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    I’ll forgive and forget / If you say you’ll never go

    Posted by Sean at 13:44, September 5th, 2004

    So. The question clearly is: Are Republicans willing to let gays contribute to the American economy for a few overtaxed years of working life before herding us into death camps, or will they have us all exterminated the very moment after a reelected Bush is sworn in? At least, that’s the clear question to some people I’ve talked to. If you’re interested in other possibilities, Rex Wockner seems to have about the best summary I’ve seen of what happened during convention week. We already know that the platform backed up Bush�s endorsement of the FMA and specified that homosexuality is �incompatible with military service.� And we know that the speakers (Giuliani and Schwartzenegger are almost always named together to demonstrate this, sometimes with Pataki and McCain) put a more moderate face on the convention regarding social issues.

    The most cynical interpretation of last week’s events is that the platform was calculated to get the hard-right vote, the speakers were trotted out to get the centrist vote, and one of the two is a scam. (Which one depends, naturally, on your own ideology.) I don’t have the energy I’d need to get into my views of the gay marriage controversy yet again.* Suffice it to say that if its proponents wanted a showdown, they basically got it, with the predictable result that the minority that constitutes less than 5% of the population had less leverage than everyone else.

    Don’t misunderstand–I ache for the Log Cabin Republicans people. They have a whole set of problems that are not their own fault and are not specific to this election year. The noisiest gay liberals–using the word colloquially–have spent the last three decades hammering home the messages that (1) gayness and leftism/Democratic party affiliation go together like bacon and eggs, (2) gays demand to be loved for what we are, and (3) no one must ever be allowed to speak a word against gay people without getting hell for it. In that context, it’s hard to blame some conservatives for believing that gay advocacy stands for nothing but entitlements, special protections, and intrusive public school programs. And it’s correspondingly hard to imagine that LCR people don’t get sick of constantly having to go out of their way to be the nice gays that everyone can do business with. I know that would drive me nuts. I was not impressed by the content of the ad that everyone got so heated up by last week, and I’m not LCR myself, but I made a donation just for the sake of moral support. They’re our guys and gals, and they’re working for us in the way they think best, and they felt kicked in the teeth.

    I do have to ask, though, do people still think making marriage the focal point of gay advocacy is a good idea at this point? There is nothing close to a consensus among gay activists on why we need it–some talk about equal protection, some talk about inheritance and hospital visitation and taxation, some talk about the health benefits of long-term relationships, and some talk about the taking of one’s place in adult society (in a sort of anthropological sense). That’s not a criticism, BTW. I think debate is good. But the fact remains that it is still a debate. In the wider society, marriage and childrearing have gone through all kinds of destabilization in the last 40 years or so. We shouldn’t be suckered by those conservatives who say that with the WOT and current state of society, “Now is not the time” to be discussing gay marriage, in the clear hope that we’ll just go away and forget about it. On the other hand, if we get pushy and really cause a backlash, we could succeed in making life suck for those who come out several decades from now. Is that what we want?

    I have no affection for the Republican Party. But my sense is that many of its members are genuine live-and-let-live types. They may not be pro-gay, exactly, but they recognize that part of being an American is the ability to choose your own happiness, and they can’t look at two people who clearly nurture and sustain each other and tell them that society should stand in the way of their relationship. They may be immovable on marriage but open to persuasion on, say, hospital visitation and social security transfers.

    Whose voices were loudest during the drafting of the RNC platform, I don’t know. But it’s possible that some who supported the FMA clause and the part about “the accompanying benefits afforded couples” were willing to do so because they were aware that they’re unlikely to come to anything. That is to say, perhaps the message sincerely was to back off this particular issue right now, not that you can’t be gay and Republican. For those who adhere to the denying-gays-marriage-rights-keeps-us-second-class-citizens line, I realize that that’s a non-distinction. But we and those who come after us have plenty to lose if we try to change people’s minds by fiat. Much as it offends my crabby loner sensibilities to say so, we need to choose our battles and capitalize on goodwill where we can find it; persuasion takes longer to accomplish, but its effects last longer, too.

    * Sorry for the flurry of self-linking. Got started and couldn’t stop.

    Added on 7 September: And the link to the 365gay.com page is fixed. (Thanks for letting me know, Mike.) Confounded smart quotes! I could’ve sworn I’d un-selected them….


    Posted by Sean at 22:31, September 4th, 2004

    So it was stronger elsewhere; it usually is:

    An earthquake measuring 6.8 on the open-ended Richter scale hit western Japan on Sunday, setting off tsunami waves along the Pacific coast, but there were no reports of serious damage, national broadcaster NHK said.

