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    Maybe I was mean / But I really don’t think so

    Posted by Sean at 22:03, August 29th, 2005

    See, my problem with this ad (via Ace) is that it cuts off before Brian and Partner Simon turn on each other hungrily, start making out, and tear off each other’s crisp little dress shirts. (That white totally washes you out, BTW, sweetie.)

    Okay, my other problem is that there’s just plain not enough of Partner Simon, who’s the way cuter of the two.

    Okay, my other problem is that Ellner is not running against George W. Bush for Borough President, so I’m not really sure how going negative on him demonstrates anything whatever about what Ellner can do for Manhattan. However much of a tough guy he is who stands up for his progressive beliefs, is he going to do anything about troop deployments?

    I know–he needs to get himself name recognition and is appealing to Manhattan voters as effectively as he can in a fraction of a minute. Whatever works, do it. I’m also seriously cheered to see a gay guy appearing openly with his partner in a campaign ad. It’s just unfortunate that what accompanies it reinforces the image that urban gays are suckers for the emptiest, most unhelpful sort of lefty jeering.

    The NYT has more about the election itself, BTW.

    Setting a good example

    Posted by Sean at 10:32, August 29th, 2005

    Hi, this is Rob Marciano, your CNN On-the-Spot Idiot. I’m under this here cinderblock lean-to as winds whip debris and rain through the air around me–and, hey, we’re not even close to being slammed by the eyewall yet! Uh, was that an anvil that just went by? Or maybe a big ol’ rock? My baseball cap is totally gone, dude. This lady in the hotel where we are? She tried to open her door, and it slammed shut–like, from the wind–and whacked off half her finger, and the nurses are trying to give her first aid. But yup, here I am.

    For Pete’s sake, I wonder where people get the idea that maybe they don’t actually need to evacuate when they’re told to because they’ll be able to brazen it out no matter how bad the storm is. I especially like the way Daryn Kagan solemnly warned everyone immediately after Rob’s report that they shouldn’t go outdoors until it was safe. (BTW, Daryn? What’s with the hair? Do we think we’re the Joan Jett of journalism? Is that who we think we are? Maybe Siouxsie Sioux? Sheesh.) And here’s Jeanne Meserve (outdoors) to tell us about more of the Superdome roof skin flying off. One of her crew seems to have blown away–they cut back to Atlanta.

    On the bright side, the proverbial ten pounds the camera adds are very flattering to Rob there, who looks kind of excessively lean and blow-dried in his CNN bio pic.

    Added at 23:52: Okay, Anderson Cooper is acting seriously scared–and do you wonder? He’s also bitching to Daryn about the lack of common sense on the part of other people who are walking around outside. They’re not super-cool reporters, so they could get hurt.

    Michele Catalano is collecting stupid over-hype coverage at her place.

    Japan may extend SDF deployment in Iraq

    Posted by Sean at 06:03, August 29th, 2005

    Japan says Iraq has asked it to maintain its non-combat SDF presence in the reconstruction past the current December end date:

    Iraq has asked Japan to extend its noncombat mission of troops in the southern part of the country beyond its expiration in December, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Monday.

    Koizumi, in a debate with the leaders of five other major political parties in Japan, said that the government had not yet made a decision about whether it would extend the mission, which is opposed by many in Japan.

    “Japan has received an official request to extend its presence in Iraq,” Koizumi said.

    “So we will continue to monitor the situation there, and make a comprehensive decision on the issue based on realities within the country, the opinions of the Iraqi people, U.S.-Japan relations, and Japan’s responsibilities in the international community,” the prime minister said.

    Japan has about 550 troops in the southern city of Samawah on a humanitarian mission to purify water, rebuild schools and other tasks.

    LDP proportional representation candidates list released

    Posted by Sean at 06:00, August 29th, 2005

    The LDP has women candidates at the top of its lists for 7 of Japan’s 11 proportional representation zones:

    In the Tokyo Bloc, the top candidate is Sophia University professor Kuniko Inoguchi. In the Tokai Bloc, Satsuki Katayama, a former Ministry of Finance division director, tops the list, with culinary researcher Makiko Fujino, and private economist Yukari Sato second and third in line, respectively. In the Kinki Bloc, journalist Mitue Kondo, and in the Kyushu Bloc sitting Diet member Kyoko Nishikawa, are at the top.

