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    Posted by Sean at 03:56, February 13th, 2006

    Okay, I’m willing to go after critics of Japan’s whaling industry research program when they get opportunistic and start slinging around WWII analogies, but come on here:

    The government wants the public to eat more whale meat to reduce the bloated stockpile and to prevent a rise in international criticism against Japan’s “research whaling” program.

    The excess stock stems from Japan’s expanded catch of whales in the name of research, coupled with sluggish demand among consumers for the meat.

    Fisheries Agency officials say the mounting stockpile could fuel anti-whaling nations’ arguments that Japan should reduce the number of whales it hunts or terminate the whaling program altogether.

    The Fisheries Agency, which does not want to cut back on its research whaling, will develop new sales channels and reduce prices to lift consumption of whale meat, the officials said.

    “There are still a large number of consumers who want to eat whale meat,” said an agency official. “If we only improve how to sell the product, the stock will rapidly decrease.”

    According to agency officials, whale meat is difficult to sell at major supermarket chains because those stores deal only with products of a certain quantity.

    The whale meat supply, although growing, is still smaller than those of other marine products.

    If Japan wants to argue that the IWC has been taken over by hard-core environmentalists who will find ways to keep the moratorium on commercial whaling in place even if whales overrun the planet, fine. That wouldn’t be hard to believe. If it’s going to exploit some loophole that allows whales to be culled for research, and do so in order to make a point by being perfectly upfront about the fact that it’s hunting whales, also…well, not fine, perhaps, but possibly a gesture that makes a point that can’t be made any other way.

    However, the idea that it’s Japanese consumers’ job to eat more whale meat to cover the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries’s ass when it overhunts is just nuts. If all those whales were necessary for research, then the fact that people aren’t eating them may be kind of too bad, but it’s incidental. If the idea is to keep the Japanese from being deprived of a traditional marine product, then it’s clearly working, but there’s no point in oversupply. And there’s no reason Japan shouldn’t take criticism for misusing a natural resource that isn’t obtained within its own territory.

    Defense Agency to remain Defense Agency

    Posted by Sean at 03:38, February 13th, 2006

    The proposal to elevate the Japan Defense Agency to ministry level will not be presented to the Diet during this session:

    Within the government and the ruling coalition, there is a growing perception that it is necessary to conduct more extensive inquiries into the collusion scandal revolving around procurement at the Defense Facilities Administration Agency and to see the matter through to discussion in the Diet.

    Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi made a statement about the bill to elevate the JDA to ministerial status at noon on 13 February: “We’re cooperating in the LDP and the Komeito and want to keep an eye on the situation. It’s not a discussion to have in haste or in a panic.” He indicated that he is not adamant about submitting the bill during this Diet session. He was responding to a question from the press corp at the Prime Minister’s residence. Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe also related at a morning press conference that “we want to continue to examine, as the government, how the collaboration between the ruling parties should be organized.”

    Defense certainly warrants a body at the highest level of government operations, but I can see the point that the last thing Japan needs is yet another ministry that engages in bid-rigging and revolving-door shenanigans.


    Posted by Sean at 14:29, February 11th, 2006

    Despite the best efforts of his dumb-ass of a boyfriend, Atsushi managed to receive an early box of cookies for Valentine’s Day today. They were, to hear him tell, very good. Glad to hear it. Still not sure why he keeps that idiot guy around, though.

    This is your chance to shine

    Posted by Sean at 05:32, February 11th, 2006

    Madonna, darling, you really need to listen to Heather at Go Fug Yourself. She’s only looking after your best interests.

    I mean, I gotta hand it to you–photo comparisons show you’ve had work done, but you clearly haven’t had your eyebrows jerked up two inches or gotten your doctor to immobilize your entire face with botox or collagened your lips to dirigible proportions. Good on you for that.

    But from the looks of things, that bod of yours has the same fat content as a Snackwells cookie. It’s just about as appetizing, too. Middle-aged beauty just isn’t the same as 20s beauty, and you (and quite a few of your gay fans around your age) really could stand to remember that every now and then. Guys in their late 40s who want to maintain the granite six-pack they’ve had for the last two decades can often do it with martial discipline and a little lipo; but the grain of their skin is different, and it no longer hugs their muscles the same way. When they relax into being a little fleshier and more substantive, middle-aged guys stay yummy and touchable-looking. When they avoid adipose cells like the Plague, they look as if they’d starved themselves to vanishing point and been reupholstered in easy-care vinyl. It’s depressing to see.

