• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post

    Perspectives on the RNC platform

    Posted by Sean at 16:57, August 28th, 2004

    A question from a friend reminded me that I started a post about this Nikkei report on the RNC platform that I then didn’t finish. The daily exposure to the things foreign media (mostly Japanese, in my case) think are important about goings-on in the US is one of the most fascinating things about living abroad, as you might imagine. The Nikkei starts with the part about terrorism and ends with economic proposals to increase house ownership and private asset holdings, but it’s clear that the important stuff to the audience is in the middle:


    In terms of international relations, [the RNC platform] positioned Japan as a “vital partner” and stated, “We support Japan in the ongoing project of building for itself a leading role in regional and global security.” On the other hand, with respect to China, it proposed a check: “We have lagged behind in strengthening our military preparedness. This behavior could have the effect of interfering with national prosperity.”

    I’m not entirely sure I’m parsing that correctly, though I don’t see how else it could be interpreted. It sounds kind of cryptic to me out of context, and I can’t seem to connect to the gop.com text of the platform to see the original English. In any case, it cannot be construed as displaying warmth toward the PRC. Since the Japanese don’t care about actual party politics–That’s not a criticism. Why should they?–the article says nothing about gay marriage or respecting differences.

    Still more on Japanese child violence

    Posted by Sean at 14:26, August 27th, 2004

    The Asahi reports today that child violence in schools increased dramatically in the last fiscal year:

    The number of violent acts committed by children at public elementary schools reached a record 1,600 in fiscal 2003, up 27.7 percent from the previous year, education ministry officials said Friday.

    When the elementary school figure is added to the number of violence acts committed by students at public junior and senior high schools, the total stands at 31,278, up 6.2 percent from fiscal 2002.

    It is the first time in three years that the total number has risen, according to the ministry.

    “It is a serious situation,” a ministry official said. “We must strengthen our instructions on how to control emotions.”

    The ministry official here is exactly the type that I was talking about earlier when Susanna Cornett asked about this: More children are flipping out violently on classmates and teachers? Obviously, the solution is to wind ’em up tighter.

    Again, I don’t want to act as if the problem here isn’t real. The relationship between childrearing at home and education at school is changing in ways that no planners are in control of, and the transition is not going to be easy. But these new figures from the Ministry of Education and Culture show a troubling rise in violence, predictable based on the economic and social changes over the last decade, not a descent into chaos. Japan is a nation of 125 million, after all. What could ensure that it does become a permanent problem is dogged pursuit of policies that no longer work but everyone is used to.

    Strange bedfellows

    Posted by Sean at 12:51, August 27th, 2004

    Now, that’s something. It’s one thing for the Cheneys to talk about gay issues at a campaign stop–everyone knows their daughter is a lesbian, even if they don’t make a big deal out of it. But Cheney’s apparently going to appear in an HRC ad:

    The ad will air next week during the convention in New York media.

    It features portions of Cheney’s remarks on gay marriage and ends with an announcer saying “He spoke from the heart for millions of parents. Discrimination is wrong. What if it was your child, Mr. President?”

    There’s a link to the ad in Windows Media format (which I can’t get to work, even when I open it in IE instead of Firefox). This is weird timing, to say the least. It makes me wonder whether those people who’ve been suggesting that Cheney will be gently pushed aside for another nominee are on to something.

    PS: Couldn’t they get some gay guy who works in education or publishing to proofread that final, climactic, and errant use of the counterfactual? Sheesh.

    One mistake’s / All it takes

    Posted by Sean at 14:10, August 26th, 2004

    Ooh, this is just too perfect:

    A cleaner at London’s Tate Britain modern art gallery threw out a bag of garbage which formed part of an artwork because it was thought to be trash, British newspapers reported on Friday.

    This is aesthetics in modern life: It’s possible to be a janitor who mistakes a bag of garbage for trash.

    Like a lot of other people, I thought Peter Bagge’s cartoon about modern art was pretty accurate, entertainingly raising points that one would have hoped were self-evident but unfortunately are not.