    There are 57 candidates registered only for proportional representation seats and 180 registered for both proportional representation seats and regular district seats. One gets th e feeling–I’ve been waiting for someone from the LDP to come out and say this, but surprisingly, I haven’t heard it yet–that the Koizumi candidate wants its anticipated victory over its enemies to be that much more decisive psychologically if it can be played as a bunch of women beating the old boys’ network.

    Storm warning

    Posted by Sean at 03:39, August 29th, 2005

    The tendency of typhoons in Japan to change direction and not strike where expected has made me hope that New Orleans may not get the royal screwing from Hurricane Katrina that everyone’s been expecting. It’s not looking good, though, and my thoughts are with everyone potentially in its path. I know what it’s like to live in a beloved city that’s under constant threat of natural disaster (not to mention at least partially below sea level), but the knowledge that Mother Nature is coming to get you right now must be very different from the vague sense that the ground could heave at any second.

    Isolated tornadoes are also possible Sunday across southern portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, forecasters said.

    National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield said: “There’s certainly a chance it can weaken a bit before it gets to the coast, but unfortunately this is so large and so powerful that it’s a little bit like the difference between being run over by an 18-wheeler or a freight train. Neither prospect is good.”

    Maybe not, but at least the 18-wheeler is shorter. Catastrophic flooding (Tokyo has a lot of reclaimed land, too, so we hear about this often) has a lot of consequences in large population centers:

    In New Orleans, which lies below sea level, gas and diesel tanks are all located above ground for the same reason that bodies are buried above ground. In the event of a flood, “those tanks will start to float, shear their couplings, and we’ll have the release of these rather volatile compounds,” van Heerden added.

    Because gasoline floats on water, “we could end up with some pretty severe and large — area-wise — fires.”

    “So, we’re looking at a bowl full of highly contaminated water with contaminated air flowing around and, literally, very few places for anybody to go where they’ll be safe.”

    He went further.

    “So, imagine you’re the poor person who decides not to evacuate: Your house will disintegrate around you. The best you’ll be able to do is hang on to a light pole, and while you’re hanging on, the fire ants from all the mounds — of which there is two per yard on average — will clamber up that same pole. And, eventually, the fire ants will win.”

    And that’s just the local impact; New Orleans processes a lot of petroleum and is a major port. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope for the best.

    Added at 16:54: Instapundit has a post full of links and reader reports, naturally. His final observation is this:

    I have to say, though, that from what I’ve seen New Orleans hasn’t been on the ball. The evacuation was too late, there don’t seem to have been many efforts to get people out of the city or to shelter, and whenever I see city officials on TV I get an unpleasant vibe, like in the first half-hour of a disaster flick. I hope that I’m wrong about this, and that everything goes as well as possible, which I’m afraid will still mean “not that well, really.”

    I’ve only been seeing those who are on CNN, but I do get the same feeling. Those in charge of planning fire/rescue and reconstruction projects have no choice but to learn from disasters as they happen, but that’s no excuse for not being prepared to evacuate people effectively. The people to worry most about are those who have no choice but to take their chances:

    The doctors and nurses who were on duty when their hospitals declared an emergency would not have been allowed to leave at the end of their shift, at least not without losing their jobs and risking their careers. But they took an oath to care for their patients, and that’s what they’ll do, even though it means they can’t be with their own families or help them to evacuate. And now they’ll work around the clock, without relief. Pray for them.


    Posted by Sean at 08:03, August 28th, 2005

    Oh, I don’t know, Connie. I like your libertarian version, and the feminist one is an oldie but goodie, but–and I realize I’m biased–my favorite is still

    Q: How many gay men does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    A: What’s wrong with right here?

    No protection

    Posted by Sean at 07:56, August 28th, 2005

    Guys, do you have to put it that way?

