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    殉教

    Posted by Sean at 23:59, August 14th, 2007

    James Kirchick on IGF:

    Yet there’s a common, unattractive feature that many conservative gay men share: a serious chip on their shoulder. Being part of a community that is so intolerant of their views, gay conservatives can be embittered, patronizing, and castigatory of their gay brothers. It’s not a particularly attractive attitude. Perhaps it’s for this reason that I have not started cruising Log Cabin Republican meetings for dates.

    Yes, yes–a thousand times, yes. The more annoying gay leftists are worse (as the rest of Kirchick’s piece discusses), to be sure. Their worldview is mostly inaccurate. They assume that gatherings of gay guys are safe spaces not only for letting loose and being gay but also for slamming Bush, Israel, and capitalism without opposition. And they insist on pushing forward with political discussions even when it’s become clear that the only result will be more acrimony. For sheer obnoxiousness, they can be pretty tough to top.

    Still, there are gay conservatives who seem to be doing their best, conveying a smug sense of election and an ostentatious look-how-suffering-has-sanctified-me fortitude that even Hillary Clinton would surely regard as overdoing it. Cool don’t advertise, gentlemen.

    Personally, I don’t think I’ve met anyone I would describe as embittered, exactly. But I’ve encountered more than one conservative gay guy who’s seemed almost affronted when he discovered that I agreed with him on policy—as if the existence of another right-ish gay man somehow diluted his distinctiveness or something. Of course, that’s just my interpretation, based only on people I myself have met. I just can’t think of another plausible reason one would act annoyed at being agreed with.

    *******

    On a related note, Connie has this to say (my emphasis):

    I love feedback. I love comments. I love discussion. But if I say I like the taste of apple sauce, I really don’t care if you think I’m an idiot for liking it. It is perfectly OK to have unexpressed thoughts. I have millions of them.

    Good grief, yes. You are not duty-bound to loose upon the world everything that floats through your head. Really.

    *******

    On another related note, a friend has written to whether my post the other day stemmed the flow of hate mail so completely that I’m starting to miss it, in which case he gallantly offers to befoul my inbox with rants and insults of my choosing. Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m fine. Really.

    He also sends this link, which I’ll pass along just in case you haven’t already encountered it through Instapundit or The Corner:

    Here’s a story you don’t see every day – “Gay Nicaraguan Man Goes Into Hiding After Refugee Bid Denied“:

    His case made headlines in Canada and Nicaragua in February when the Immigration and Refugee Board denied him asylum saying they didn’t believe he was gay.

    Is that what Canadian immigration officials do all day? “Funny. You don’t look gay. Walk across to the men’s room again and this time put a bit of life into it.”

    I appreciate their concerns. Being gay isn’t exactly one of those jobs Canadians won’t do. Let a lot of squaresville straights stand muscling in on the gay immigrant fast-track, and there goes the neighborhood. But contrast the exacting entry qualifications for the gay refugee line with those for the terrorist refugee line. Ahmed Ressam, the famous “Millennium Bomber” arrested at the British Columbia/Washington State border en route to blow up LAX, was admitted to Canada because he told them he was a convicted Algerian terrorist.

    That’s right: As Mme Shouldice of the immigration service explained, being a terrorist was a legitimate criterion for admission, on the grounds that you had a reasonable fear of being ill-treated if you returned to the country where you were trying to blow people up. And, unlike gay refugees, terrorist refugees weren’t asked to prove it: “Go on, then. If you’re such a bigtime terrorist, blow someone up. Try the laughably obvious heterosexual at the payphone frantically trying to order up a Judy Garland boxed set.”

    Steyn wrote about Ressam in 1999 here.


    Upper house election today

    Posted by Sean at 02:39, July 29th, 2007

    Polls opened for the House of Councillors (upper house) election this morning. The run-up has been contentious in a rather boring way, with cabinet members suffering from the usual misappropriation scandals and foot-in-mouth syndrome but none of the sense of momentousness of the Koizumi-era show-downs. I miss that guy. Even the Nikkei reports come off somewhat listless:

    Issues such as pensions and “politics and money” are the points of contention in the twenty-first upper house election, for which voting began on the morning of 29 July. Ballot counting will begin today.

