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    A cat that catches mice

    Posted by Sean at 12:03, February 22nd, 2005

    I’ve started and jettisoned this post about a dozen times over the last week or so; actually, I think I’ve been stopping and starting it for the past year, but Michael may have given me an in to the point I want to address.

    I can understand why conservative Christian parents and elders would not want to bankroll or otherwise support a life they regard as sinful. The Bible says what it says, and I don’t think there’s any getting around that it doesn’t approve of sexual relationships outside marriage–that’s not what I mean. What I find bewildering is when children come out to their parents and are told that they’re inevitably headed for addiction, a string of abusive relationships or worse, and an early demise. I mean, the flat declaration that there’s nothing whatever affirmative or affectionate about homosexual relationships at all.

    You would think that sheer pragmatism would prevent parents from talking this way. After all, isn’t the idea to bring the child back to the fold and convince him to be chaste, or what have you? I doubt that I’m alone in that the major thing that made me feel ready to come out to my parents was the knowledge that I wasn’t just going to spend the rest of my life looking to score–who the hell is going to start a potential family feud to deliver that message?–I wanted a relationship, and whether they approved of its nature or not, I wanted them not to have to feel I wasn’t being taken care of. In that context, I think a lot of kids, hearing their parents decry homosexuality as inherently selfish and exploitative, conclude that they have no idea what they’re talking about and stop listening to them all together. I’m not trying to help the conservative Christians win back gays; I know my homosexuality isn’t going anywhere, and I think that’s the case for most of us.

    On the other hand, there are people who are plain screwed up in the head, and if some of the gay ones can’t handle their sexuality, using religion to give their lives a purpose beyond finding ever-more-imaginative ways to destroy themselves sounds to me like a good plan. When parents prophesy the worst for such children and push them away, it seems to me that there’s a pretty high risk they won’t figure that out before they reach the point of no return. You’d think it’d be obvious that staying warmly involved with the rest of their lives, perhaps avoiding discussions of homosexuality because they’re obviously not going to go anywhere, would be the better strategy.

    Raindrops falling / On a broken rose

    Posted by Sean at 02:04, February 22nd, 2005

    Darn. I slept quite a bit of the day, because when you’re sick, you can usually nap for most of the afternoon and still be ready to hit the hay at your regular time.

    Well, this seems to have been one of those 24-hour things, which is good; but now I’m wide awake at 1 a.m. which is not, considering I plan to be back in the office tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’m still not quite focused enough to read anything serious until I fall asleep.

    I actually passed a pretty interesting day–hardly pleasant, but interesting. Being feverish and suggestible, I was in the mood to read from The Golden Bough . I never would have thought to put the two together before, but I happened to have Heart like a Wheel in the stereo, and it was a strangely inspired accompaniment to Frazer.

    Somehow, all those eerie details about ancient bonfires and harvest sacrifices seemed sharper and more electrifying. Maybe it’s because, while Linda Ronstadt couldn’t convey emotional complexity to save her life, when she’s on, she can personify a single emotion very primally, as if she were its prehistoric deity. (Of course, the material they picked for Heart like a Wheel helps. When you have a song whose chorus goes, “You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good / Baby, you’re no good / I’m gonna say it again / You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good / Baby, you’re no good,” it’s kind of hard not to get the point, no matter how obtuse an interpreter you are.)

    Ooh, Charlie’s Angels just came on! I’m pretty sure my brain has unclouded sufficiently for me to follow that–was there ever a hit show with more fabulously dumb plotlines? Let’s hope that by 2:45, all the nailbiting suspense–OMG, Kelly’s going into that office to search and she could totally get caught and be, like, killed, or something!–will have worn me out to the point that I can sleep through the rest of the night.

    We’re all gonna die! VI

    Posted by Sean at 22:33, February 21st, 2005

    I know this isn’t really funny, but I’m kind of febrile from the flu, so I’m doing that cough-giggle thing while I type this. Holy moly:

    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made an unusual angry outburst on Tuesday after seeing a police officer flee from a bat-wielding man in a news program.

    “I watched a scene in which a police officer fled from a criminal. It’s disgraceful for an officer to act like that,” Koizumi reportedly said during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

    The case Koizumi spoke of involved a 26-year-old man suspected of being addicted to drugs.