    The British army joined in a gay pride march for the first time, an army spokesman said.

    “We don’t really care what sexual orientation you are if you want to come and join us in the army,” said Logistics Corps warrant officer Lutha Magloire, 39, part of the Army’s Diversity Action and Recruitment Team.

    “The army reflects society and we must recruit from all sections, so if there is prejudice in society it will be in the army also.

    “But the army can only get better the more it represents all the community.”

    I’m glad the armed forces in the UK are recruiting gays. Well, sort of. To me “gay-friendly” is a bit excessive. “If you can cut it and follow the rules, no one cares whether you’re gay” would be my version. But “the army can only get better the more it represents all the community” is a ridiculous statement. It goes beyond saying that the armed forces don’t want to shut out talented, qualified people. The army is not supposed to reflect civil society; it’s supposed to find ways to skim off the best people to defend the country from attack. Magloire’s comment may have just been tossed off, but it contributes to the impression that gays succeed in society when mere variety is valued over the ruthless pursuit of excellence. For the sake of the British, one can only hope that any gays who think the army’s gay-friendly recruiting policies mean they’re in for eased standards and hand-holding have those expectations summarily thrashed out of them when they hit training.

    Oh, and happy belated Pride Day to Manchester. (Some of my people are from Lancashire. Actually, a friend of mine is home in Manchester right now, too, I think–I’ll have to ask him whether he went to Pride.)

    (Via the Washington Blade)

    Sometimes the sun goes ’round the moon

    Posted by Sean at 07:26, August 28th, 2005

    Prime Minister Koizumi is taking a modest view of the significance of his efforts to privatize Japan Post:

    Prime Minister Koizumi has christened his recent dissolution of the House of Representatives the “Japan Post-Galileo Dissolution,” borrowing the name of Galileo Galilei, the Italian physicist who advanced the idea that the Earth was not the center of the universe.

    In response, Shizuka Kamei, a member of the group of Representatives who banded together to vote against the Japan Post privatization bill, shot back, “That guy? He’s the Ptolemaic!” What do Galileo scholars think about all of this?

    “As a researcher, I wouldn’t trot out Galileo comparisons too lightly–that’s my unvarnished opinion,” said Professor Ichiro Tanaka, a science and technology historian at in the graduate department of natural science research at Kanazawa University and author of Galileo.

    The Japanese words here, incidentally, are 地動説 (chidousetsu: “Earth” + “moves” + “argument” –> “heliocentric theory”) and 天動説 (tendousetu: “sky” + “moves” + “argument” –> “geocentric theory”).

    So–is Koizumi about to be excommunicated? Whatever outcome you want from the election, you can, of course, find a poll that supports it. The Yomiuri has this summary of where things stand at this point, which should cheer supporters of the Koizumi cabinet:

    “If the LDP continues to do well, we might well end up with fewer than 150 seats out of a total 480,” a senior DPJ member said.

    “The LDP’s divisions over postal reform, led us to believe we were on the eve of grabbing power. But if we lose by a big margin this election, it’ll be us, not them, that will be split,” he admitted.

    The DPJ’s fate, as in previous elections, is believed to lie with floating voters. Since the party has long depended on them, DPJ members know that such voters are fickle at best.

    Koizumi and the LDP have insisted postal reform is the dominant campaign issue. “We’d like to get pensions back into the limelight. We’ll ask people, ‘Which is more important, postal services or pensions?’ and then win back their attention and support,” a senior DPJ member said.

    A Yomiuri Shimbun poll Friday found the DPJ had an edge of nearly three percentage points over the LDP among floating voters.

    Asked which party they would vote in the election, 11.5 percent of those with no party affiliation said they would vote for the DPJ while 9.2 percent said they would vote for the LDP.

    In a Yomiuri survey conducted on Aug. 9, the DPJ was ahead of the LDP by 10.9 percent to 5.6 percent. But the most recent poll, released on Aug. 19, found the LDP ahead of DPJ, 12.5 percent to 11.2 percent.

    Of course, there are still two weeks until the election, so there will be plenty more blustering and polling between now and then.