    One of the reasons disturbing, unattractive art can be powerful is that it also seduces you with form, line, and color. It makes you weigh the degree to which you can trust sensory appeal over content, and that can be edifying in and of itself. Maybe I’m just fusty, but I find it hard to imagine looking at a bag of garbage on a table and thinking anything other than, Hey, that reminds me. Did I replace the bag in the little pail by the vanity? I always forget that one, and then I’m standing there with a tissue in my hand, and…. I mean, making art that forces us to look at everyday objects in a new way is a truly valuable undertaking, but we don’t seem to be talking about Louise Nevelson here.

    In any case, we can all rest easy. A new bag of trash garbage has been substituted:

    The newspapers said the spokesman would not reveal how much the bag had cost to replace.

    I should say not. If I recall correctly, the Tate is at least partially publicly funded.

    Added after a bracing cup of tea: I’ve corrected the reference to a “bag of trash” toward the end of the post; as the article made clear, it was a bag of garbage that was thought in error to be trash. Nothing like exposing my philistinism to the world!

    More quick news about Japanese youth crime

    Posted by Sean at 23:08, August 25th, 2004

    Given my skepticism about the CHILD CRIME WASHES OVER JAPAN LIKE TIDAL WAVE! motif on its upcycle in the media, it’s only fair to point out this story:

    Under current law, three courses of action can be taken against juvenile delinquents: They can be sent to a reformatory, placed in less restrictive “protective institutions,” or based at home and required to meet regularly with government-appointed supervisors.

    However, at the moment, only those 14 or older can be sent to a reformatory.

    The planned revisions would abolish the age restriction, opening the reformatory door to virtually any minor.

    The revisions would also expand the scope of police powers in investigating minors under the age of 14.

    Under current Juvenile Law, police are not permitted to:

    *Seize evidence;

    *Search for evidence;

    *Inspect the sites of the incidents; or

    *Request the opinions of experts regarding possible evidence.

    Because of these restrictions, police are often hamstrung in their efforts to make a detailed analysis of alleged criminal acts.

    The revisions are designed to sweep away these restrictions, allowing police to deal with cases more quickly and effectively.

    The Asahi article doesn’t say that there’s been any pressure, from the public or from the Diet, on the Ministry of Justice to toughen things up. That makes it hard to assess how much effect the recent high-profile crimes may have had on the proposed new policy. It’s possible that the Ministry of Justice has been reviewing these things for years and is only now ready to submit changes to the Diet for passage, or that the review of search-and-seizure and sentencing laws spurred by the War on Terrorism has broadened to include all categories of offenders.

    It’s interesting that police powers are so delimited in the case of juvenile offenders. (I do realize, BTW, that sentencing guidelines affect judicial powers, not police powers, but I’m not really all that surprised about the way the institutional system is set up.) The Japanese police are famous for their liberal use of pressure tactics on suspects and, naturally and not unrelatedly, a confession rate that’s about as high as the purity of Ivory soap. I suppose minors under 14 are treated differently, or at least the law is different.

    23 at 25

    Posted by Sean at 22:02, August 25th, 2004

    Eight years ago today, I landed in Japan for the first time for a year-long program.

    And I’ve lived here ever since. You just never know how things are going to work out, do you?

    Fifth death from Mihama cooling system accident

    Posted by Sean at 12:54, August 25th, 2004

    Sadly but not unexpectedly, a fifth worker injured in the Mihama Nuclear Power Plant accident a few weeks ago has died in the ICU of multiple-organ failure. His first daughter had just been born in May. I was going to say that I hoped he never knew what hit him, but the article says that despite being burned over 80% of his body, he escaped from the site of the pipe break on his own power (自力で). The poor guy. My father was burned in a pretty nasty accident at the steel plant when I was little. I don’t remember it; he just described later going in and having the wounds scrubbed with wire brushes so they wouldn’t scar over (this was the ’70’s); that sounded bad enough. Fortunately, one of the eleven injured workers was released on Tuesday, so maybe there’s some hope for the remaining five.

    Japan UNSC bid to proceed

    Posted by Sean at 12:42, August 25th, 2004

    The Japanese bid for permanent membership on the UN Security Council has been moving along, too. Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoriko Kawaguchi spoke to one of Kofi Annan’s underlings a few days ago, and Prime Minister Koizumi announced today that the petition (I assume that’s what it formally is) will go ahead with no promise to amend Article 9 of the constitution appended. I hope things work out.