    Oops, imagine that. I got derailed into talking about male sexiness. Anyway, back to the issue at hand: Madge, that last video proved to us that you can still fold yourself up like a contortionist and dance around frantically without losing your breath. The point is made. You’ve impressed your fans once again. Now, if you actually want to make us happy, you might consider going back to making videos that are actually beautiful to look at. Maybe you could come up with a few ideas if you took a day off from the gym and kicked back a little.


    Posted by Sean at 07:40, February 10th, 2006

    What I learned from The Independent today:

    Apparently, Tracey Emin’s fifteen minutes aren’t blessedly over as I’d thought. Sheesh.

    There’s also this (via Gay News and leading to an interview that’s summarized in the original publication here) a piece on a former minister under the conservative UK administrations in the ’80s:

    Francis Maude, the chairman of the Conservative Party, has said that the homophobic attitude of the Thatcher government contributed to the death of his brother from Aids.

    Mr Maude, who served as a minister under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said he regretted voting for the now-repealed Section 28, which banned councils from promoting homosexuality. [He explains a little further later on: “Some local authorities were actively promoting homosexuality to school children at a time when gay sex under the age of 21 was illegal.”–SRK] “In hindsight a mistake, I voted for it, I was a minister,” he said.

    “The gay scene in London in the 1980s was quite aggressively promiscuous and I think if society generally and the government I served in had been more willing to recognise gay people then there would have been less of that problem.”

    He added: “A lot of people like my brother would not have succumbed to HIV and lost their lives.”

    I’m always of two minds when people say stuff like this. On the one hand, yes, people whose moral code says that gays should be outcasts have to behave as they believe, but then they’re not exactly in a position to point to statistics about self-destructive behavior and trumpet that they show something inherently screwed-up about homosexuality. Cutting people off from civilizing institutions and social structures is hardly a way to find out whether they’re capable of civilized behavior.

    On the other…Maude is a powerful politician, not just a prominent private citizen who misses his brother, and I wish politicians were able to display more of a sense of context about these things. We’re talking about the aftermath of the Sexual Revolution, the promiscuity of which caused plenty of problems for straight people, too, despite their being accepted by society. Besides which, immoderate behavior is hardly an inevitable response to being reviled–whatever happened to “living well is the best revenge”? I want more acceptance of gays, obviously, and I find Maude’s change of heart on the topic very moving. It’s just that using AIDS to argue for it always seems to have, hovering in there somwhere, an implication that straight people need to be especially nurturing and gentle toward us because, you know, look what we went and did when they weren’t the last time. That’s not the way you talk about people you regard as adults and equals.

    Yeah, I wanna be the queen of the USA / You could send me roses every other day

    Posted by Sean at 01:03, February 10th, 2006

    Another Gay Republican is back to blogging interestingly about politics and, more importantly, has a clean-lined new site design. (Why are the boys in the back snickering about my priorities? Think about it: Two hundred years from now, will people still care whether some stadium was built in DC? Will they still care which shades of red and blue make the most pleasing combination against a dead-white background? Exactly. See how easy rational thought is when you just give it a little effort? Now stop with the sassing; you’re distracting me.)

    Not every gay guy who’s returning to modified versions of old behaviors is getting on my good side by doing it, unfortunately. I ran into a casual friend for the first time in months a few nights ago. As I always do when I meet guys who were single the last time I saw them and have had time to do something about it, I gave him the smirk and the question: “So, anything good to report?”

    When will I ever learn? Kaz is not, after all, an unknown hazard. He’s still getting over a man he was dating who ultimately decided that he was serious about someone else. The relationship lasted three-ish months and was broken off a year and a half ago.

