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    Axis: Bold as Love

    Posted by Sean at 08:44, December 1st, 2004

    Another on-going issue is Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council (those who like their kanji compounds long and turgid doubtlessly get off on seeing 国連安全保障理事会の常任理事国入り cropping up in news reports lately). In cooperation with other applicants, including Germany and Brazil, Japan has apparently solidified its actual proposal. Of course, Germany and Japan have more than just their increased prominence as world powers to think about:

    Japan’s Takashima welcomed the panel’s recommendation that the so-called “enemy state” clause be removed from the U.N. Charter.

    The clause, dating to World War Two, allows for military action against Japan and Germany, without any endorsement by the Security Council. Japan pays almost as much money as the United States into the United Nations’ coffers.

    Intriguingly, the Reuters article emphasizes the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s push for full veto power for potential new permanent members. By contrast, the Nikkei report is focused more on the slight but perceptible softening of its public stance:


    On the subject of how the veto power of permanent members, which Japan had sought until very recently, will be dealt with, [the Japanese government] has shifted to a way of thinking that will respond more flexibly [to the wishes of the governing body] and away from its hard-line demand that veto power be attached to new permanent membership.

    1 December 18:46 EST

    The rainbow ride will make its arc

    Posted by Sean at 23:50, November 30th, 2004

    Speaking of resignations that fail to make me cry: Gay Orbit reports that Cheryl Jacques is resigning as the head of the Human Rights Campaign, and contends that those who defend her record are misreading it. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that anyone’s considering Michael himself as her successor, since that first post of his is one of the most economical statements of how gay activists need to frame and enact their positions that I’ve read in ages. (He also mentions the tricky what-do-the-‘rents-get-the-boyfriend-for-Christmas problem. Last year, my parents hilariously solved it by getting us, jointly, an all-American Hickory Farms gift set. What made it hilarious was that they decided–I AM NOT making this up–on this one. As soon as I opened the box, I started guffawing so hard I couldn’t inhale, and when I finally calmed down, I was like, “Darling, I would say this is a symbolic gesture of approval, but I don’t think it was intended to have that much subtext.” We kept the little condiment knife as a memento. I value it more than my Wedgwood cups. Where was I?)

    My feeling is that the election will probably, in hindsight, prove to have activated quite a few gays who didn’t go much for politics before–just not in the way leftists have been hoping for. Loud-mouthed activists tend to get little more than eye-rolling from most gays who are just living open-but-unshowy live and don’t think the sky is constantly falling, which has allowed the recent record of intrusive public-school programs and marriage-or-bust campaigning to go relatively unopposed from within gay ranks. The 11 state marriage amendments that passed may, one can only hope, rouse a few quiet types to wonder just what that hell big gay organizations are pushing supposedly on their behalf. It’s a shame that it has to be that way–I’d prefer government intrusion in daily life to be limited to the point that thinking about it all the time was not necessary in order to be an informed and responsible citizen–but the way things work is the way things work. The big-guns organizations need to know that they’re being watched by constituencies beyond their usual urban groupies and yes-men.

    1 December 09:51 EST

    Notes from Japan

    Posted by Sean at 12:29, November 30th, 2004

    My news-gathering has been pretty lite this week, but Asahi has the results of its latest poll up, and they’re interesting as always–particularly this nearly-even split:

    Asked whether Koizumi should continue to visit Yasukuni, 38 percent of those polled said yes, and 39 percent said no.

    Japan’s neighbors have strongly criticized the visits to the Tokyo shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including Class-A war criminals.

    Asked about China’s stance, about 30 percent of the pollees said it was only natural, while 57 percent did not think so.

    Those polled in their 30s and 40s were more opposed to Koizumi’s visits, while more than 40 percent of those in their 20s or 70s and older said the visits should continue.

    Among those who wanted Koizumi to continue his Yasukuni visits, nearly 60 percent said measures should be taken to win the understanding of the Chinese and South Koreans.

    What, one wonders, did the other 40 percent say? Tell China and Korea to stick it? There’s nothing much surprising about the age breakdown: those in their thirties and forties are the ones whose lives are most directly affected by the economic environment, and trade with China and Korea plays a major, major, major role in the current Japanese economy. People in their seventies remember the War; and people in their twenties, I suspect, just don’t see what the big deal is one way or the other.

    The poll also included questions about the Koizumi administration overall and the deployment of non-combat SDF personnel in Iraq specifically. Support/oppose figures haven’t changed much for those.