    After he caused a traffic accident in Tokyo’s Minato-ku on Feb. 19, an officer rushed to the scene and tried to arrest him. During the process, the man grabbed a metal baseball bat and approached the officer, reportedly saying, “Don’t come near me or I will kill you.”

    Jeez Louise. You can only hope the cop completed the effect by fluting, “Help me, mommeeeeee!” as he ran along. Those reports a few months ago that the police here feel overwhelmed are starting, disquietingly, to make more sense.

    I do understand that most Japanese police don’t have to deal with much more dangerous than someone’s getting a little huffy over being busted for having an outdated bike license. It does seem to me that if you’re going to freak out at having a blunt instrument brandished at you, though, you might want to consider a different line of work from being a police officer.

    BTW, those outside Japan may not know this, but Koizumi is thrillingly convincing when he gets pissed. There’s not a trace of the scripted high dudgeon you often get with politicos; his eyes narrow, his voice gets clipped, and by God, you notice. I’ve said this many times before, but his speeches in support of the Bush administration’s approach to the WOT and preservation of democracy are often, to my mind, more stirring than Bush’s.

    Quake in Iran

    Posted by Sean at 19:30, February 21st, 2005

    Damn. Earthquake in Iran, reports the Nikkei. Magnitude 6.4 and at least 130 people killed. As was, I think, the case in Bam, mud-brick buildings have been collapsing. The current Reuters story, clearly more recent, says 400 dead already, in a region with a population of about 30,000. I feel guilty making this sort of downward comparison, but there’s nothing like seeing a quake happen in another part of the world to make you fervently grateful for modern technology and infrastructure. The heart breaks at the thought of what the final numbers will be, but best to the Iranians in minimizing them.


    Posted by Sean at 12:41, February 21st, 2005

    Wow. Just, wow.

    Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai urged countries to take a leaf out of Japan’s book by practicing efficient environmental protection aimed at cutting down “mottainai” wastefulness.

    “I love the 3-Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle. I think that’s a wonderful call to the world. One of the reasons why some of the countries don’t want to support the Kyoto Protocol is exactly because they don’t want to reduce their over-consumptive life pattern. One way of reducing that over-consumption is by learning to reuse a lot of the resources that we use and just throw away,” Maathai told Yoshinori Kando, the Mainichi’s Director and Chief Editor of the Tokyo Head Office.

    “This concept is extremely useful. I must congratulate the Japanese people. I don’t know how they developed that in their culture.”

    Well, they mostly developed it because Japan is a row of volcanic rocks in the ocean with few resources and places to put junk. Before it was plugged into the modern economy of global trade, Japan’s only choices were to make do or to take over Korea to get access to what it needed. It’s been known to exercise both options.

    That’s not to say that the Japanese can’t be congratulated on making conservation into an ethical value. Japanese resourcefulness is one of the things that make many of us foreigners fall in love with the place. Not only in use of materials for building, but also in food, poetry, and decoration, the Japanese ability to combine a few choice elements to achieve what other cultures could only do with a truckload of stuff is inspiring.

    But let’s know when to reel it in here, too, okay? Japan’s illegal dumping problems are well-documented (though many of the most famous individual cases don’t seem to be on-line, occurring as they did before the Internet became a commonly-used news source). There’s a reason the illness that results from long-term, low-grade methyl mercury poisoning is named after a Japanese town (Minamata Disease).

    I’m not arguing that Japan is actually the world HQ for environmental evil. I’m only pointing out that Japan has had its problems with the unforeseeable consequences of chemical emissions, the very foreseeable consequences of state-funded construction orgies, and moral hazard–neither more nor less than other countries that industrialized over the last two centuries. As Ms. Maathai’s example illustrates, too many people take Japan’s famous love of nature at face value and assume it indicates more than it does.

    Oh, and I nearly forgot the kicker: word is, of course, that Japan has no coherent policy in place to implement the Kyoto Protocols. That doesn’t bother free-market types such as me, but you’d think it would give pause to people who get all rapturous about austere living.