    The focus is on whether the ruling or opposition coalition will capture the majority in the upper house. The results of the election will have a major influence on the overall political future of the Abe cabinet. The direction of the results is expected to be clear by late tonight.

    According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 16.93% of the electorate had voted by 11 a.m., exceeding by 0.21 percentage points the comparable figure for the last election in 2004.

    Nevertheless, this could be a turning point. The DPJ-led opposition is not pushing a policy platform that differs all that much from that of the LDP this time around. It’s focusing instead on accusing the LDP of fat cat syndrome–corruption and lack of transparency.

    The office of agriculture/forestry/fisheries minister Norihiko Akagi obligingly ensured there would be a fresh LDP scandal blanketing the media this election weekend:

    Farm minister Norihiko Akagi flew back from Beijing on Friday and landed in yet another political fund scandal–this one involving photocopied receipts to doubly book spending by his two political organizations.

    The new irregularities were uncovered by The Asahi Shimbun, which obtained copies of Akagi’s political fund reports from Ibaraki Prefecture under the information disclosure system.

    Akagi has been under fire for huge and dubious office expenses reported by the support group based in his parents’ home.

    His mother at one time said the group rarely met at the home, and that she covered the utility bills.

    Added later: What they’re showing so far is 29 wins for the LDP and Shin-Komeito combined and 54 for the DPJ, Communist Party of Japan, and Social Democratic Party of Japan combined. Abe has said that he plans to think carefully about reshuffling his cabinet as a move to “take responsibility.” JNN, one of the networks I’ve been flipping through, has been flashing viewer e-mails across the top of the screen. The running themes, not surprisingly, are “this is what the LDP gets!” and “we’ll be watching you, DPJ!”


    参院選への影響必至

    Posted by Sean at 01:19, July 3rd, 2007

    …and Minister of Defense Fumio Kyuma has had to step down. Not surprising. His remarks the other day about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were not the first that made people wonder whether he remembered which ministry he was leading, and there’s an election coming up in which the LDP cannot afford to have the Abe administration look more vulnerable than it does.


    憲法改正

    Posted by Sean at 10:31, May 6th, 2007

    Having returned from his visit to the United States, Prime Minister Abe is pressing forward with what he hopes will be his legacy: constitutional revision. Because it’s the sort of issue that interests foreign readers, the English-side sites of the major Japanese dailies are covering things pretty thoroughly. The Asahi has the major players mapped out:

    Abe has yet to secure support from the opposition camp, notably Minshuto, on this issue. For this reason, there is uncertainty about whether Abe will be able to amend the Constitution under his current Cabinet.

    Akihiro Ota, chairman of New Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, sounded a warning Thursday to LDP lawmakers who want to start deliberations on constitutional amendments immediately after the national referendum bill passes the Diet.

    The same day, Naoto Kan, acting head of Minshuto, lashed out at Abe’s pro-amendment stance at a symposium in Tokyo.

    Noting that Abe became prime minister through the postwar democratic political system, Kan said it is “extremely contradictory” for him to now seek to “break away from the postwar regime.”

    Kan’s original Japanese words are in the original Japanese article: 「首相は戦後レジーム(体制)の脱却というが、民主主義(の下で)の総理大臣がレジームを変えるのは、極めて論理矛盾だ。」 There’s the upcoming election, so the DPJ needs to come out swinging against the LDP; but I’m still not entirely sure what Kan is swinging at. Abe knows that he has to adhere scrupulously to proper procedure in connection with an undertaking as delicate and controversial as constitutional revision, and the proposed revisions themselves hardly represent a turn away from democracy. The revision of Article 9 will, it is hoped, give Japan a standing army and specify that citizens are responsible for defending their country. Everything else that I’m aware of is a set of blandishments about the essence of Japaneseness and the addition of “environmental rights.” (Given Japan’s generally unprepossessing built environments and current treatment of nature, it’s a good thing that’s not already in the constitution, or we’d have a violation-of-rights crisis of nationwide proportions. See this article about a recent federal study that found that Japan’s shorelines are festooned with about 148,000 cubic meters of washed-up junk, much of it originating inland and disgorged into the sea from Japan’s rivers.) Oh, and I think there’s a vaguely-phrased right-to-privacy provision. The Yomiuri has a little more detail on the major points of debate.

