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    I got a girlfriend with bows in her hair

    Posted by Sean at 14:17, November 6th, 2004

    It has to be a parody, but this website is still good for a laugh. If it is serious, my deepest sympathies to our friends to the north (including my best friend from high school, who lives in Toronto). You’re going to be joined by some real beauts.

    (Found via Dean’s World)


    Of course it’s a parody. Whew! (Click on “Our hidden agenda”.)

    You couldn’t step outside the boho dance now / Even if good fortune allowed

    Posted by Sean at 01:47, November 5th, 2004

    Mrs. du Toit has a post that recommends against pointing out that you don’t fit the stereotype of a Bush voter in a fashion that sounds like, “I’m not like those rubes!”

    I see where she’s coming from, and I agree that it’s wrong. But there’s a flipside to what she’s talking about that’s also worth noting. (I don’t think what she wrote is flawed because she didn’t note it; it just wasn’t the point she was making.)

    I frequently find myself defending suburban living, SUV driving, smoking, hunting, and church-going by emphasizing that I don’t do any of them myself. It’s not because I’m frantically trying to avoid association with church-goers (or smokers, who may actually be even more reviled in the more sanctimonious liberal circles these days).

    It’s because I really, genuinely think it’s great that we all get to make our choices, and I believe there should be room for those I wouldn’t make for myself. One of the things I most despise the left for is the way it’s turned diversity into a codeword for “full range of races, sexual orientations, and gender identifications + unanimity of ideology.” Now those of us who really do like individuality of spirit in others have to avoid a perfectly useful word like the plague, lest our listeners assume we like “diversity” the way Lani Guinier does.

    So when standing up for the suburbs, I generally point out that I myself walk or use public transportation to get almost everywhere and live in an energy-efficient apartment (translation: it actually has insulation, which is not something to bank on in Tokyo) in a neighborhood with nearly the population density of Manhattan. My hope is that the message that it’s possible to see value in other ways of living than your own will get through.

    In an election or more general political debate, there’s a further point to be made: when assessing people’s beliefs, you have to listen to what they say, not just play actuary and assume you have them figured out. I’m a registered Democrat who lives abroad. I grew up in a county that went for Kerry (Lehigh) in a state that went for Kerry (Pennsylvania). From there I majored in comparative literature at an East Coast private college, moved to New York (briefly) for graduate school, and now work in educational publishing. Unless I missed someone, literally all of my dozen or so close friends from since college voted for Kerry. All this is before we even get to the gay thing.

    Based on my statistics, I should have been huddled in the corner weeping and tearing my hair out when Kerry conceded to Bush the other day, not having a victory bath. True, I’ve always been libertarian/republican in my beliefs and largely registered Democrat because of Pennsylvania primaries. But the fact that the DNC is not reaching me at all is something that you would think might start giving someone somewhere pause. Perhaps “Not everyone who voted for Bush is a social conservative” is not the most generous-minded way of putting it, but the Democrats can’t just shunt responsibility for the drubbing they took off on people they weren’t interested in courting anyway. That message matters.

    Added at 2:50: All right, CNN just did a feature on how distraught New Yorkers are over the election, and something I’ve heard a bunch of times over the last few days surfaced in the on-the-street interviews. So before I turn in for the night, I would like to add just one thing here: You people who are talking about wanting to move to another country because Bush was reelected? Understandably, a lot of others are going to recommend that you go ahead and leave if you don’t like it. But as a proud American living abroad, I hope you stay away. There are quite enough spoiled, whiny, high-handed expats making loud and implausible declarations of solidarity with the world’s oppressed and fouling our international reputation with their behavior. You’re the last thing we need.

    Koizumi congratulates Bush

    Posted by Sean at 21:28, November 4th, 2004

    It’s yesterday’s news, but for the record, Koizumi’s reaction to Bush’s reelection was the expected one:

    The government Thursday welcomed U.S. President George W. Bush’s reelection, expecting that his administration’s policies toward Iraq and North Korea, both important issues to Japan, would be maintained.

    Government officials said they would talk to the second Bush administration over a host of bilateral problems to be tackled with the U.S. government.

    During the presidential race, the government was seriously concerned that the result could significantly affect the U.S. policy toward Iraq.

    Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry’s criticism of Bush’s Iraq policy contrasted with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s strong support.

    I noticed that, too.


    Posted by Sean at 11:01, November 3rd, 2004

    Janis Gore, who occasionally sends me gently inquiring e-mails about the most contentious topics imaginable, asked what I thought of Andrew Sullivan’s tone when discussing the election results. His take is, naturally, that Karl Rove used his evil Karl Roveness to lure all those anti-gay religious zealots out of their Alabama bunkers. I was going to comment at Ms. Gore’s place, but I’m afraid I may get a bit riled up, which would spoil the respectful atmosphere she maintains.


    Here’s her terse and (I think) accurate assessment:

    No, Mr. Sullivan, gay activists thought this would be the perfect year to push for a new initiative. Talk about blowback. I suspect they’ve put rights back at least ten years.

    What’s she talking about? She wrote that yesterday, but I think it applies very aptly to Sullivan’s latest series of posts. I’ll start with the third part:

    STAND TALL: But one more thing is important. The dignity of our lives and our relationships as gay people is not dependent on heterosexual approval or tolerance. Our dignity exists regardless of their fear. We have something invaluable in this struggle: the knowledge that we are in the right, that our loves are as deep and as powerful and as God-given as their loves, that our relationships truly are bonds of faith and hope that are worthy, in God’s eyes and our own, of equal respect. Being gay is a blessing. The minute we let their fear and ignorance enter into our own souls, we lose. We have gained too much and come through too much to let ourselves be defined by others. We must turn hurt back into pride. Cheap, easy victories based on untruth and fear and cynicism are pyrrhic ones. In time, they will fall. So hold your heads up high. Do not give in to despair. Do not let the Republican party rob you of your hopes. This is America. Equality will win in the end.

    I basically agree with this. I mean, I don’t think the dignity of my gayness comes from God any more than from the tooth fairy, but I also don’t think it depends on other people’s approval. I wonder whether Sullivan actually believes it, though. Through his writing there’s a clearly discernible thread of nagging desire for acceptance that I think seriously compromises his pro-gay marriage arguments.

    I’m not coming at this as a principled non-conformist. I believe in living as you see fit; I do not believe in getting a rise out of people for the hell of it at every opportunity and then bitching when they shun you. I want people to like me, and my feelings are often hurt when they don’t.

    But that’s not a matter for public policy. Which leads me back to where Sullivan started:

    I’ve been trying to think of what to say about what appears to be the enormous success the Republicans had in using gay couples’ rights to gain critical votes in key states. In eight more states now, gay couples have no relationship rights at all. Their legal ability to visit a spouse in hospital, to pass on property, to have legal protections for their children has been gutted. If you are a gay couple living in Alabama, you know one thing: your family has no standing under the law; and it can and will be violated by strangers. I’m not surprised by this. When you put a tiny and despised minority up for a popular vote, the minority usually loses. But it is deeply, deeply dispiriting nonetheless. A lot of gay people are devastated this morning, and terrified.

    I’m neither devastated nor terrified. What I am is furious. 0° Kelvin furious. The gay marriage advocates decided it was a good time to get pushy and single-minded. They decided they’d figured out what marriage was about to most people and that further arguments from the opposition warranted no more than ritual responses. They were wrong. Those who oppose gay marriage have not just said that the Bible disapproves of homosexuality and therefore we should all reform. They’ve thought things through and come up with more sophisticated arguments. Those arguments need to be answered. (Don’t expect me to do it–I’m not one of the people yammering for gay marriage. Hospital visitation and power of attorney are fine for me, though I’d like transferrability of social security and immunity from testifying against your partner, too. Call my relationship whatever makes you happy–that’s the least of my concerns. In any case, if you’re gay, is your partner worth devoting your life to? Then do it. And stop flooding us with bilge about how we can’t live by moral values we ourselves supposedly hold “deep down inside,” just because straight people refuse to throw rice at us! Gyah!)

    Gay marriage activists need to remember that history did not start with the ’60’s and that, in the other direction, there will be gays in every generation after us who will inherit the environment we’ve helped to create. Thinking about straight children of the future every once in a while wouldn’t hurt, either. In any case, the showdown mentality has shown itself to be self-defeating. Let’s learn our lesson, okay?