    No, I didn’t accidentally reverse those numbers. Dude is now, with a shameless get-down-in-it moroseness that would embarrass Eeyore, into his eighteenth month of self-pity over a dating relationship that barely survived a financial quarter. So there I was last night, once again looking on in sympathy as eyes teared up and lines of the “I just still…you know?” variety were huskily uttered. What made it especially trying was that this week, a dear friend suffered the rather brutal break-up of a live-in relationship of several years. While he’s carrying it like a gentleman, he’s still in the very early raw stage when you lean on your buddies. Therefore, the weapons in my Gay Big Bro arsenal are kind of in use right now and not really available for people whose major problem is that they failed to notice that they flew over the International Get a Grip Line several months ago.

    But even without that unfortunate contrast, I mean, hello? You can’t help how hard and fast you fall. We all get the chance to be humiliated by unrequited desire. You give yourself time to regain your self-discipline. Then you exercise it, by faking sociability and an interest in flirting until the real thing comes back. It never works perfectly, at least at first, but it has to be better than spending 600% longer mourning a relationship than you did enjoying it. Better for yourself and, for the love of Cole Porter, those around you.

    Added on 12 February: Now that I think about it, I believe Deborah Harry sings that second line in the conditional mood.

    Cabinet approves health care reform bill

    Posted by Sean at 00:36, February 10th, 2006

    Discussion in the Diet is beginning over how to reform the health-care system. Japanese society, in case you’ve just emerged from two decades in a cave and haven’t seen this topic beaten to death yet, is aging. The cost structures of the social welfare programs need to be changed, but as with everything else, there are a lot of people who make out well by the current system and will resist changing it. Many of them are powerful middle-aged bureaucrats who are themselves approaching old age rapidly.

    The [Koizumi] government, in a cabinet session on the morning of 10 February, approved a health care system reform bill the primary goal of which is to hold down health care costs, which have been increasing as society ages. The bill will be submitted to the Diet within the day. The bill incorporates such proposals as a phased-in increase, to begin in October, in the health care fees paid by the elderly and the restructuring of [national] health insurance.

    If the bill is enacted, cash register payments [that is, the amount you pay on the way out of the doctor’s office, assessed as a percentage of the total tab] for high-income persons of at least 70 years of age will increase. You’re designated high-income if your annual household income is over about US $55000. Of course, the bill doesn’t seem to address systemic inefficiencies that encourage over-subscription–notably the practice of drawing out treatment for a relatively simple problem over several visits, after the fashion of a novel published serially. Or the effects of overweening bureaucracy.

    How to celebrate Valentine’s Day the Sean Way™

    Posted by Sean at 08:44, February 8th, 2006

    If you tend to approach the tasks of daily life with a normal degree of competence, the steps below may not make any sense unless you get a trusted friend to whack you in the head real good with a 2X4. If they still don’t make sense, you may need another whack. If you try a third whack and end up brain dead, be sure to contact me, because we will then clearly be able to communicate as equals.

    1. Decide under the influence of no-mercy Japanese commercialism that, even though you don’t give a fig about Valentine’s Day, it would be nice to surprise your Darling Longsuffering Boyfriend with a treat.

    2. Order early enough not to rouse suspicions of possibly nosy concierge at DLB’s apartment building that package is connected with Valentine’s Day.
    3. Go to Dean and Deluca website and locate suitable cookies.
    4. Carefully type in your address for billing.
    5. Carefully type in DLB’s address for shipping.
    6. Submit information.
    7. Get error message telling you that you ignored (clearly visible) instructions to make all characters in addresses full-width and not half-width characters.
    8. Correct numbers.
    9. Resubmit information, having failed to notice that radio button for recipient and shipping address is still set to default of “Same as billing.”
    10. Receive notice that order has been shipped.
    11. Reward self for thinking ahead, for once, with slice of lemon poppyseed cake.
    12. Receive notice from delivery service that package is waiting in parcel locker of your own apartment complex.
    13. Retrieve package to find cookies intended for DLB.
    14. Idly wish there were a way to punish oneself for stupidity by uneating cake.
    15. Put cookies on counter and figure you can express mail them to DLB yourself next day.
    16. Look thoughtfully at cookies each time you pass counter on way to bathroom or kitchen.
    17. No, make that covetously. Look covetously at cookies each time you pass counter.
    18. Figure the hell with it and open cookies. Eat four with Murder, She Wrote.
    19. Vaguely think about repackaging rest of cookies in order to disguise half-goneness before sending to DLB. Rationalize that he wouldn’t have liked all the girly-girl packaging stuff anyway and might not have been able to finish cookies by expiration date.
    20. Figure the double-hell with it and eat rest of cookies with blogreading, resolving to order another package next day.
    21. Congratulate self for having chosen cookies that turned out to be seriously yummy.
    22. Order another package of cookies next day, this time taking precaution of reading all directions as you go.
    23. Well, except for the part about making all characters full width before submitting information.
    24. Punch self in chest as punishment for not being able to remember, after nine years in Japan, that you need to read whether full-width or half-width characters are called for on an on-line form.
    25. Strip off T-shirt and look in panic at chest to make sure self-punishment has not produced unattractive bruise.
    26. Submit information by jamming finger into Enter key, which has served you faithfully while you told it to do dumb things.
    27. Apologize to Enter key.
    28. Be grateful you have blog that’s read faithfully by DLB so that you can tell him you’ve done something idiotic again without actually having to, you know, tell him.
    29. Look forlornly at tea and wish you’d saved one or two cookies.