    Two people were slightly injured in the city of Kyoto, although some of the strongest tremors were felt in the area of Nara, the ancient capital of Japan where there are many temples.

    Here in Tokyo, it was one of those spooky swaying quakes that lasted for a while, as opposed to a quick shake. Glad there was no damage closer to the center. As the article from Reuters points out, people in the Kansai area are still on edge from the Kobe earthquake a decade ago. (The Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe region isn’t considered an earthquake zone in Japanese terms, so construction codes were not the same as they are here in Tokyo-Yokohama.)

    I also hope everyone in Florida is okay. This is a bad year for storms all over, it seems. Western Japan has also had its share of typhoon casualties and property damage this year, so when I haven’t been watching the weather report to see what’s happening in Florida, I’ve been worried about Atsushi in Kyushu. Yet another reason to look forward to fall.

    The Axis of Evil becomes a grid

    Posted by Sean at 15:52, September 4th, 2004

    I haven’t had much to add to everyone else’s comments about the sort of people who would keep hundreds of children captive for days, with no water, in midsummer, and then bring the roof down on their heads. It does dominate the thoughts, though, especially in combination with other news this week.

    South Korea has been doing lab tests with uranium enrichment. The results were apparently a small amount that was “close to” weapons grade. Now, if there’s going to be a headline that reads “—– May Be Close to Developing Nukes,” I’d much prefer that the —– be South Korea over some of the alternatives. (Additionally, the experiment was done four years ago, and the IAEA inspectors found no evidence it had been expanded upon since then.) And despite the clear potential for diplomatic problems that would result from the ROK’s developing nuclear weapons, with the DPRK less than a two-hour drive from Seoul, who could possibly blame it for wanting to do so?

    I wonder, does North Korea get much play in the US media? Here, it’s in the news all the time. Some of the reasons for that are obvious: It’s nearby, so the potential for patrol boat skirmishes and things is high, and there’s some Japan-North Korea trade. But what you most memorably see (I’m talking over the last five years or so) on television are human interest stories about refugees. For a while there, it seemed as if there were a new Japanese wife of a North Korean escaping back here through China every Thursday. Often, she would tell the reporter, her voice and face distorted to protect her identity, about eating potatoes when there was no rice–a shocking deprivation to East Asians. And that was before the appalling Japanese abductee story broke and began dominating news coverage. Recently, the focus has also been more on diplomatic talks, particularly now that the six-way nattering over the DPRK’s nuclear program is doing the on-again-off-again thing.

    And that leads to the other exposure you get to North Korea here: excerpts from its news broadcasts, usually when some higher-up has made an anti-Japanese remark or some trade issue or summit has been reported on. The North Korean TV technology is so antiquated it has to be seen to be believed. The microphones have that dead sound the local news from an unaffiliated station had in the ’80’s. There’s only one camera angle. And this creepy girl in traditional Korean costume (whose job is to grin like a lunatic and deliver fulsome praise about Kim Jong-il) often appears against a blue screen. And I mean just a blue screen, as if they’d forgotten to put in the background footage. In a humorous-but-not-funny way, it reminds you what riches we have: the lamest music video by the most faceless new pop-product non-talent in our world gets production values that are many times better than the broadcasts North Korea uses to remind citizens that they live in the perfect society.

    I was going to say that this is all some comfort because, you know, if the DPRK can’t get it together to make a decent news broadcast, they probably can’t contrive something as tricky as nuclear warheads that detonate. But that’s ridiculous, because if there’s one thing all these types care about and will put every last resource into doing successfully, it’s wrecking things. The reasoning runs, If your way doesn’t produce a prosperous society that nurtures its citizens, don’t bother changing; just blow the opposition and their artifacts up (and don’t forget to torture the children while you’re at it) until there’s nothing left to stand as a rebuke to it. There’s no fate bad enough for such people, but the Russian authorities had the right idea in making them dead, even if it’s determined that they acted precipitously.

    The Ron-Yasu relationship, then and now

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

    The Daily Yomiuri has a dual interview with former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and US Ambassador to Japan (and White House Chief of Staff toward the end of the Reagan administration) Howard Baker. The English version focuses mostly on their impressions of Reagan and, against that backdrop, what leadership is. But in the Japanese (I’m assuming Baker spoke in English and Nakasone in Japanese, but I’m not sure whether to call it the “original”), there’s more about Japan’s role in the WOT and on current issues along the Pacific Rim:

    The Japan-US relationship is one of amity. Japan sent SDF personnel to Iraq, but that was on its own behalf. It was not just predicated on the Japan-US friendship. Of course, America applauded the deployment, but the SDF was sent in the national interests of Japan. [Yes, it’s that repetitious in the Japanese version.–SRK]

    We are well aware that Japan has a pacifist constitution. We acknowledge fully that there are restrictions on the SDF. Howvever, the world perceives Japan as a superpower. Japan has begun to take on the responsibilities of a major nation. The deployment of peacekeeping forces (PKO) to the Golan Heights and East Timor is such a role of a superpower. And I think that the deployment of the SDF to Iraq was also in that vein.