    Those who remember the ’80s may be amused to read that former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone has griped that the proposed new preamble lacks euphony, as documents written by committee are wont to do.


    ジレンマ

    Posted by Sean at 22:43, November 8th, 2006

    Predictably, the lead editorial in this morning’s Nikkei is headlined “US Midterm Elections Reflect Iraq Dilemma.” The unwritten subhead is “Does This Mean Japan Is Screwed?”

    In the mid-term elections for United States congress and state governorships and such, held in the off-years between presidential races, it’s usual for the president’s party to lose seats.

    In that sense, the results this time around are not a surprise. However, it seems that they bear witness to a rise in dissatisfaction with the Bush administration revolving around the ongoing circumstances in Iraq–the Democrats have recaptured the majority in the House after twelve years and gained seats in the Senate. The Bush administration has not discovered a way to extricate itself from its dilemma in Iraq.

    Everyone reasons that if the [Iraqi] economy improves public order will also be restored; but the current reality is that because public order hasn’t been restored, the economy has not improved. No method has been found to stop this vicious cycle and reverse the trend.

    The option of restoring stability through a large-scale increase in the deployment of US military personnel has not gained political support within the US; nor has it gained the support of the Iraqi government.

    The argument for complete withdrawal that had been advanced by part of the Democratic Party could result in the abandonment of Iraq, leaving it to become a breeding ground for international terrorists. This is the mistake that has already been made in Afghanistan.

    The argument for phased withdrawal, after strengthening Iraqi infrastructure [to maintain] stability, appears to be rational. But the deepening opposition of Sunni and Shia elements makes prospects difficult to assess.

    A government in which the Republicans hold the White House and the Democrats have taken the leadership of the congress also existed during the Reagan and Bush [I] administrations in the 1980s. It was called “gridlock,” and it prevented efficient decision-making. Will history repeat itself?

    Now, of course, one of the reasons the Nikkei is paying attention to elections in the United States is that they’re important to geopolitics in general. But there’s plenty at stake for Japan specifically, too. The role of the military here is a hot topic, made ever hotter by movements in the PRC and the DPRK. Russia isn’t making many noises at the moment, but it’s never far from the Japanese mind. Japanese politicians have generally perceived the GOP as invested in maintaining close US-Japan security ties. Even those who are not eager to do so are, like most of the global media, interpreting the results of Tuesday’s election as a direct rebuke to the Bush administration on national security and Iraq; it’s not clear how that will affect strategic policy in East Asia, but plenty of people are worried.


    中間選挙

    Posted by Sean at 11:48, November 8th, 2006

    The Japanese media don’t seem to be saying much of anything interesting about the US election results. This is the Nikkei story thus far, useful chiefly if you don’t know how to say “midterm election” or “incumbent” in Japanese. I expect an editorial tomorrow about what the Democratic takeover of the House means for our support for Japanese security. For now, I’m expecting that most of the world press, unfortunately, will adopt the interpretation given in the Asahi:

    In addition to whether the Bush administration’s policies surrounding the Iraq invasion are right or wrong, questions about ethics were posed, related to scandals and incidences of corruption engaged in by Republican congressmen that had come to light. As a result, the Democrats got a boost, and made significant gains in the number of seats they held in both houses.


    Run-up

    Posted by Sean at 03:37, November 4th, 2006

    Since I’ve already cast my vote, I can settle in to enjoying the frantic final week before the election with no pressure.

