• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post

    There’s a dark secret in me

    Posted by Sean at 01:48, September 30th, 2005

    Ghost of a Flea reports that Alice Cooper knows a good diva when he hears one. That’s so sweet.

    Apples and oranges

    Posted by Sean at 00:51, September 30th, 2005

    Jon Henke has a post up at Q and O with a roundup of links to liberal blogger innuendo about David Dreier’s sexuality. Now that Dreier hasn’t been made acting Majority Leader, I suppose it doesn’t matter all that much, except as a reminder that wacko leftists have a remarkably unprincipled approach to the right to privacy.

    However, one of the commenters mentioned a parallel with James McGreevey that I don’t think holds up under scrutiny:

    Like McGreevey, it’s not a matter of who he is sleeping with, but rather that he expects the taypapers to pay that person’s salary.

    Whoa. McGreevey didn’t just have a boyfriend on the payroll. McGreevey hired a counterterrorism chief who had no relevant experience and (being a foreign national) couldn’t get security clearance for high-level meetings. McGreevey tried to pressure an unwilling employee into a sexual relationship. McGreevey staged his coming out to deflect attention from brewing corruption scandals–thus becoming perhaps the only gay person in history to come out so he could live less honestly. McGreevey’s actions screwed over his constituents and slapped other out gay men and women in the face. (Of course, you wouldn’t know that from the loathsome flattery he’s gotten from gay groups. Even Jonathan Rauch was strangely muted in his response.)

    I haven’t seen anything to indicate that Dreier’s chief of staff is being paid for a job he’s not doing, or that the congressman himself has used his power to strongarm guys into sleeping with him. Unless he’s committing some kind of crime, he gets to be gay as he sees fit, just like the rest of us. No comparison with McGreevey.

    Happy anniversary, Pryhills!

    Posted by Sean at 10:04, September 29th, 2005

    Happy anniversary, Pryhills! Many more to you.


    Posted by Sean at 01:46, September 29th, 2005

    This week’s column by the always-acute Anne Applebaum is even more deadly than usual:

    In its scale and sheer disregard for common sense, the Louisiana proposal breaks new ground. But I don’t want to single out Louisiana: After all, the state’s representatives are acting logically, even if they aren’t spending logically. They are playing by the rules of the only system for distributing federal funds that there is, and that system allocates money not according to the dictates of logic, but to the demands of politics and patronage.

    Nor does this logic apply only to obvious boondoggles such as federal transportation spending, the last $286 billion tranche of which funded Virginia horse trails, Vermont snowmobile trails, a couple of “bridges to nowhere” in rural Alaska and decorative trees for a California freeway named after Ronald Reagan (a president who once vetoed a transportation bill because it contained too much pork). On the contrary, this logic applies even to things we supposedly consider important, such as homeland security. Because neither the administration nor Congress is prepared to do an honest risk assessment, and because no one dares say that there are states at almost no risk of terrorist attack, a good chunk of homeland security funding is distributed according to formulas that give minimum amounts to every state. The inevitable result: In 2004 the residents of Wyoming received, per capita, seven times more money for first responders than the residents of New York City.

    Unfortunately, I can’t identify the buddy who sent it to me–if his unanimously leftist colleagues found out he was communicating with libertarians, they might tar and feather him–but I think I can get away with quoting his parting shot: “I am so glad to live in a democracy that is free from the pork and corruption of Japan’s… (laughing so hard I am crying, or would that be vice versa?).” Uh-huh. The only reason we Americans living in Japan can get away with smirking at the degree of pork-barrel transport and construction spending here is that the federal ministries are so unbelievably profligate they make Washington look frugal by comparison.

    As Applebaum says, most people don’t get too exercised over waste on infrastructure because it’s not a very sexy topic. (Prime Minister Koizumi’s push for Japan Post privatization ran into this problem, too–how many citizens want to sit around talking about the financial structure of the postal service?) There’s also the fact that things actually do get built. It’s hard to arouse voters’ ire over poor allocation and inefficient use of resources because those problems are not as easily visible as roads and bridges that don’t materialize. And even boondoggles–perhaps especially boondoggles–provide employment.