    For Japan, the chief threat now is not North Korea. The very biggest issue is Japan’s China policy. China wields gargantuan economic and military power, and it is looking to expand it. For the sake of the world, and not just the Pacific Rim, it is extremely important for Japan and China to build an amicable relationship.

    All of which makes me wonder–what exactly is in the RNC platform about China and Japan? Baker is an ambassador now, after all; you expect smooth talk from him. I still can’t seem to get to the text. Maybe I’m just using harebrained search terms. It’s clearly toned down from 2000, but I wonder whether it sounds like what I surmise from my slapdash back-translation from the Nikkei.

    Added at 3 a.m. (don’t ask): Nathan says that things in China are not as 1984-ish as they’re often made out to be. He seems to be talking mostly about daily life for the people. I’d have no trouble believing that. Japan is a way more accessible country than China, and Western journalists still insist on doing that whole Mysterious Ways of Japan routine whenever they can. At the same time, the fact that police brutality may be less common than the press makes out doesn’t mean that the PRC’s foreign policy and designs on superpower-dom are any less troubling. Even if we agree that the Kuomintang was not populated by angels.

    The Abode turns two

    Posted by Sean at 11:48, September 1st, 2004

    My fast-track career has kept me pretty busy this week, but before the day is too far in the past, I wanted to say happy 2nd blog-iversary to Amritas. Marc doesn’t just rant about the left–funny as he is when he does–he also affirms his love for America well and often. While his posts on linguistics are often so specialized they make my head spin, even there, he always has an unshowily intelligent comment about how the mind works, or how we convert thoughts into sentences, that makes the reading worth the effort. And his personal kindness has made him a friend [swelling orchestral music] across the ocean that separates our respective archipelagos of collectivism. Glad you’re still around, man.

    Stick or twist / The choice is yours

    Posted by Sean at 11:00, August 30th, 2004

    This is one of the reasons I have issues with outing as a political tactic: Andrew Sullivan reports that a Virginia congressman, Ed Schrock, is dropping out of the election in his district over allegations that he’s gay. It’s hard to imagine that he’d be bowing out of the race if he were not gay; but you never know what’s going through people’s heads, and this just happened yesterday. The stuff at BlogActive does look pretty ethically damning, if it’s all legit. The Christian Coalition doesn’t give you a 92% rating if all you do is fail to support gay marriage, you know. But the only specific accusation (on the posts I looked at) is the part about ending “Don’t ask, don’t tell” for the purpose of rooting out the queers before they’re able to enlist.

    Where I get queasy about this stuff is at the point at which someone has to decide what “rights” are, because that’s the only way to determine whether someone’s legislative record on our “rights” is in conflict with his personal conduct. I don’t consider marriage a right; indeed, as people are currently campaigning for it, I don’t support gay marriage. Therefore, if someone supports legislation against gay marriage but engages in homosexual conduct, I don’t see the necessary conflict. I do support the end of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”–yeah, right, tell me gay recruits would be rejected in the sort of last-ditch exigency with which conservatives most persuasively argue about unit cohesion. There’s no word that Schrock was sexually active with men while in the armed forces, though. If everything about Schrock is true, I can’t pretend not to be glad he’s going down (so to speak). If nothing more than what BlogActive has published is true, though, I can’t see any ethical grounds for outing him. There’s no defense for exposing people’s private lives unless they’re breaking laws that they themselves have championed; mere hypocrisy is not a crime.

    Added on 1 September: While editing the above for clarity, I may as well point out that Right Side of the Rainbow has a nicely pitched take on this, expressing awareness of the ethical problems with outing while warning conservatives who lead double lives that, in practical terms, they’re not likely to be able to play both ends against the middle for long.

    Don’t you give up so soon

    Posted by Sean at 22:44, August 29th, 2004

    I’ve just discovered that, when making pan gravy while bopping around the kitchen to Taylor Dayne, it helps to pay more attention to the gravy than to the music. I had a good quarter-cup of drippings–and this week, there were lots of gorgeous little crackly bits, too. You just never know what the quality of the deglazings is going to be until you go ahead and bake your chicken parts, so I was very excited that I won the jackpot this time. Perhaps a bit too excited, because before I thought of it, I scooped up about twice as much flour as I had fat in the pan and threw it in. 1 second, 2 seconds…realization! Dammit! Of course, if I’d had the presence of mind, I would have just scooped some of the dry flour out of the pan and thrown it away. But my mind was elsewhere, so in my moronic haze, I figured I’d put in enough more butter to make the paste the usual consistency. I’m from Pennsylvania Dutch country, after all. “Add more butter” is stored somewhere in my brain near “Look both ways before you cross the street.”