    Added on 5 November: I agree with Eric that the numbers from the election don’t necessarily say what we’re being told they say. I’m also reassured to see that someone smarter than I am has trouble doing math in his head. I was always the one in calc class who set up the function and graphed its shape correctly but got all the actual number values wrong. It drove Mrs. Moll crazy.

    And I think Boi from Troy is right about the kaleidoscopic ways “moral values” can be interpreted as a reason for voting. Pretty obviously, gay marriage was one in at least 11 states, but that only indicates homophobia if you believe in such a thing as “marriage rights.” I’ve groused enough about that for the time being, though.

    The important thing is education

    Posted by Sean at 21:53, November 2nd, 2004

    Japan’s three-pronged reform continues to generate controversy in the government; the most recent focus is on education. It’s not exactly like the fight over voucher programs in the States, but there are similarities in that the main point of contention is whether federal or local governments are in charge of the public school system:

    On Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda and Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Taro Aso had a heated discussion with Education, Science and Technology Minister Nariaki Nakayama at the Prime Minister’s Office. The debate ended without a consensus being reached.

    The dreaded lack of consensus! There are a bunch of issues here. One is that it’s possible to interpret the Japanese constitution as placing the responsibility for education on the federal government:

    Article 26 [Right to Education, Compulsory Education]

    (1) All people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability, as provided by law.

    (2) All people shall be obligated to have all boys and girls under their protection receive ordinary education as provided for by law.

    (3) Such compulsory education shall be free.

    The constitution gives both sexes and all classes equal rights to education (according to their ability–the PC era wasn’t yet a glimmer in Judith Butler’s eye), but it doesn’t really say who’s in charge of delivering it.

    On the other side, local governments sensibly note that with the aging population, the balance between funding needed for elder care and funding needed for child care is shifting. Their feeling is that they should be able to work with a pool of welfare money, using local knowledge to determine what proportion goes to whom. We’ll see how things develop. The LDP is very keen on seeing its reforms go through, so expect compromises.

    Jenkins guilty of two charges in court martial

    Posted by Sean at 21:32, November 2nd, 2004

    Charles Jenkins has been found guilty of desertion. That’s not a surprise, but some of his family had been insisting that he must have been abducted himself, as his Japanese wife Hitomi Soga was 15 years later. His own plea was guilty to desertion and aiding the enemy and not guilty to treason and soliciting others to desert. He’s likely to serve his sentence in what looks like minimal confinement. His wife’s hometown is in Niigata; there don’t seem to be any reports on how much earthquake damage it suffered. One hopes none, considering what she’s suffered over the last 25 years.

    Statistics don’t lie

    Posted by Sean at 20:34, November 2nd, 2004

    Okay, guys, do you have a freaking macro for this on your computers?

    It’s difficult to see how any self-respecting gay person could vote Republican in this presidential election, but credit is due those who are unwilling to be driven from the party that reflects their general political philosophy. On top of dealing with overt hostility from within their party, these faithful gay Republicans then have to deal with the ridicule coming from fellow gays and commentators (Jon Stewart on gay Republicans) alike.

    The reason it’s so funny–however much it gets on my nerves–is that the latest entry on the Blade blog is this bewildered item (posted, to be fair, by a different contributor):

    Perhaps the most surprising news for gay observers of the presidential election is that exit polls show President Bush received the exact same percentage of gay votes

    Beethoven (I love to listen to)

    Posted by Sean at 22:52, November 1st, 2004

    I’m in one of my obsessive-workaholic phases: I bang away at the keyboard and Google and print and redline and swear under my breath and pace for hours and hours, and then I have to stop before my quality control starts to slip.

    But by that point, I’m always so keyed up that I have to keep going. I do housework like a madman. I inhale my food. I gulp drinks (the other day I swilled a fresh cup of tea so quickly I thought I was going to asphyxiate from blisters in my throat). I walk like a locomotive up Meiji Avenue between Shibuya and Shinjuku. The other night, I arrived at one of my favorite bars after chugging for 50 minutes and was still so jazzed I ended up yammering about the election to some guy I hardly know. (At least it helped counteract my apparent general reputation for aloofness, but that’s a topic for another day.)