    Seismic shifts (or not) in Japan

    Posted by Sean at 00:34, February 8th, 2006

    A case of earthquake resistance fakery not perpetrated by Aneha (story so far as I’ve kept track) has surfaced:

    The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport disclosed on 8 February that it had confirmed a case of fraud related to structural calculations for three apartment complexes in Fukuoka City; the calculations had been contracted out to a design firm that was not part of Aneha Architecture and Design. The firm in question is Something (Fukuoka Prefecture; closed for business in 2002), and the construction firm for all affected buildings was Kimura Construction (Yashiro City, Kumamoto Prefecture; now in bankruptcy proceedings). This is the first case of such fraud that has come to light that did not involve former first-class architect Hideji Aneha.


    Princess Kiko, the wife of the current Emperor and Empress’s second son Fumihito, is pregnant with her third child. The Nikkei seems to think it newsworthy that the British press is going bananas over the news–maybe there’s some sort of constitutional monarchy kinship thing going here? Anyway, the news feeds into the controversy over possible female succession that’s been percolating here:

    News of a new member of the imperial family comes as the government is moving to revise the Imperial House Law to allow females and their descendants to ascend the Chrysanthemum throne.

    However, conservative Diet members, especially those in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, oppose Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s stated intention to pass the revision during the current Diet session.

    No boy has been born in the imperial family since Fumihito in 1965.

    If the emperor’s next grandchild is a boy, he would be third in line to the throne under the current Imperial House Law.

    The English Asahi has another article specifically about the move to change the rules of successsion here. Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, his much put-upon wife, have managed to produce a daughter, but she’s ineligible to become empress.


    I was hoping there would be something deliciously inflammatory to report from the Japan-DPRK summit this week. (Well, stopping short of “We’re sending missiles to Tokyo, Insular Devils!”) No such luck. The talks ended today. The result? Negotiations must continue. Oh, okay:

    Japan and North Korea concluded their five-day schedule of talks on 8 February with a general meeting at a hotel in Beijing. Japan once again conveyed that its fundamental approach is that “until the issues of the 1970s abductions of Japanese citizens and of the DPRK’s nuclear program and long-range missiles are resolved, there will be no normalization of relations.” There was no progress in concrete terms. Both parties affirmed that parallel talks will continue on three major themes: normalization of relations, Japanese abductees, and North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

    Japan doubts the DPRK’s sincerity. The DPRK returns the compliment.


    As always, they may (or may not) be contemplating increasing the consumption tax (or at least changing it in what might possibly be deemed a non-negative, non-zero direction). Yeah, I know–blah, blah, blah. What’s semi-interesting is that the DPJ seems to have wheeled Katsuya Okada out of the morgue to comment:

    The Prime Minister indicated that he is of the opinion that continuing reforms will be necessary even after [current] goals will have been achieved, stating, “It cannot be said that once the primary balance is in the black, financial restructuring is finished.” Okada proposed corrections, stating, “We must [first] think about what our next goals will be,” and ending with, “Those in positions of authority at that point in time will have to think about them.”

