Uchibori Kazuo, the number 2 in the Inagawakai. Uchibori is a blood brother to the second in command of the Yamaguchi-gumi Kodo-kai. In other words, the Inagawakai is now under the control of the Yamaguchi-gumi That gives the Yamaguchi-gumi a de facto 50,000 members—more than half of all the yakuza in Japan; they have a yakuza monopoly. That makes them too powerful. It’s no longer possible for the police to play one yakuza group off another, to pit A against B to find out about C. It’s quickly becoming an all Yamaguchi-gumi world.”
Saruda believes that the police by cracking down on the Yamaguchi-gumi and sowing dissent against the ruling faction, the Kodo-kai, are attempting to break up the group and the monopoly the Yamaguchi-gumi has on organized crime. In essence, “the Japanese police are applying the organized crime control laws in place of an anti-monopoly law. If they break apart the Yamaguchi-gumi monopoly and the group, it’ll be easier to keep organized crime under control. They’re not ready to eradicate them yet.”

The Korean Card

And there is one more factor behind the push, one that is taboo to discuss in Japan. The Kodo-kai, the ruling faction of the Yamaguchi-gumi is heavily composed of Korean-Japanese members and from the police viewpoint that makes them a foreign menace. Police estimate that 30% of the yakuza are of Korean-Japanese origin. The Korean Japanese, many of them brought over as slave labor during Japan’s imperial period are a minority group in Japan that have consistently been discriminated against and thus have found the meritocracy of yakuza life attractive. Takayama Kiyoshi, the former acting chief of the Yamaguchi-gumi, is Korean-Japanese, with relatives in North Korea. From the Japanese police perspective, that makes him all the more dangerous. And it is no secret that North Korea has long supplied the Yamaguchi-gumi with methamphetamines, guns, women and other illicit goods needed for their moneymaking operations.

The Future of Organized Crime in Japan

It is unlikely that a law will soon be passed in Japan that is the equivalent of the US RICO (Racketeer Influenced And Corrupt Organizations) act–the same laws which contributed to the near obliteration of the Italian mafia. Japan still lacks the essential components to decimate organized crime. Wiretapping is allowed but strictly limited and impractical. There are no witness protection or relocation programs; no plea-bargaining allowed. Therefore, there is no incentive for organized crime members to rat out the bosses who give them their orders and many demerits for cooperating with the prosecutors, the possibility of lethal retaliation being chief among them. In fact, since the yakuza traditionally look after the families of a member in prison and bump them up the yakuza corporate ladder after getting out of jail–along with a hefty bonus–there are great incentives for the lower ranking yakuza to be uncooperative. It severely hampers any investigation.

Yet, slowly, and painstakingly, Japan makes it harder for the yakuza to exist as they have. The new ordinances that penalize those who pay off the yakuza or use their services will cost them huge losses in revenue. Organized crime exclusionary clauses are becoming part of every contract in Japan. These are clauses to any contract in which the individual signing has to clarify whether or not they are a yakuza, and if they are, the establishment reserves the right to unilaterally nullify the contract. It’s now part of almost any standard contract in Japan, for any service, even Sports Clubs. A yakuza boss opening a bank account this year was later arrested for fraud because he lied about his yakuza affiliation on the contractual agreement. It has become another weapon in the police arsenal, one that they don’t hesitate to use. In recent years, legislation has also been enacted that makes yakuza bosses financially responsible for any damages inflicted by their underlings—including skipping out on a cheeseburger bill at McDonald’s. It has made even the most hot-blooded yakuza reluctant to use violence against ordinary citizens, because they can be reasonably sure that there boss will have to pay the hospital bills. The boss won’t be happy about it.

The yakuza aren’t going to be chased out of Japan easily or very quickly but this year’s wave of arrests, the flood of new legislation, and the standardization of organized crime exclusionary clauses into contracts has made one thing very clear: the yakuza are no longer welcome in Japan. The questions that remain are these: where will the 80,000 members that make up the yakuza go when there is nowhere left to go. What will they do? Who will hire them? That’s a problem that Japan hasn’t even begun to consider. They probably should.