    What’s really bizarre is that I don’t need more sleep than usual. In fact, I was awakened by indigestion before dawn on Sunday and wound up pounding out a long, verbose post, then going back to bed and getting up at my normal time. The rest of the time Atsushi was home, he kept me relaxed and grounded as always. Only once while we were watching CNN did I make an ungallant comment at one of the reporters and stalk to the kitchen to put the kettle on.

    But then he went back to Kyushu, taking his Force Field of Calm with him. Three hours later, when he e-mailed to say he’d landed, I was 1.5 liters of Coke to the worse and was flitting among a half-dozen books open on the coffee table. After I’d rehydrated, I had a workout and pounded the hell out of myself (in the challenging way, not the self-destructive way).

    These stretches are always weird for me. I’m not nervous or worried or unhappy; there’s nothing bad about the way I feel. I’m just so charged. I wonder whether following election day will help or hurt. I do know that if I have to keep listening to the inane patter on CNN, I will be pounding the hell out of something that is not my muscles. (“The candidates have been really working the swing states hard, but there are questions about whether they’ve been successful at convincing voters.” Well, unless they persuaded people to stay home or go Nader, one of them must’ve been successful, you stu…uh…ma’am. See, Atsushi can keep me sort-of-calm, even from afar.)

    Isn’t this exciting?

    Posted by Sean at 22:12, November 1st, 2004

    Bill Hemmer is interviewing the DNC and RNC top men on CNN right now and just asked Terry McAuliffe why the country’s still so divided. Think McAuliffe’ll turn those lizard eyes on the camera, be honest and say, “Because of flim-flamming jerks like me, Bill!”?

    No, of course, he didn’t.

    A VIP endorsement

    Posted by Sean at 12:13, November 1st, 2004

    Good old Virginia Postrel. Her Bush endorsement has to be my favorite yet, and not just because I’m a fan of hers:

    I’m not picking a boyfriend here…or, for that matter, an intellectual mentor. Given the current balance of power in Congress, there are only two things the president can significantly affect: foreign policy and regulatory policy. I prefer Bush to Kerry on both. It’s a cold calculation.

    Though I supported the war in Iraq, I never thought it would be easy. In fact, I thought things would be worse. It was a high-risk venture, requiring long-term commitment to secure long-term, strategic gains. I wish Bush had warned the public more about the inevitable difficulties, but I do not feel betrayed. I feel no need to lash out at the president.

    Voting is an expressive activity, but it need not be emotional. Andrew Sullivan’s invocation of “The deep emotional bond so many of us formed with the president back then” does not apply to me. Bush leaves me cold and always has. I never wanted to hang out with him, so I don’t take our policy differences personally. I never idolized his leadership, so I don’t feel he’s failed me. He gets my vote in part because I don’t identify with him. He’s just a hired hand, and he’s better than the alternative.

    Bush doesn’t leave me cold, though I sure as hell have never had the full-on schoolgirl crush Andrew Sullivan fell into. But I wouldn’t have voted for him just because I like him better than Kerry, even if I acknowledge that that certainly makes it easier. Bush hasn’t run his administration exactly the way I’d like him to, but most of Kerry’s positions are impossible to pin down, and those that are possible to pin down suck. (Well, okay, there’s one exception of great meaning to me personally, but it isn’t enough to outweigh the rest.)

    Added over lunch: Thanks as always to the indefatigable proprietor of Simon World for another link. Those who’ve stopped by from his place may also be interested in my take on the relative importance of keeping our reputation with the world in mind when voting.

    For those who regularly drop by here but don’t frequent Simon World, his roundup of Asia-Pacific views of the election is worth checking out–he points you to major regional newspapers and quotes from politicians as well as to bloggers here.

    BTW, his “Asia by Blog” feature, which runs Mondays and Thursdays, you probably already know about through Instapundit or Dean Esmay. If not, it’s a compilation of what’s buzzing on blogs over in these parts. He has a good eye–and I’d think so even if he didn’t link me regularly. Really. If the post-election falloff in domestic strife (yes, that’s what I’m hoping for) leaves you with a news vacuum, be sure to visit him on Thursday for the next installment. We’ve got the PRC, we’ve got the DPRK, we’ve got Indonesia–there’s always something cooking on this side of the world.