    It’s interesting that that DPJ guy was talking about potential rifts in his own party. Just today there was this exchange:

    LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe said that, assuming the ruling coalition maintained its majority in the House of Representatives, “there will inevitably be a major shift in the political landscape, given that there are many in the DPJ who also support Japan Post privatization.” He indicated that his perception was that such developments could cause the DPJ to split. Responding, DPJ leader Katsuya Okada countered, “That’s an extremely rude thing to say. Impossible!”

    The DPJ also pointed out, naturally, that the LDP also has members who didn’t go along party lines.

    Much is being made of the fact that the LDP is focusing obsessively on Japan Post privatization, with the opposition parties figuring they can use it to their advantage and win voters over by shifting the discussion to other issues. Perhaps. Not all of Koizumi’s policies have been popular, and the communists and social democrats, for example, are trying to capitalize on the possibility that Article 9 of the constitution could be amended to allow for collective self-defense and on the increasing number of workers without positions as regular company employees.

    The LDP has some potential tricks up its sleeve, though. It’s use of “assassin” candidates is described by the Mainichi here:

    The LDP is reportedly planning to place its high profile candidates, referred to in Japanese as “shikaku,” or “assassins,” high on the party’s proportional representation list, basically ensuring them victory in the election.

    But candidates standing for re-election to the Lower House, who are likely to face a tough battle in the election, are complaining that the preferential treatment of such candidates is unfair.

    The LDP has pitted the high-profile candidates against rival candidates opposed to the postal privatization bills promoted by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

    The party’s proportional representation list will be released on Aug. 29. If the “assassins” are placed high on the list as expected, the party’s leadership is likely to come under fire from party members seeking re-election.

    There have been plenty of complaints that the LDP’s funkier high-profile candidates are inexperienced politically; pushing them to the top of the proportional representation roster (the list of districts is here in Japanese, BTW) is seen as a kick in the teeth to party loyalists who supported Japan Post privatization but may not win seats in their individual districts. The proportional representation list is to be released tomorrow, so we’ll see what it looks like.

    BTW, proportional representation, for those who find the Mainichi explanation confusing, involves setting aside 180 lower house seats and 98 upper house seats to be divided among 11 zones (large regions of Japan such as Hokkaido, Tohoku, and Tokyo) rather than little individual districts. Voters select a party to get the proportional representation seats for their zones; each party gets the same proportion of seats as it got votes. The idea is to keep parties that have significant support but didn’t win any seats with individual candidates from being shut out of the Diet entirely.


    Posted by Sean at 01:36, August 28th, 2005

    Atsushi and I were able to get together every two weekends for most of the summer until this month. I haven’t seen him for three weeks, so I’m getting kind of gretzy–especially because he’s working all through this weekend, and I can tell he’s stressed and tired and can’t do anything about it.

    My own travails this weekend are more annoying than stressful. Funny how it’s not listed on the reference calendar of my datebook, but today is apparently Retailers Make Sean Feel Lazy Day. The giggly, flirtatious girls behind the counter at Dean & Deluca said, “We haven’t seen you in that shirt lately,” which struck me as a sign that maybe I’m not cooking for myself quite often enough. It’s not mere sloth–really it isn’t. For one thing, with the heat, it’s hard to take frozen homemade food in to the office without having it drip water all over the place. For another, Japanese apartments aren’t wired to allow you to use all your appliances at one time. In our place, either the air conditioner or the microwave/oven is on…but not both, unless you want to trip the breaker. Thankfully, the weather has a hint of fall around the edges. The sun today is strong, but it doesn’t stab at you the way it did up until last week or so. In a few weeks, I won’t need to choose whether to make food from scratch or avoid death from heatstroke. And anyway, the Dean & Deluca girls didn’t mean any harm.

    When I went to get my watch battery changed, on the other hand, the guy did adopt a frank scolding tone–you know how people who work with gadgets can never seem to accept that we laypeople use them hard?–to inform me that there was condensation under the crystal, which I apparently caused by getting the watch wet. I am guilty of watch abuse and was given to understand by his expression that I was just lucky he didn’t call Child and Family Services on me. “Moisture can get in around the battery cover,” he snapped, oblivious to the fact that just above the battery cover was where the case was stamped “WATER RESISTANT.” I mean, it’s not as if I’d ever turned a firehose on the thing–I just don’t take it off before I do the dishes.