The Yakuza: No Longer Welcome in Japan

The yakuza, the 80,000 gangsters that make up the Japanese mafia are no longer welcome in Japan. The days when they made hundreds of millions, running construction firms, collecting protection money, making real estate deals, extorting companies and blackmailing civilians are fading away slowly. In November of 2010, the Japanese Police arrested the acting chief of the largest yakuza group, the Yamaguchi-gumi (40,000 members). On December 1st, they followed it up by arresting third highest ranking crime-boss and the financial mastermind of the group, Tadashi Irie, for violations of the anti-organized crime laws, dealing an unprecedented body blow to the organization. “The boss getting nabbed was a punch in the gut, but the arrest of Irie was like getting shot in the head. The organization is in chaos. No one knows who’s running the show,” laments one Yamaguchi-gumi mid-level executive. It was the climax of a war that began in September 2009 and is still going. And just to show that no one was off limits, this December 3rd, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police reopened a cold case by arresting a former Goto-gumi member for the 2006 slaying of a real estate agency executive. Goto Tadamasa, the former head of the Goto-gumi, who received a controversial liver transplant at UCLA in 2001, is suspected of ordering the hit and the police are continuing to investigate. The fact that he is retired and now a Buddhist priest doesn’t get even him a get-out-of-jail-free card. There is speculation that the arrest was also timed to make sure that Goto does not rise back to power in the chaos that the crackdown has brought.

The war on Japan’s mafia is starting to have a serious impact; new laws are going on the books, prefecture by prefecture, which make it a crime to pay off the yakuza or provide them with capital. Yakuza members are having their bank accounts closed, being booted out of public housing, and being arrested on any minor infraction of the law that the police can find. All across Japan, citizen movements are arising, local residents are demanding yakuza vacate their offices, and in many cases, lawsuits are filed forcing their eviction. Deprived of revenue, hounded by the police and local residents at every turn, and running out of places to set up shop, Japan’s tacitly recognized but regulated organized crime groups are becoming desperate. They are also turning on each other.

The third largest organized crime group in Japan, the Inagawakai (10,000), which it is effectively under the thumb of the Yamaguchi-gumi and the Sumiyoshikai, Japan’s second largest crime group (12,000 members) severed “family relationships” on November 20th. The two groups were in a cold war that threatened to heat up at any time. In January, they restored peaceful relations but the police are on red-alert status. Even within the organizations themselves, there appears to be inter-factional violence breaking out which weakens each organization. One detective on the Osaka Prefectural Police Department Organized Crime Control Division commented on the current situation by saying, “The media reports in Japan that we are worried that the arrests will cause inter-gang and inter-factional strife. We’re not worried that it will happen, we’re hoping that it does. We want them turning on each other. When the gangsters start fighting amongst themselves, they will be weakened. The Yamaguchi-gumi monopoly on organized crime is bad for everyone.”

The role of the yakuza in Japanese society

It’s not quite clear that the Japanese government or the police really want to eradicate the yakuza. What is clear is that they want to rein them in, break their spirit, and get them under control. The reasons are numerous. To really understand why the yakuza aren’t wiped out in Japan, you also have to understand their integral place in Japanese society.

The yakuza are not secret societies. Their office addresses are listed in phone books, on their business cards and in the NPA Annual white paper on crime. Senior members not only carry business cards engraved with the organization logo, they wear ornate platinum badges on their Armani suits. There are fan magazines, comic books, and movies celebrating their exploits in most bookstores and many convenience stores. If you want to know the names and faces of the top bosses, you can buy that information in a 500 yen (5$) mook (magazine-book) and be up to speed in minutes. The term “yakuza” originally comes from Japanese card gambling. It refers to the worst losing hand possible, an 8 (ya), a nine (ku) and a (3). If you draw that hand in the game, you’ve lost.

In other words, “yakuza” means “losers”. It’s a very humble term. However, the yakuza in Kansai, where the Yamaguchi-gumi are based, refer to themselves as 極道 (gokudo) i.e. “the ultimate path.” They lack humility. The police refer to them, as do the laws as, 暴力団 (boryokudan), literally “violent groups.”

The Japanese government recognizes the existence of the yakuza themselves; it is not a crime to be a member. They are not banned. There are two types of boryokudan: Officially designated organized crime group which are strictly regulated by existing laws and non-designated organized crime groups which evade the harsh laws aimed at the larger groups. The Japanese government determines the status of each organization periodically based on a number of factors. In essence, the Japanese government regulates and licenses but does not ban the 22 major crime groups.

The yakuza themselves do not tout their existence as criminal organizations.