    Well, suffice it to say, I had enough thickener for a good quart of gravy by the time all was said and done, but I decided to brazen it out with just 3-odd cups of milk. You can see the results here:


    Note the eggshell finish, not the usual meat-juice shimmer, on the gravy. That’s courtesy of flour overload, though of course I had the sense to keep cooking it until it didn’t taste raw anymore. It stood up like soft whipped cream, too, rather than running lasciviously down the chicken and potatoes the way gravy’s supposed to. Tasty, though. You can’t beat butter, chicken fat, and crackly bits. Of course, even after I flooded the extra chicken leg with as much as seemed defensible before putting it away, I had a good cup of gravy left. I have this feeling that when it’s chilled, I’ll be able to slice it and eat it like aspic. Maybe on a baked potato?

    Added 15 minutes later: I know what you’re thinking. You’re panicking and saying to yourself, Does he realize that that extra butter has cost him some of his discretionary calories?! Rest assured that I’m not about to contravene the wisdom of our bureaucratic betters and have allotted myself exactly three-eighths of a Hydrox cookie for dessert.

    And did I forget to mention / That I’ve found a new direction

    Posted by Sean at 19:30, August 29th, 2004

    The Washington Blade has an editorial from NY Blade editor Steve Weinstein, effusing to Jim McGreevey about the lovely new life he’s about to embark on. It’s annoying as hell–the editorial, I mean. How annoying McGreevey’s life is going to be, I don’t know. Things don’t look to be smooth in the short-term, though, and he’s got the potential to stick around and annoy us for a while yet.

    Weinstein does give the obligatory acknowledgement that not all gays are rich and effete…

    Coming out is never easy. Whether you

    I’m just burnin’ doin’ the neutron dance

    Posted by Sean at 14:17, August 29th, 2004

    (Susanna and Toren, you’ll like this one.)

    With fantastic timing, another nuclear power plant has developed a water leak. Good thing no one is, like, spooked from any other such recent incident, or anything. And this time it’s not Reuters but the Mainichi that has the misleading headline. It reads, “Nuclear Water Leak Delays Plant Reopening,” which sounds to me like a problem with radioactive water (though would you call that “nuclear water”?). In any case, the article says:

    A water leak found at a nuclear power station has forced Tohoku Electric Power Co. to delay the scheduled reopening of the plant, officials at the firm said.

    The leaked water was not radioactive and there was no chance of radiation leaking outside the plant, officials said.

    These things are important because worries that radioactive water actually will leak from a power plant are more than just theoretical. This past spring (the same day Atsushi and I found out he was being transferred to Kyushu, actually), the Ikata nuclear power plant disgorged one and a half tons of radioactive coolant water in Ehime Prefecture. And then–I can’t believe that in my previous posts on the subject, I forgot to mention this–there’s the fact that TEPCO (the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which as you might guess serves us here in Tokyo) falsified years of inspection reports, including those pertaining to the presence of cracks in its containers and equipment.


    Posted by Sean at 13:19, August 29th, 2004

    Wow. You usually don’t see these lefty types being quite this up-front:

    Leslie Cagan, national coordinator for United for Peace and Justice, said the message revolves around the word “no.”

    “We are saying ‘no’ to the Bush agenda, ‘no’ to the war in Iraq, ‘no’ to the regime change by our government, ‘no’ to pre-emptive war, ‘no’ to the economic policies,” Cagan said.

    There are times when defining things by negatives is a good thing. If, for example, you think of rights as being based on non-interference by the government while you freely go about your business, that in effect affirms your ability to pursue your own ends your own way. But Cagan unintentionally summarizes why even a lot of us “social liberals” and registered Democrats feel such frank post-9/11 revulsion for these groups. All they do is bitch about what the Republicans are doing, which is as easy as falling off a log. About as useful, too.

    But it goes deeper than that. Americans know the value of restraint and self-discipline. But we also think of life as full–full of possibility, full of color, and full of worthwhile business to get on with. A message that “revolves around ‘no'” in its entirety doesn’t jibe with reality as Americans perceive it. It just sounds cranky and out of touch, which is unfortunate. There are plenty of legitimate questions to raise about Bush administration policies; associating them in the minds of a nationwide television audience with naysaying petulance makes it less likely that ordinary voters will take them seriously.