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    Heard around the neighborhood

    Posted by Sean at 09:06, November 18th, 2005

    Today the meeting was between Koizumi and the ROK’s President Roh:

    On the evening of 18 November, Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi met with South Korean President Mu-Hyon Roh in Pusan for approximately 30 minutes. The President expressed strong opposition to “the pilgrimages by the Prime Minister and multiple other politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine,” which are “a provocation to Korea.” The Prime Minister once again explained, “Those pilgrimages represent both a self-examination with respect to [Japanese conduct during] the war and a gesture of respect to those who died.” However, the argument established no common ground; the planned visit by President Roh to Japan within the year could not be agreed upon.

    For this region, that’s relatively mellow, though most of the serious animosity usually isn’t vented in face-to-face meetings. Of course, heads of state in this part of the world have a habit of refusing to visit each other…well, to visit Japan. (Balloon-Juice had a post the other day that made a few not-bad points about the dynamic between us and the PRC but struck me as a little bit flibbertigibbety and too-touchy about what constitutes a serious diplomatic insult in these parts.)

    So Japan has managed to alarm both of its closest neighbors with which it has strong economic ties. Of course, there doesn’t seem to have been anything from North Korea, but just you wait: the UN, presumably anxious to quell rumors that it thinks it was rather charming of the DPRK to kidnap fifteen Japanese nationals from their native beaches, condemned the late-70s abductions yesterday. Or maybe it was the day before–you know, all those UN announcements that we should play nice tend to run together. Kim’s bound to have a reaction to that.


    SDF Iraq deployment [practically] extended

    Posted by Sean at 21:41, November 16th, 2005

    The extension of the SDF deployment in Iraq looks like a done deal–this Nikkei report is a little firmer than the last one I saw yesterday:

    At the Japan-US meeting between heads of state on 16 November, Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi revealed, for all intents and purposes, that the deployment of SDF personnel in Iraq, which comes up against its existing end date in December, will be extended. The extension is based on a judgement that, since other countries contributing to the multi-national force will keep their troops stationed there, the US will not be understanding if Japan alone withdraws. However, the UK and Australian forces that serve as escorts for the SDF are set to be withdrawn in May of next year. The [US] president expressed appreciation for Japan’s support; the prime minister, in the meantime, is already looking to set a withdrawal date.

    “Japan, as a member of international society, must continue to support Iraq towards its goal of standing on its own.”

    With that roundabout utterance, the prime minister conveyed to the president that the troop deployment would be extended.


    Golden Pavillion

    Posted by Sean at 07:41, November 16th, 2005

    President Bush is in Kyoto and met with Prime Minister Koizumi today. The Nikkei reports on Xinhua’s reaction:

    On 16 November, the PRC state news agency Xinhua reported of Prime Minister Koizumi and US President Bush’s meeting that “they emphasized the importance of the Japan-US alliance” and displayed alarm as it related such items as Koizumi’s mention of the importance of US military personnel stationed in Japan.

    The Asahi has a more wide-ranging rundown, including this related point:

    The Japanese prime minister also brushed aside criticism that he has focused too heavily on U.S. relations while ignoring ties with Japan’s Asian neighbors.

    “There are some people who believe that Japan should not pursue its relations with the United States too far, and if that creates some negative elements, then Japan should strengthen friendly ties with other countries.

    “But that is not my thinking.”

    Bush also had a message for China, saying leaders should not be afraid to give freedom to their society.

    The U.S. president went on to say that the Liberal Democratic Party’s landslide victory in the Sept. 11 Lower House election underscores the strength of democracy in Japan.

    Koizumi and Bush confirmed that their countries will work in close cooperation so that China becomes a constructive partner.

    The evening edition of the Nikkei has a picture of the two at Kinkakuji, which unfortunately doesn’t appear to be on-line. This is the only one I can find posted.


    I feel love

    Posted by Sean at 01:16, November 16th, 2005

    A friend says he thought I might enjoy this bit of a Houston Chronicle editorial (which is fileted by James Taranto in the 15 November Best of the Web). I assume he means “enjoy” approximately in the sense of “be driven to punch through the monitor by.” This is the operative paragraph from the editorial:

    Inner city black voters in Harris County, many of whom have long experience with the denial of civil rights, favored the marriage amendment by an even higher majority than the general Harris County voting population. Black discomfort with homosexual marriage is rooted less in conscious discrimination than in religious belief, but support for the amendment brought blacks into incongruous accord with members of the Ku Klux Klan, whose members rallied in Austin in support of Proposition 2.