They promote themselves as fraternal chivalrous groups that protect society from street crime, especially from foreigners (who are synonymous with criminals in the Japanese mind), and who do charity work while performing civic duties. Essentially, they portray themselves as a cross between the Guardian Angels, patriots, and the Kiwanis Club. And perhaps in the chaos of post-war Japan, they had such a role. The yakuza claim that their presence keeps down street crime: muggings, purse-snatching, robberies—and their some truth to that as well. There is a strict code of conduct which makes: theft, robbery, rape, and dealing in drugs automatic grounds for expulsion and discipline. Those codes of conduct were uphold, once upon a time. Yet, the yakuza insist that they are not criminal groups.

Currently, if it just so happens that a large number of their members get arrested for drug trafficking, stock-manipulation, extortion, black mail, and assault–well, if you ask the yakuza bosses, those guys are just “bad yakuza.” And invariably, once a yakuza is arrested for a crime, his group will immediately expel him, issuing a note of banishment (called a hamonjo), which they will then send to the police. If the yakuza are fast enough, the suspected criminal is reported in the press as “an ex-yakuza member.”

The yakuza as noble outlaws and the protectors of Japan is an image they themselves carefully cultivate, and thus are cooperative with the three monthly and three weekly yakuza fan magazines that sing their praises, as well as the making of films and comic books about their past and present members.

The exploits of the yakuza in Japan are celebrated in comic books, fan magazines, and a best-selling series of video games. The unapologetic autobiography of former gang boss Goto Tadamasa was a best-seller last year. In the book he show no remorse for the attack his gang members made on the director Itami Juzo, who made the first film depicting the yakuza as brutal, conniving, racketeers without honor. He claims not to have given the orders but salutes the initiative of his underlings who did the deed.

Everyone knows that their is a huge chasm between what the yakuza claim to be and what they really are but they have long been allowed to exist in Japan, a country where tatemae (pretense) almost always precedes honne (reality or true feelings). However, in recent years, the chasm between what the yakuza do and what they pretend they are doing has grown so wide that the pretense is falling apart.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

love me, hate me, judge me, relate to me

"I know you think my life is good cause my diamond piece/ But my life been good since I started finding peace,"

Saturday, January 26, 2013

if I can't trust you, the fuck is you here for?

Liu Qing

Liu Qing’s art is a quiet activity. Since 2000, once a year, she buys an 82 feet long length of fine silk and spends the next twelve months with a brush and acrylic paint marking its surface with tight, rigid patterns, concentric circles or squares. It’s an act of supreme concentration, meditative even, that forms part of a routine in which she and Weiwei spend their days working at their studio in the relatively quiet Caochangdi district of Northeast Beijing. “We live in a village where artistic life is separate from the public sphere. At home is where most of my life happens – I live a very quiet, low-key life, with my close circle at friends. I do not make many public appearances at all”. And indeed, without this self-imposed isolation, Lu Qing, distractions would be an impediment to creating such disciplined works.
An internationally recognized artist in her own right, Lu Qing was born in 1964 in Shenyang, the capital of China’s Liaoning province in the Northeast, before arriving in Beiing when she was 16 to enrol at art school. With both herparents having backgrounds in the arts, she had been warned not to follow in their steps in the fear of any recurrence of the persecution and imprisonment of artists that occurred during the Cultural Revolution. Qing had decided to apply anyway, and quickly disagreed with an “institutional education system that standardized art into ‘right or wrong’. I was very rebellious throughout my eight years against this old system”.
It was a period of the 1980s that a group of Beijing-based artists such as Zhang Huan and Ma Liuming were creating provocative, often masochistic performance pieces that involved blood, chains and even insects. Later grouped together under the label “Beijing East Village” artists, Qing surprisingly tells us that she felt as if these works were created in a different city. “Those performances didn’t really influence me. Instead, I became an artist to focus on my own interests”.in London, his wife Lu Qing arrives at the tail end of the Frieze Art Fair in place of Weiwei. Ostensibly, she’s in the city to receive an Award For Courage on her husband’s behalf from Bianca Jagger’s Human Rights Foundation, yet at the last minute declines the invitation, stating that she’s “too shy” to pick up the Marc Quinn designed prize at a star-studded Swarovski sponsored gala held at the Philips de Pury auction house. Instead, she’s here to breath in London’s art and air. “It’s nice to get out”, she says through her translator and furniture designer friend Jingjing Naihan Li. “To get away from the pollution, on so many levels”. Lu Qing followed by her company lawyer Xia Lin, leaves a cafe as they head to the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau, China, Thursday, July 14, 2011.

Friday, January 25, 2013

I ask myself do I need love or success?

They say the artist that truly suffer his stuff is the best 'Cause his heart bleed on his sleeve.