    Applebaum’s suggestion is this:

    But maybe at least it is time for a change of terminology. After all, taking $200 million of public money to build a bridge, name it after yourself and get reelected isn’t merely “pork.” Demanding $250 billion of public money for your hurricane-damaged state–in the hope that voters will ignore all the mistakes you made before the hurricane struck–isn’t just “waste” either. As I say, corruption comes in many forms. But whatever form it comes in, it will be easier for voters to identify if it’s called by its true name.

    In an age in which there are news agencies that consider it an affront to call terrorists “terrorists,” I’m not sure the idea will catch on. It’s a good one, though.

    Added at 21:24: Virginia Postrel points out that there are non-infrastructure pork provisions that would be much more useful to cut if we meant business about curbing spending. Alex Kerr made a pertinent point a few years ago–though he was speaking of Japan and in a slightly different context:

    At a bank in Tokyo, you can make 10 plus 10 equal 30 if you like–but somewhere far away, at a pension fund in Osaka, for example, it may be that 10 plus 10 will now equal only 15. Or even farther away, implications of this equation may require that a stretch of seashore in Hokkaido must be cemented over.

    He was speaking of the shell game Japan plays that makes it seem to defy economic laws that obtain elsewhere, but I think he also illustrated one of the reasons it’s hard to get people to think of government spending in big, big, big Jonathan Rauch terms: the different parts of the machine don’t seem to be related to each other. How agricultural subsidies could have implications for homeland security resources, say, is (understandably) not something most people give a lot of thought to. With infrastructure spending, on the other hand, there’s a direct, vivid connection to a current news story with lots of human interest angles. That doesn’t mean that people will necessarily be spurred by Hurricane Katrina to pressure their congresscritters to rein it in a bit, but that seems to be the best hope.

    Secret gardens

    Posted by Sean at 09:29, September 28th, 2005

    Eric and I had an e-mail exchange that I’d like to quote but can’t precisely because it was on the subject that ended up in this recent post of his:

    I think that one of the reasons so many bloggers are drawn to this medium is that in too many ways, America has become a country in which people are afraid to say what they think. Blogging gives a voice (if not a loudspeaker) to those who’d normally be silent, but the downside is that it gives them an opportunity to be heard by the very people who’d normally intimidate them into silence. I think there are people who’ve taken up blogging precisely because thoughts like “I could never say this at work!” or “You just can’t discuss issues like this in public!” ran through their minds.

    Every so often, I’ll get an e-mail to the effect of “Thanks for being so outspoken about [gay/Japan] stuff,” and my reaction is to the effect of “Oh, honey, if you only knew!” Since I write under my own name, I have to use content and tone that are compatible with my job, but that doesn’t bother me. It’s not as if people who try to make their points forcefully but civilly were overrepresented in the public discourse or anything. I also have a few teenaged readers and try to keep my occasional bawdiness mild and good-humored, the better to serve as a thrilling contrast with the latest Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson video.


    Of course, not every e-mail is an overblown compliment. I won’t post things from people who obviously want to remain anonymous, but I don’t see why I shouldn’t address the topic raised:

    The idea that, because I’m happy and in a settled, sustaining relationship at 33, coming out must have been a breeze for me is an extraordinarily naive one. Coming out reorders your whole view of the world and where you belong in it; anyone going through such an experience is bound to have trouble navigating it. I needed people to cut me some slack without giving up on me altogether, and fortunately, I had friends who were willing to do exactly that. Basically honorable people sometimes do pained, impulsive, nasty things in moments of weakness. That’s not to excuse them, only to say that they shouldn’t be summarily written off.

    But for some people, explaining away their bad behavior as the fault of social prejudice gets to be habit-forming, and if they’re going to make self-justifying statements in public, I think those statements deserve to be challenged.


    Posted by Sean at 22:51, September 27th, 2005

    Good news: Japan can stop worrying about the abductee issue, because the UN has totally told North Korea that it needs to cut it out with the human rights abuses and stuff:

    On 27 September, UN Secretary General Annan released a report on humanitarian issues in North Korea and indicated that, in addition to engaging in torture and forced labor, the country was also suffering serious food shortages. About the issue of abducted Japanese nationals, he declared that survivors “must be returned to Japan both swiftly and safely.”

    The report is 22 pages in all and contains 68 items. About the treatment meted out to citizens who are regarded as criminals by the state, it says, “forced labor is practiced on a large scale.” It went on to cite further examples [of problems]: “When a given person is punished for crimes related to politics or ideology, his or her family also becomes a target for punishment.”