    Maybe I’m not right on everything / But I know that I’m so right about him

    Posted by Sean at 12:17, August 25th, 2004

    So everyone from IGF to the expected gay blogger types to Virginia Postrel is talking about Vice-President Cheney’s remarks about gay unions the other day. Some people are also reminding us of President Bush’s statements on the only 3.5 seconds of Larry King Live in recent memory that haven’t been devoted to Laci Peterson or Lori Hacking.

    Apparently, there’s some sort of inconsistency somewhere. Personally, I don’t get it.

    “That’s up to states,” Bush told CNN’s Larry King Thursday night. “If they want to provide legal protections for gays, that’s great. That’s fine. But I do not want to change the definition of marriage. I don’t think our country should.”

    When asked about federal benefits for same-sex couples Bush pointed to inheritance taxes which are lower for people who are married Bush said gays should support Republican moves to get of inheritance taxes altogether.

    And here’s Cheney:

    “My general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want,” Cheney, 63, said in response to a question at a campaign “town hall” meeting in Davenport, Iowa.

    Cheney, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian and works for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said during the 2000 presidential race that he held homosexual marriage to be a state issue.

    “I made clear four years ago when I ran and this question came up in the debate I had with Joe Lieberman that my view was that that’s appropriately a matter for the states to decide, that that’s how it ought to best be handled,” Cheney said.

    “But the president makes basic policy for the administration. And he’s made it clear that he does in fact support a constitutional amendment on this issue,” he added.

    I’ve spent my whole adult life around people who say whatever’s politically expedient at the time and force you to sift through every statement, flicker of an expression, and chance unstudied gesture to figure out what they really believe. I don’t think I’m too naive to go looking for those hidden meanings when they’re likely to be there.

    But this strikes me as pretty straightforward. Neither Bush nor Cheney talks about not wanting government policy to “encourage” or “condone” homosexuality, which seems to be the favored formulation for those conservatives who don’t want us taken out and shot but are perfectly happy to make our relationships as hard to sustain as possible. As Christians, the President and Vice-President probably think that homosexual behavior is wrong. But there’s nothing to make that necessarily incompatible with thinking American gays who form long-term relationships should be able to take care of each other without interference.

    Of course they’re both treading carefully in political terms. That’s what happens when an issue is made during an election year of something that’s deeply controversial. I wish, based on my beliefs, that Bush hadn’t supported the FMA; furthermore, I don’t think he needed to, given what I can figure out of his own position.

    His deciding that he did need to, though, wasn’t clear evidence of illogic or a cowardly cave-in to the religious right. Every homosexual public figure that’s twitched in the last year, it seems, has invoked “second-class citizenship” to characterize what people who oppose gay marriage want for us, with no middle ground. In that context, I’m almost grateful to Bush and Cheney for being willing to take on the subject in public at all, even if they are watching their backs politically.

    Added on 28 August: Ann Althouse summarizes pretty well, I think, what we can glean from this recent clutch of soundbites about what the candidates think of gay marriage. Basically, even those against the FMA oppose it (of course, we don’t seem to be hearing from Edwards about this).

    Added five minutes later after avoiding impulse to put posthole digger through monitor: Flamin’ Norah! I turned off TrackBack auto-discovery the other day, and when I posted this, no pings went through. Golden. Now I republish and the poltergeists decide they’re going to ping five people. それって何のことだろうッ?!

    A most unusual coloring book

    Posted by Sean at 01:26, August 24th, 2004

    Whoops. I thought I was being funny when I left a comment on this Joanne Jacobs post (how does our Ms. Jacobs keep a straight face while documenting this stuff?) about the use of non-red correction pens in schools to avoid bruising children’s egos. Apparently, it’s a bad idea to mark errors with a color that connotes mistakenness. Amritas caught me in an elementary PC slip-up, though [bracketed]:

    Isn’t anyone going to stick up for poor, marginalized indigo? After all, it has associations with South Asian vegetable dyes, so it recalls the thrift and nobility of the time-honored household labor of women [womyn, Sean, womyn! -A] of color. It’s organic and cruelty-free, too.

    Man, I spent 1991-95 as a comparative literature major. At Penn. How’d I miss that one? I feel like that guy in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes who asks for ketchup.