    For US Senate, I ultimately decided on Casey. I know, I know: The power elite among the Democrats are traitors who want to promulgate the Culture of Death and you can’t expect the GOP to be perfect and anyway I’m just throwing a fit because Santorum won’t let me marry my dog.

    I really did have serious misgivings when I was filling out my absentee ballot, but they’re dissipating. To find out why, consider Peggy Noonan’s latest column (via Michael). I like Noonan very much. Her writing style isn’t showy, but she has a distinctive voice–careful and sober and considered. It’s a voice that makes her love of America come across very movingly, especially when she talks about the textures of daily life or personal interactions.

    Unfortunately, it’s a voice that also betrays her when she says stupid things. There’s nothing worse than saying something way-ass dumb while making it clear that you’re thinking real hard about it:

    Rick Santorum’s career (two Senate terms, before that two in the House) suggests he has thought a great deal about the balance, and concluded that in our time the national is the local. Federal power is everywhere; so are the national media. (The biggest political change since JFK’s day is something he, 50 years ago, noted: the increasing nationalization of everything.) And so he has spoken for, and stood for, the rights of the unborn, the needs of the poor, welfare reform when it was controversial, tax law to help the family; against forcing the nation to accept a redefining of marriage it does not desire, for religious freedom here and abroad, for the helpless in Africa and elsewhere. It is all, in its way, so personal. And so national. He has breached the gap with private action: He not only talks about reform of federal law toward the disadvantaged, he hires people in trouble and trains them in his offices.

    One thing that’s really starting to get on my nerves: Can we please stop referring to politicians who are publicly opposed to gay marriage as if they were being brave and taking a political risk? Such a stance may get you into hot water at certain cocktail parties and rubber-chicken dinners, but voters have demonstrated in state after state that they concur with it.

    Anyway, the things Noonan discusses–Santorum’s prankish sense of humor, his genuine gratitude at the support he gets, his concern for the Casey family as human beings, his personal efforts to help individuals in straitened circumstances become self-sufficient–are all wonderful. They speak well of the man. But we’re not voting for a church choir director.

    Santorum genuinely does seem to voice his beliefs more candidly than most senators; but then, who wouldn’t look like a straight-shooter next to Arlen Specter? Speaking of Specter, Jacob Sullum hasn’t forgotten that Santorum supported him in the last primary against challenger Pat Toomey (an odd choice for someone who’s restoring principledness to the GOP). Additionally…

    I realize social conservatives are a big part of NR’s audience, but Miller offers economic conservatives, the other major component of Frank Meyer’s grand fusion, little reason to root for Santorum, aside from the fact that he supported welfare reform (so did Bill Clinton) and “has served as a leader” on Social Security, which seems to mean he favors Bush-style baby steps toward “personal” (not “private”) retirement accounts. On the down side, he opposed NAFTA, supported steel tariffs, and considers Bush’s immigration reforms “too lax.”

    And Sullum didn’t even mention the $20 million-ish in federal money Santorum scored for farmland preservation in the commonwealth.

    My point here isn’t that Santorum is a closet social democrat, or even that he’s been a bad senator on balance. My point is just that going off the deep end and portraying him as an implacable opponent of federal waste and mission creep is ridiculous. He plays the game just like his ninety-nine colleagues, and it’s condescending for opinion-shapers to cherry-pick his record in the hopes of convincing us otherwise.


    On edge

    Posted by Sean at 02:16, October 10th, 2006

    WTF? The US Embassy here in Tokyo sent out a notice to those of us on the mailing list to say that the DPRK’s reported nuclear test does not mean that American citizens are at risk in Japan at the moment. Also, the embassy is operating normally.

    Can someone give these people a shot of brandy? We’re talking about a single test. An important test. A scary test. A test with a lot of implications for regional and global politics. But a test. There’s no indication that North Korea has even one deployable nuclear missile, let alone that it’s aimed at Japan. I understand the need for caution, but assuring us that the embassy is still open for business seems so…flighty. It makes me wonder whether hysterical expats have been calling and asking whether they need to fly back home. Surely not?