    North Korea’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs met with Annan last week, stressing that the food situation has improved; he sought a cessation of humanitarian aid and cooperation in development projects. However, the new UN report states that aid is [still] necessary, and says, regarding the way support is being used, that “effective monitoring that will increase transparency” is vitally important.

    Well, there you go. Problem solved. And some people complain that Japan gets no return on its hefty contributions to the UN!

    Candy everybody wants

    Posted by Sean at 08:37, September 27th, 2005

    This (via Joel) is too funny:

    For the most part, Japanese network television is pretty darn unremarkable. If one were to flip through the channels at any time of day, one would likely find:

    • A variety show featuring a roomful of mindless “talents” who are completely and utterly devoid of any actual talent whatsoever

    • A cooking program
    • A cooking program featuring a roomful of mindless talents who watch food being cooked and then sample it and loudly and repeatedly exclaim “OISHII!!!”
    • Some kind of quiz show
    • A quiz show featuring a roomful of mindless talents demonstrating just how mindless they truly are
    • A sappy documentary about someone somewhere in the world who faces some sort of adversity (e.g., is looking for a job, is living in a brutal war zone, was born without legs, a combination thereof, etc.) and who Tries His/Her Best® to overcome the hardships of their situation
    • A variety show featuring a roomful of mindless talents watching a sappy documentary and providing their horribly forced reactions to the hardships (tears) and the overcoming of the hardships (more tears) for the sake of the television viewers at home who have to be instructed how to react since they have neither souls nor a capacity for empathy

    That last sentence is a little over the line, but overall: No fooling! Japanese television does have interesting historical dramas; shows about the country’s unique geological features; and profiles of famous artworks and artisans. But it does the lowest-common-denominator thing no less, er, adroitly than American television.

    The タレント (tarento: “person who’s famous for being famous,” derived as Jeff notes from the hilariously inappropriate English word talent) phenomenon has to be seen to be believed. You look at some of these people and think, Maybe we don’t need to worry so much about having the US education system outcompeted after all. The guys are unbelievably ditzy–and not in the I-bet-he-makes-up-for-it-by-being-good-with-his-hands way, either. The women, who are encouraged by convention to be slightly flibbertigibbety in public anyway, don’t help things much. I saw one quiz show a few years ago on which contestents were asked to locate a few countries on a map of Europe and the Mediterranean, and only one person knew where Germany was. Dead serious.

    I’m less in agreement with Conbini Bento about Masaki Sumitami:

    Known for his revealing black leather S&M outfit, incessant pelvis-thrusting and frequent exclamations of “WOOO!!!”, Hard Gay made a splash on the talent scene earlier this year and has quickly become the man of the moment on Japanese television. Despite his flamboyant personality and outrageous appearance reminiscent of the biker in the Village People, Hard Gay is not only not an actual homosexual, but his forays on television thus far have primarily been based on the wholesome concept of yonaoshi, or social improvement (although in recent appearances he has begun drifting into other territory involving his newfound celebrity). His TV segments usually feature him walking the streets and attempting to help out those he perceives as being in need whilst making jokes rich with pun and innuendo and thrusting his crotch with abandon, often to the horror and embarrassment of the subject(s) of his attention. While his antics may push the envelope at times, Hard Gay’s controversial moniker and appearance belie his good humor and affability.

    Perhaps I can’t get into Sumitami’s routine because I’ve spent too many years running into men in revealing black leather S&M outfits who are actual homosexuals and think that incessant pelvis-thrusting and frequent exclamations of “WOOO!!!” are great ways to hit on guys.

    You’re the poetry man / You make things all right

    Posted by Sean at 22:58, September 26th, 2005

    I haven’t had many interesting search strings lately, but two have cropped up in the last 24 hours. I tell you–the things people expect Google to help them out with! Someone wanted to know “How do you break it off with a married man?”

    Uh, let’s see. How about “We really shouldn’t be doing this. I’m sorry, but I can’t see you anymore”? Is that too obvious, or something? It’s wise not to add the part when you burst into tears and go, “Dammit, you PROMISED me you were going to LEAVE her! How could you keep stringing me along like this when you KNOW I can make you happier than she does?” That has a way of interfering with closure. (No, I don’t know this from having dated a married man myself; but this being Japan, I have a few friends who have.)