    Speaking of the Koizumi administration’s performance in domestic terms, the three-pronged reform package has been finalized, naturally in much less aggressive form than was originally proposed. The amount of tax yen that will ultimately be spun off to regional and local collection is smaller than it appears:

    Under the decentralization plan, the central government will transfer 2.4 trillion yen in tax-collecting authority-and thus spending-decision power-to local governments. But that figure falls short of the 3 trillion yen sought by prefectures and municipalities and includes 650 billion yen that has already been transferred in the current fiscal year.

    As the Asahi mentions further down in the article, Koizumi–no fool, he–did not huff and puff and waste political capital fighting for every last coin, or even every last 10000 yen bill. But I think the changes will have the salutary effect of having framed government spending questions in terms of how much should be entrusted to local authorities, rather than how many hands money can be made to pass through on its U-turn from the provinces to Tokyo and back again.

    30 November 10:29 EST

    Out with the old

    Posted by Sean at 09:19, November 30th, 2004

    Tom Ridge, who comes from a state my pride prevents me from mentioning, is resigning as Secretary of Homeland Security. Obviously, he had a difficult job as head of a new post-9/11 department, but I don’t think that excuses the resolute scattershot softness it took under his direction.

    30 November 19:19 EST

    Whoa! So this is what she means….

    Posted by Sean at 09:03, November 30th, 2004

    So Eric Scheie’s been sending me hits for the last 24 hours, and (borderline-hermit that I am) I just thought for the first time five minutes ago, Maybe I could…uh, like, capitalize on this. I could post something, right? The problem is, this is my veg day.

    For the last nine days, I’ve been switched on all the time. Either I was hanging out with my parents, or we were out for dinner, or we were shopping, or I was reading to my friends’ daughter (I read her Make Way for Ducklings soon after she was born a few years ago; this weekend she wanted me to read a book called Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!. We appear to be developing a bird theme. Just wait till she’s fifteen and I introduce her to Hitchcock!), or my friends and I were reprising our college road trips in adult form by driving through Maryland while singing along with Graceland. Now, obviously, these were all things I enjoyed, with people I value greatly, and I’m grateful to be able to take two full weeks of vacation time together to do them at leisure. But I’ve had no alone time, really, and last night, after arriving at my friend’s place (where I lived when I was in grad school) and going out to dinner with him and his lovely girlfriend, I realized I was going to go insane if I didn’t spend today alone in a room.

    So I did. I sat (mostly lay, actually) in the apartment, surrounded by the sounds of Murray Hill, and read some, and napped some, and ate nutrition-free food. The thoughts that ran through my head were on the order of Frusen Gladje ice cream used to be *so* yummy. It’s a shame Haagen Dazs outcompeted it, especially with those naff containers…. Um, so, yeah. I’ve had a post kind of kicking around for the last few days, but it’s not gelling. Much easier to quote news articles and muse over Japan-China relations.

    I’m not sure where this is going, exactly. Maybe I should try to come up with My Super-Coolest Post Ever, or something, and that will keep me from sounding like a ditz. I mean, because I’ll be working on rewriting and editing, I won’t be publishing posts that make me sound like a ditz. In case you thought I’d post something non-ditzy, which is not very likely. Okay, Friend’s Lovely Girlfriend has arrived home and is offering me, bless her heart, a glass of wine. I have this feeling it might make me more coherent.

    30 November 19:05 EST

    Philadelphia story

    Posted by Sean at 13:12, November 29th, 2004

    So today, between going from my college friends’ place in DC to my college friends’ place here in New York, I was able to meet Agenda Bender and Classical Values Eric in Philly. Eric has not changed in appearance and demeanor since Friday; Tom turned out to be, unsurprisingly, a big, strapping Irish guy. I’m getting the sense that, to be a Philadelphia-area gay guy with a blog, you’re required to be (1) cute, (2) built, and (3) mellow. Which explains why the whole blogging thing didn’t get going until I’d long been graduated and gone to another continent.

    Speaking of which, living in Japan gets you totally unaccustomed to being blatantly cruised while, say, walking down the street or in line to buy a train ticket. Last night with my friends (in Adams-Morgan), and today in Philadelphia and New York, I kept thinking, Ooh! Cute boy! But what the hell’s he looking at me like that for? My fly open, or something? I also keep waiting for cab drivers to open the door for me from inside the car; luckily, no one’s actually concluded I’m a moron and driven away from me yet. Maybe by the time I’m ready to fly back I’ll be used to all this again. Fun day, though.