    Added later: Okay, I’m a little bit less edgy myself after having dealt with my e-mail backlog. When I went back and reread the message more carefully, I realized it was referring to “health risks”–presumably from the radioactive material that might have been released by the nuclear detonation. That makes a certain amount of sense: yellow dust that drifts over from Chinese industrial cities is a big problem in South Korea and parts of Japan.


    美しい国、日本

    Posted by Sean at 22:47, September 20th, 2006

    Surprise! It’s Abe.

    I mean, the next president of the LDP and therefore Prime Minister of Japan will be Shinzo Abe. He got 66% of the vote. Of course, that’s internal. The public has been ambivalent, despite Abe’s Clinton-ish way of addressing himself to the average middle-class citizen and even as reports hammered away at the near-inevitability of an Abe win.

    It now remains to be seen how his “beautiful country” plan will take shape. He’s promised to deepen ties with the US while repairing relations with the PRC and the Koreas. Sounds good, but it’s hard to tell what concrete approach he plans to take. He’s been one of the highest-profile members of the Koizumi administration to make pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine, which is hardly a way to endear oneself to the rest of East Asia. He’s also in favor of amending the constitution, and there’s little doubt he’s referring to Article 9 (which contains the non-aggression clause). How far does he want to go in restoring military capability to Japan? No one’s sure.

    Economically, the guy’s a wild card, too. Koizumi was an economic liberal from the get-go; he brought in Heizo Takenaka and, as much as possible, gave him carte blanche when it came to banking and finance reform. The bills for privatization of Japan Post ended up going through a predictable defanging process on the way to ratification, but Koizumi was willing to draw a line in the sand over them. Abe wants to control deflation, doesn’t think the Allied military tribunal that sentenced Japanese war criminals (yeah, I’m begging the question there…you know what I mean) was just, and doesn’t seem to want schoolchildren learning about comfort women during World War II.

    Since it’s not clear what his prime policy directives are, it’s not clear what his deal-breakers are. He’s obviously pretty nationalist by personal conviction, but he lacks the long-standing network of powerful connections to make it likely that he’ll be able to push through controversial pet proposals. He doesn’t seem to have the force of personality to convince people to put aside their doubts, but he will need allies–the LDP is not in the most secure position itself. We should begin to see pretty rapidly what will be the driving force behind his policies when his beliefs hit reality. You can bet that the rest of East Asia, in addition to the Japanese public, will be watching.


    Vehicles moving in North Korea

    Posted by Sean at 01:13, September 3rd, 2006

    The ROK reports (via the Nikkei) that the DPRK may be preparing for another missile test in December:

    South Korea’s Yonhap News Service reported on 3 September that there is a possibility that North Korea will launch more missiles in continuation of its 5 July tests. The report is from informed sources in the ROK government, which say that US-Korean information agencies captured [images] of several large transport vehicles moving in the area of the missile base at Gitdaeryeong, Gangwon Province.

    According to the same report, a different information agency official stated, “Since we cannot dismiss the possibility that North Korea will time a missile launch to coincide with talks between the US and the ROK, we are paying close attention to movements in regions of suspected missile bases and nuclear experiments.

    Reuters also reports that the PRC has managed to dig deep and find a little more neighborly feeling than is its wont lately:

    Yonhap also reported China is likely to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to visit this week in an effort to restore their relationship strained after North Korea’s missile tests in July.

    China is the North’s main benefactor. Beijing voted in support of a U.N. Security Council resolution chastising Pyongyang for the missile tests.

    Beijing was expected to convey its formal invitation to Kim early this week when its new ambassador to Pyongyang takes office, Yonhap reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources in Seoul and Beijing.

    The US is still refusing to meet with the DPRK one-on-one, and the DPRK is still refusing to resume the 6-party talks until economic sanctions are lifted.