    I don’t agree that the civil rights and gay rights movements are comparable all the way down–and what civil rights have black people been denied for the last three or so decades, one wonders?–but I do think that gays and other minorities are very similar in the ceaseless way our soi-disant allies manage to patronize us. As Taranto says, “If you’re a person of pallor and you oppose same-sex marriage, you’re guilty of ‘conscious discrimination,’ whereas if you’re black, you’re following ‘religious belief’ and presumably discriminating unconsciously. Oh, and does this mean people who favor same-sex marriage are religious unbelievers? Seems to us the Houston Chronicle has just managed to insult pretty much everybody.”

    As a homosexual unbeliever who doesn’t favor same-sex marriage, I think the most insulting part is unmentioned by Taranto: the attribution of any opposition to that boneless PC animating force, “discomfort.” People can’t believe things are right or wrong, or constructive or destructive, anymore, apparently–the only opposition sympathetic characters are to be permitted is decorously vague unease.


    Sign of the times

    Posted by Sean at 23:47, November 15th, 2005

    I was hoping someone would get around to saying this so I didn’t have to (it’s Dale Franks posting):

    So we’re starting to see articles like this one from Khaled Duzdar, the Palestinian co-director of the strategic affairs unit at the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information in Jerusalem. Now, I don’t know anything about Mr. Duzdar. For all I know, he’s been a beacon of sanity and peace in the Arab Muslim world for all his adult life. But there’s something about his article that strikes me as…odd.

    Last week’s suicide attacks against innocent civilians in Amman shocked us all. It is unclear what message the suicide bombers were conveying and there is no logical cause justifying such insane acts. What could the aim of such attacks be, and what were the mad executioners aiming to achieve? For some time, they have claimed they are defenders and combatants of Islam and the Muslim world. However, Islam has no use for such people and their acts and ideologies – if we believe they have any ideology at all. They promote nothing more than killing and aim only to bring about a state of lawlessness and instability in the Middle East.

    Yeah. All of the sudden, terrorist acts have gone from the acts of frustrated national aspirations on the part of a helpless people to wondering, “What could the aim of such attacks be?” Yep. All of the sudden, terrorism is just incomprehensible.

    No kidding. For years, many–if not most–of the Arab and Muslim condemnations of terrorism have come with qualifications on the order of “But let’s remember the sense of rage and powerlessness such people feel” or “But their bodies are the only weapons they have to fight with.” (To be fair, Palestinian-sympathizing Westerners have taken the same tack, too.)

    It’s all very strange. There are certain things that generally good-hearted, disciplined, civilized people simply do not do when they’re cracking under pressure. Chilly premeditated murder of dozens of random people peaceably going about their business is one of them–even, I would submit, if the killing conveys a clear “message.” I was saddened and outraged by the bombings in Jordan this weekend, but like Dale, I’m having a little trouble getting myself worked up into extra-special shock, grief, and epistemic crisis just because it was Amman and not Tel Aviv that was hit.


    He’s the warmest chord I ever heard

    Posted by Sean at 09:00, November 15th, 2005

    At Romeo Mike’s Gumption, Ross notes an example of psycho-PC-ism via the Telegraph:

    “Paintings of traditional wedding scenes have been removed from a register office in case they offend gay couples, it has emerged.

    The pictures at Liverpool Register Office are being replaced with landscapes ahead of the introduction of “gay weddings” later this year.”

    Two problems with this. If homos are supposed to be genuinely equal then we should be able to meld in with the mainstream. Ditching traditions to humour us defeats the purpose, so the removal of the pictures is actually the offensive part.

    Secondly, it’s also offensive that the Telegraph has to include a pic of a couple of queens kissing to illustrate gay marriage. Ordinarily, news photos of newlyweds have them smiling proudly at the camera. That photo only serves to reinforce the stereotype of minorities’ ‘differences’ requiring ‘special’ treatment.

    Question 1: Did the guy on the right burst into tears immediately after the photo was snapped and yell, “It’s our wedding, darling–couldn’t you have worn something more dignified than a turtleneck?!”