    That part of the back-and-forth, while not very interesting in and of itself, is important because Koizumi has made it clear that he expects his followers (called the “Post-Koizumi” government, in what has become a tediously over-repeated locution) to continue his program of reforms, by implication, to his liking. No one, either within the ruling coalition or in the opposition, is certain right now how well Koizumi will actually be able to use his present power to exert influence on future administrations.

    And are you here when I hold you? / I wonder…I wonder….

    Posted by Sean at 05:46, February 7th, 2006

    Rondi Adamson has seen Guess Which Movie and offers this:

    But…what struck me–and admittedly, I’m seeing this from the narrow and exasperated point of view of a single woman in the midst of dating horrors–was that this movie showed how men are big, fat f*&^wits even in gay relationships!

    It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for even smart straight people to be hoodwinked into believing that gay male relationships must be easier to navigate because two men are somehow on the same wavelength in ways that men and women are not. One hates to disabuse people of fantasies in which they’re clearly deeply invested, but…well, no. Sorry. How representative I am I cannot tell, but face-offs over the course of my own relationship history have frequently centered around the following lines (and no, I’m not going to tell you in which cases I was the deliverer vs. the deliveree):

    • “Dammit, GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME! Every time we start having a discussion about something that I think MATTERS, you think you can avoid the subject by coming on to me.”

    • “Why are you so afraid to express your feelings?”
    • “I just vacuumed the floor on Friday, and it’s clean enough for me. If YOU want it kept in a constant state of perfect dustlessness, why don’t you vacuum it yourself?”
    • “Are you going out of your way to humiliate me in public? … Oh, don’t give me that! You were flirting with that waiter and the whole table knew it!”
    • “I don’t think you’re the kind of guy who’s ready for commitment yet.”
    • “Do you think I’m getting fat?”
    • “Okay, look–here is a pen, and here is a piece of paper, and here is what you are going to do for me: You are going to write down all these little rules–I have to kiss you goodbye every time you leave the house, I have to call you if I’m going to be more than 13.5 minutes later than usual getting home, and I have to say “I love you” in three different major ancient and modern world languages at breakfast every freaking third Thursday. Write them all down. I will memorize them. I will follow them. But stop getting all pissy at me for not doing what you want when I can’t figure it out and you won’t TELL ME what the hell it is!”

    Now, does that mean the dynamic is the same as in straight relationships? Certainly not. We don’t have to factor in the possibility of pregnancy or, in most places, marriage. And while in straight relationships I gather that the person who wants everything clean is also statistically more likely to be the one who wants to talk about feelings, things don’t cluster that way for gay guys. (The biggest crybaby I ever dated was a dockworker who appeared to be wholly innocent of the knowledge that it was possible to put things on any horizontal surface other than the floor.)

    Anyway, my point is that in just about any relationship, one partner is more demonstrative than the other, or wants to have sex more often than the other, or is less inclined to talk through problems than to think through them silently, or what have you. Who’s being the big, fat f*&^wit usually varies by situation; it’s not always the one who’s acting more stereotypically male.

    Added on 9 February: Okay, there seems to be some unwritten rule that commenters named John have to make remarks about the vacuuming thing. It’s slightly OT, I guess, but let me just note two things.

    One is–and I know no one’s going to be inclined to believe this, but I hope everyone here trusts my honesty–that my partner at the time was the one who was spazzing about the floors. Yes, I’m serious. I clean scrupulously, but not even in particulate-matter-rich Tokyo does the floor of a childless, petless household need to be vacuumed once every three days. I mean sure, do some spot-cleaning with the dustpan or one of those sticky roller things–I do that myself. But mewl at me that it’s my turn to do the full-on move-the-furniture-and-get-out-the-big-vacu-suck-machine maneuver when one of the two or three television shows I actually like to watch is on? No.

    The other is, John M. poignantly says, “I try and I try but I just can’t see the dirt….” Much as I appreciate the fact that this soul cry represents the sincere desire to reform, I feel obliged to point out that it gets things exactly backwards. You don’t notice the dirt. You notice the absence of clean. Once you can actually see dirt, you’ve reached the point at which getting everything ship-shape is going to be a major project. What you need to look for is the slightly peaked look that the tabletops and upholstery get when they have an invisible layer of dust dulling them up. When things are at that point, you can get them back in order–lovely sparkling, candid order–by going over every surface once and relatively lightly.