    29 November 23:30 EST

    Blood-brain barrier

    Posted by Sean at 01:29, November 28th, 2004

    With a bunch of college friends in NJ, and probably going down to DC overnight before heading up to the City.

    My poor friends in Dallas are wondering whether I’m actually planning to see them (still am!) or it was all just a scam. Someday I’ll tell you about trying to use my JAL mileage club/credit card to get a ticket through JAL America. (See, it’s a foreign-issued credit card–no, I’m not joking; I can’t use my JAL card to order a JAL ticket on-line or over the phone if the flight originates outside Japan. You know, you think you have all the dumb-ass rules figured out after eight years of no-you-can’t-do-that, but there’s always one lying in wait somewhere. Luckily, there’s a JAL office in New York, so I plan to stand in the middle of it and scream until someone issues me a ticket–with miles, honey–on the card issued by his own airline.)

    28 November 11:30 EST

    I want to see the bright lights tonight

    Posted by Sean at 18:33, November 26th, 2004

    Oh, one last thing before I turn in: WTF is it with people not turning off their brights until you’re close enough to shake hands? Over the last few years, it’s happened to me more and more, and tonight coming back up from Bucks County, it was just dumbfounding. I mean, of the fifteen or so cars I passed, maybe three remembered to switch off their high beams from a distance of a few hundred feet. The rest were close enough for me to get a good look at their hood ornaments before they moved. I do understand that sometimes you don’t see the next car until you come over a hill or around a bend where the woods are dense–the whole reason you need high beams is that back roads crest, dip, and curve all over the place, after all. And sometimes, you’re just being absentminded and you forget until the oncoming car flashes its lights at you. I’ve been guilty of that myself. I find it hard to believe that was the case for a dozen people, practically in a row, on the same stretch of road, though.

    27 November 04:33 EST

    Don’t make me over

    Posted by Sean at 18:02, November 26th, 2004

    John Corvino, one of my favorite writers who post at IGF, has a terrific piece about the state of gay marriage advocacy after the election. It’s a very even-handed call for self-examination. The only reason it doesn’t hearten me more is that…well, it’s not the people at IGF who are the problem. They may not always be right–and I don’t think that, as a group, they were on the right side of the gay marriage argument–but the whole reason they’re part of that organization is that they stand for independent thought. A willingness to face up to cold, hard reality tends to be a natural corrective to untenable positions.

    The people I do worry about are the activist types (both lefty gays and their straight sympathizers) who may feel even more alienated from the center-right range of the electorate than before. They still seem to be kind of reeling, so where they’re ultimately going to land is anyone’s guess. But if marriage bans in 11 states are the point at which a critical number start seriously reassessing their approach, things could be prevented from getting too much worse.

    27 November 04:03 EST


    Posted by Sean at 11:54, November 26th, 2004

    I met Eric at Classical Values in one of SE Pennsylvania’s restored downtowns today, and he’s as mellow in person as he is on his blog. Cute, too, even without the deal-clinching accessories, which I can assure you he didn’t bring to Starbucks.

    I, however, will never be mistaken for mellow, so our initial greeting ran, lamentably, something like this:

    E: Sean? Hi! Glad to meet you!

    S: Eric? How do you do? Can you believe the parking around here? I think I’m going to have to go down and move my car–I’m in this one-hour space at the bottom of the hill. There was one metered place open, acres of room, but I’ve never paralleled my mother’s new jeep before, and I overdid my workout yesterday–my neck won’t turn the whole way, yeah?–so I just had to find somewhere to pull in. I was going to go into the municipal lot here, but you know, it’s full–I figured I’d circle back around a few times, because it’s afternoon, and people are leaving, right? No luck, though. Total madhouse. So I figured it would suck if you were waiting 20 minutes and wondering whether you were going to be stood up, and I decided just to take the next opening I saw–let me tell you, it’s in Ultima Thule. I totally ran up the hill–and over a few streets. I hope I can still find the thing. [breath] Uh, so how are you?

    At this point, Eric could have been forgiven for assuming a cloudy look and saying, “I’m sorry, my name is Erik…uh, Williams. With a k. You must be looking for someone else. Hope you’re not waiting here too long!” And then bolting. Luckily for me, he’s a tolerant sort, and we ended up having a great afternoon and a charming end to Thanksgiving week.

    26 November 21:24 EST