    Japan, US reaffirm security partnership plot to take over world

    Posted by Sean at 14:41, February 20th, 2005

    This was the lead story on yesterday’s print edition of the morning Nikkei: “US and Japan agree on strategic goals for joint measures against terrorist threats to their regions.” The result of this meeting (in Washington last week) isn’t a surprise, or anything. There was, obviously, lots of hot air about peaceful solutions to problems in Korea and Taiwan and getting the DPRK to return to 6-party talks. Not that those things aren’t important, but general statements that democratization is a good thing that the world could use more of aren’t exactly revelatory. Two items that approached substantiveness:

    • acceleration of talks related to the roles of the Japan SDF and US Armed Forces, and a reevaluation of the structuring of US forces deployed in Japan

    • a strengthening of cooperation on missile defense

    Attendees included Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura, and Japanese Defense Agency Chief Yoshinori Ono. Their unsurprising conclusion was that poor sources of information (the Japanese use 不透明性, which literally refers to “opacity” or “lack of transparency”) and instability made the DPRK and the Strait of Formosa the places to watch.

    If you’re in Japan, you might have seen the subtitled broadcasts from North Korean state television sputtering that recent changes in Japan’s defense policy are a cover for a plotted full-scale invasion. There are plenty of long-standing animosities to go around in this region, and the DPRK milks every one of them regularly–one of its favorites, of course, being the understandable lingering Korean resentment over the Japanese occupation. Just to make sure the other big East Asian player isn’t left out, we have the PRC trying to get the DPRK to return to the 6-party talks it huffily left last week. In the midst of all this, Japan knows it needs its partnership with the US, and as a proud American who loves Japan, I’m glad the ties are only getting stronger.

    Your private life drama / Baby, leave me out

    Posted by Sean at 17:41, February 19th, 2005

    If the push for gay marriage does not express people’s longing for self-esteem-boosting through government policy, why is it that I read something like this at least once every few weeks?

    The second argument against civil unions as an intermediate step to marriage is that civil unions send the unacceptable message that gays are second-class citizens. Civil unions, says Stanback, are “a firm message that we are less deserving of dignity, respect, and rights than other citizens and taxpayers.” Marriage, by contrast, “is a universally respected cultural, legal, and social institution,” she notes. “Very, very few opposite-sex couples would trade their marriage for something called a civil union.”

    All of that is true and counsels against being satisfied, in the end, with anything short of marriage.

    You know, I’ve read this stuff very carefully. I’ve reread it. I’ve hung myself like a bat from the side of my bed and looked at it upside-down to make sure I’m seeing all the angles. I still come back to a point Eric Scheie made at Classical Values some months ago:

    Homosexuality is not heterosexuality. There are many differences between gay and straight relationships. The laws and social mores designed for the heterosexual scheme of things reflect these differences. I see no reason why homosexuals should feel the need to ape heterosexuals, and even less reason why they should be forced to do so. This is my biggest objection to same sex marriage.

    One of the things that frustrate me about this is the way gay activism constantly hoovers up the stalest, least wholesome feminist crumbs. For decades, political-action feminism argued that women and men are the same (there were certainly Mary Daly-type nutcases arguing to other academics that women were different in a superior way, but they didn’t affect social policy any more than Michael Warner does), and that anyone who defended social and legal distinctions of any kind between them was a tool of the Evil Dominant Culture. You may have noticed that none of this changed the fact that women have children and men do not, that we have different hormonal systems and biological strengths and weaknesses.

    I’m talking about general patterns, obviously–only a troglodyte wants to go back to the days when a woman with a bent for theoretical physics rather than mothering was coerced into choosing an unsuitable vocation just to make everyone else happy. Parenthood is the single most important job in civilization; but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to be a parent to live a worthwhile life. We wouldn’t be a civilization without creating and maintaining lots of systems and artifacts that are quite unnatural, in the sense that they wouldn’t occur if we left the world to its own brute devices. The problem was that feminism didn’t stop at making the point that she should be allowed to choose or to strike such balances as were feasible. It said that society should make the choice painless and that women who left the lab for the nursery were thereby expressing lack of self-respect.

    So let’s see…what’s gay activism up to right about now? Society should make gay relationships eligible for marriage so we know we’re respected, and if you supported President Bush for reelection or you don’t support gay marriage, you’re not self-respecting.