    The other odd search was “dating: lose the coin purse.” I can only assume this was intended as advice? But then, why enter it as part of a search? One doesn’t go to Yahoo to tell it things, after all. Besides, in my experience, having one is taken as a conversation-starter, prompting opening lines that range from “Beautiful coin purse!” to “I should get one of those myself–Japanese money is so heavy,” which apparently seem less bald than “Come here often?” (though one gets that one a lot, too). Of course, I suppose it depends on the item itself; a lot of coin purses probably look faggy to a fair number of straight women.

    Oh, and for the love of Poseidon, I still don’t know whether Röb M@rciano is a freakin’ homosexual.

    Our instruments have no way of measuring this feeling

    Posted by Sean at 09:31, September 26th, 2005

    Chris Crain has posted on the Washington Blade blog about the problems with gay PR, though he doesn’t exactly put it that way:

    Then remember this: We gay Americans do not have the luxury of intolerance. When it comes to minorities, we are remarkably minor. Kinsey was nice enough to propagate the 10 percent myth, but subsequent surveys place us at even smaller numbers, well under half that amount. And about one-quarter of us — of us! — voted for the election and the re-election of George W. Bush.

    If we cannot tolerate the viewpoint of someone who tries to explain why one-quarter of us like and support the president, then how can we expect the 96 percent of Americans who are heterosexual to listen seriously to our demands for equality?

    The growing polarization of American politics has taken root within gay America as well. The explosion of liberal gay bloggers, many of whom spend about as much time on the “gray” of most issues as Rush Limbaugh and his “dittoheads,” has only exacerbated the proud queer tradition of disdain for gay Republicans (“Nazi Jews”) and the caricature of conservative Christians (“religious right,” “religious political extremists”).

    Whatever the public opinion surveys may say about the growing acceptance of gays, we have lost, and lost badly, every ballot measure to date on marriage, and the numbers haven’t improved since Alaska and Hawaii voted on the issue almost a decade ago.

    Our activists groups have grown quite fond of talking about the “conversations” we need to have with straight America. Well half of that conversation involves listening, not talking. And if we won’t even listen to the heretical views of our own kind, then how can we be open to one of “them”?

    He’s right. I do think that while the subject is open, though, we might make a request of the conservatives, too: some of you have a real chip on your shoulder about what a brave, exclusive little club of dissenters you are. If you don’t knock it off, you’re going to have a hard time winning over rank-and-file gays who despise the shrill left but are wary of Republicans.

    Yes, yes, yes, I know–there are gay enclaves in which you risk vandalization of your property if you’re openly conservative. More commonly you just risk being demonized. (That overused word strikes me as being appropriate here for once.) I’m more than happy to acknowledge that the outrages committed by extreme gay leftists are way worse than the smugness of some of the gay right. But smugness is a turnoff, and as long as the center-right range of gays stays so firmly a minority, it’s going to remain easy for lefty activists to claim to represent gays en masse.

    Fields of black gold

    Posted by Sean at 01:58, September 26th, 2005

    The Japanese government plans to increase its monitoring of the disputed East China Sea oil and gas fields:

    The government will strengthen its surveillance apparatus in the maritime region around the East China Sea boundary (Japan-China) where the PRC is furthering its plan to develop gas fields. It will increase the frequency of flights by the Maritime SDF’s P3C patrol planes. The Maritime Security Agency and Ministry of Trade, Economy, and Industry are communicating closely with other relevant government bodies to bring the PRC’s movements to light down to the last detail. The aim is to preclude China’s establishing natural gas production incrementally.

    China has already completed development of three fields in the vicinity of the boundary: Tengaiten, Shungyo, and Dankyo. It has also constructed a maritime base for exploratory drilling near Heiko. The China National Off-shore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) will begin production of natural gas from the Shungyo field within the month.

    This debate has been brewing for a while. He doesn’t update anymore, but Meaty Fly’s blog still has a great post up here about the background to the Japan-PRC energy conflict. It’s also helpful to bear in mind (via Machiruda a few months ago) that scientists aren’t sure just how much gas the most haggled-over field holds.

    I think I need to create a category for this, because I’m having serious trouble locating things about it in my own archives.