    Question 2: Given the Telegraph‘s generally approving spin, what’s up with the scare quotes around “weddings”? Does it (editorially) agree that gay ceremonies aren’t genuine weddings? I’m just wondering.

    Question 3: Why is the word gay so listless and dull, ending in that irresolute diphthong, while the insulting words for homosexuals can be written and spoken with such flair? Ross is presumably being sardonic in using homos and queens, but stripped of meaning associations and possible playground resonances, aren’t they just cooler words? Personally, I’m very partial to faggot–I just can’t help it. It’s one of those words you can eject from the mouth with a little explosion, whether of playfulness or of anger. It is impossible to utter the word gay in an aesthetically pleasing manner. A real pity.

    BTW, not quite on the same topic, but along those lines, an acquaintance asked me–very earnestly, which was what made it funny–a little while ago, “So, Sean, you call everyone ‘honey.’ And [my close friend, who’s English] Alan calls everyone ‘darling.’ Is that, like, some kind of American-vs.-British thing?”


    噴火

    Posted by Sean at 08:38, November 15th, 2005

    Ghost of a Flea has clearly not met my boyfriend, who would not only not be fleeing for his life but would be furrowing his brow and saying, “Hmmmm. Fire truck’s out of the way. Hon, how about standing a little bit off to the left there?”

    (Of course I’m just kidding, dearest.)


    I feel the ocean move

    Posted by Sean at 03:34, November 15th, 2005

    This morning, a M 7.1 earthquake rumbled the ocean floor off the coast of Japan, spreading fear and panic among normally-placid sea anemone and vent-dwelling tubeworm populations and raising troubling concerns about the ability of local ecosystems to cope with such disturbances without comprehensive planning at the seabed-wide level.

    Okay, maybe it didn’t. Being a child of the media age has kind of conditioned me to think of everything as a crisis. Well, I’ve also had people asking me whether I’m okay.

    The quake was 300 miles offshore–and the focus was buried unusually deep. I didn’t feel it at all, and the reports on the websites of the major dailies are buried by this point–the Princess’s wedding and the Koizumi cabinet’s budget capers, you know. There was a tsunami warning, but it was downplayed even as it was being made.


    Japan odds and ends II

    Posted by Sean at 23:32, November 14th, 2005

    Quick Japan news: the ROK Foreign Minister took a swipe at Japan for the Yasukuni Shrine issue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Pusan:

    Ban stated, “Japanese leaders have not been capable of squarely acknowledging past history; their pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine are undesirable.” While he avoided mentioning Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi and Foreign Minister [Taro] Aso by name, he did criticize the policies of the Japanese side.

    I believe that Ban is usually referred to as the “Foreign Minister” in English, though the kanji title would mean something closer to “Minister of Diplomacy and Trade.” Whatever his title, and however generic his statement, it is evidence that the ROK is not softening toward Japan on the Yasukuni issue–not surprising, given that Koizumi’s new cabinet includes a new member or two known for nationalist leanings.

    The seven federal ministries asked to cut their budgets have come up with only ¥28.9 billion of the requested ¥630 billion. That’s a whopping 4.6%. Let’s hope the regional government bodies don’t spend it all in one place.

    The government has established a central processing center for information about possible money laundering and financing of terrorism.

    Has anyone heard anything about Minerva? Minerva is the probe that was launched off the Hayabusa spacecraft and was supposed to land on the Asteroid Itokawa. Apparently, the Hayabusa was ascending too fast and so the Minerva’s trajectory was screwed up–such aerospace geeks who may be reading this will probably be wincing at that description, but I was only half-paying attention to NHK when the announcement was made. There didn’t seem to be a way to get the Minerva back on course, so they were fearing it might be lost. I hope not. Japan’s aerospace programs have had a lot of embarrassing failures over the last several years.


    ごめんなさい

    Posted by Sean at 23:16, November 14th, 2005

    Yoo-hoo! Madonna? You’re a native speaker of English. STOP OVER-PRONOUNCING YOUR Rs LIKE AN EXCESSIVELY EARRRRRRNEST ESL STUDENT! Okay?

    I did like this part, though: “If you don’t like my attitude then you can F off / Just go to Texas–isn’t that where they golf?” Heh-heh. Funny.