    [Gets self another Scotch so he can bear to continue. Okay. Back. Mmmm…peat.]

    The thing is–or one thing is–these arguments about respect always end up arriving at assertions that we love our partners, we take care of our partners, and we’re not all promiscuous. These are all good things to affirm. But when you use them as underpinnings for social policy (illustrated by Andrew Sullivan’s moist-eyed NYT article “Integration day” with statements such as “Gay couples will be married in Massachusetts � their love and commitment and responsibility fully cherished for the first time by the society they belong to”), it seems to me that you’re essentially saying, “Approve of my sex life, please.” Can’t imagine why that would fail to convince anyone that we’re not deserving of dignity.

    After all, if it’s “love and commitment” we’re worried about, why shouldn’t two friends (we all have friends we adore to pieces and would take a bullet for) who’ve decided to form a household, because neither has plans to marry and they’re content with each other, be able to take responsibility for each other that includes health insurance and hospital visitation? Or be able to have one vouch for the other’s application for permanent residency as a non-citizen? Okay, that second one would need careful consideration, but I don’t think it’s risible on its face.

    When I read articles by gays built around gloopy declarations of how much they love their partners, designed to show our worthiness for marriage, I find it frankly humiliating. Such writing probably does sometimes convince a few straight people that we actually do fall in love and care for each other. I think it also serves an important function in letting gays who are in the very fragile first stages of coming out know that there’s something worth shooting for beyond easily-obtainable sex and drug kicks. Where I draw the line–where I cannot imagine not drawing the line–is at some point before we start talking about the power of government to confer dignity.

    Patience is an e-virtue

    Posted by Sean at 20:35, February 18th, 2005

    The person this is directed at is not one of the acquaintances I expect to be reading this, but just to contribute to the edification of the world at large:

    An e-mail message is not a summons by royal bugle. I don’t check every account I have daily, and I often wait until I have a meaningful response before, you know, responding. It doesn’t mean I’m dead or ignoring you. Surely you can find something to do for 48 hours of turnaround time.

    A client or colleague writing to my work address has a right to expect a prompt response. Additionally, any of the following three people conveying the following three messages can assume I will respond immediately, possibly before I’ve read to the end:

    Hi, Honey.

    Accident at the plant. Your father’s in the burn unit, but he’ll be out in a few weeks. They think. Call me for an update–don’t worry about the hour.




    My love,

    The pressure from my boss is too great, and I’ve finally decided to cave and marry that eligible Todai grad in the HR department. I adore you more than life itself, but I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to be out of the apartment by the end of the month. Feel free to take the Imari, but leave the Bohemian glasses.



    Mr. Kinsell,

    Word is you’re a revelation in the sack. I’m in town to shoot a Toyota commercial; meet me, 11 p.m., Shinjuku Park Hyatt, Room **** to see how much these bagpipes can still blast.

    S. Connery

    If you’re not any of the above, I will write back on my own time–not because I think I’m busier and more important than you are, but because that’s all I expect of people I’m corresponding with myself. There’s enough pointless hurry in modern life without adding it to shoot-the-breeze private correspondence. Good grief.

    Changing of the guard at US embassy

    Posted by Sean at 11:29, February 17th, 2005

    Now-former US Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker left yesterday. The Mainichi reports on his last few statements before leaving Japan. Close Bush associate Thomas Schieffer is his replacement.

    Arlen Specter has cancer

    Posted by Sean at 20:37, February 16th, 2005

    You know this from fifty other people already: Senator Arlen Specter has Hodgkin’s Disease. Best to him and his family. He’s been one of our senators pretty much since we Pennsylvanians in our early thirties can remember; I can’t pretend to be crazy about all his triangulations, but he’s gotten my vote since I’ve been of age.

    Uh, incidentally, this might be a nice time for the HRC (not Hillary–she’ll do the politically advantageous thing intuitively; the Human Rights Campaign will not) to say that, despite their differences in the last election cycle, it’s grateful for his record of gay-friendliness and robustly wishes him well. Of course, in order not to come off as (and be) cynically opportunistic, the HRC would have to have done some reflection. What chance is there of that?