    Of course, now that I’ve reverted to being a lazy bachelor who subsists on take-out, there aren’t a lot of dishes to do. Luckily for me, Atsushi’s coming home this coming Saturday, which should stop my downward slide before I start, like, getting fat and leaving laundry on the floor and stuff.

    Social engineering

    Posted by Sean at 10:32, August 26th, 2005

    Romeo Mike has two great posts up this week. The more general one is about how movements for tolerance mutated into political correctness. I’m going to zero in on the gay content–go figure–but there’s a lot more to it:

    I never wanted anything more out of my gay rights than to not be arrested for it. I was perfectly aware that my dynamics were different from the mainstream, so why should a tail wag the dog. Yet now society itself is being dismantled to accommodate a few hundred people who demand to have the same everything, even when so much of it has to be artificially constructed, and risks affecting essential social fabric.

    Well, societies do evolve. The decriminalization of homosexual conduct has itself certainly been a change in the social fabric, after all–however innocuous those of us with the most to gain by it may find it. And entitlement-mindedness did not originate with gays; it’s the way politics works nowadays. Furthermore, just about everyone who espouses “traditional values” is picking and choosing customs from the past that he deems worth reviving or updating, and human institutions are by definition artificial constructs. Even so, none of that vitiates the point that fecklessly restructuring long-standing institutions to serve political ends that only emerged a decade or two ago is ill-advised. Not even all gay activists can agree on why gay marriage, as opposed to the other potential ways gay unions might be recognized, is the only way to go. The reasons most frequently and loudly offered appear to center on “respect” and “dignity,” which it’s dangerous for free people to expect the government to confer on them.

    About feminism, RM (I hope he doesn’t mind my calling him that; I am certainly not going to refer to him as “Romeo”) says,

    Though males had to work to support their families, feminists co-opted work as an equality issue. Now, child-rearing is disdained by many women who identify their life purpose by labouring for their employer. For many, children aren’t part of the equation anymore, even though they still mate. Yet the subsequent rise in mean income forced up the cost of living so now women have no choice but to work, child or not. Surely, on their death beds their last words will be,”I can rest now knowing my life’s purpose was to make profits for my boss.”

    Again, I’m with RM overall. Encouraging people to think of their career as their primary source of fulfillment (or even intellectual stimulation) works against their instincts and the good of their children–no argument here. At the same time, let’s not lose sight of a couple of things. For one, while Australia has a different tax system and welfare state from the US, my understanding from Australian friends is pretty much that the two countries are not much different in this respect: families with children can make it with one income if they’re willing to forgo the frills of full-on bourgeois living.

    For another, not everyone is cut out for child-rearing. We are a complex civilization with many important artifacts to maintain and develop for future generations, and there’s no shame in devoting yourself full-time to such tasks. The problem is that everyone–including the vast majority who will eventually become parents–has been encouraged to develop in a way that’s at odds with good parenting, not that women who aren’t the mothering type are now free to pursue careers.

    The big problem is mouthing abstract bromides about “diversity” while taking concrete steps to shoehorn people into politically-approved personality and behavioral types. RM tackles that in the other post, coming up with a useful neologism:

    mis.het.eur.andry; from misandry, hatred of men + het, heterosexual + eur, euro

    “denigration of straight white male/s under the guise of promoting anti-patriarchal ideology.”

    The whole mentality of seeing different ways of life as some kind of rebuke directed at your own is something I’ve never understood. If you have to defang people’s personalities in order to be able to deal with them comfortably, there’s something wrong with your spine. Liberal societies nurture strong, combative personalities and will always have their share of friction. Feminists and gay activists who expect us to make lasting gains that are woven into society instead of being appliqueed onto it need to see the advantage there. Opposition doesn’t just tear you down, it also shows you where your own arguments have flaws so you can improve them.