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    I changed my clothes ten times before I took you on a date

    Posted by Sean at 11:17, October 7th, 2005

    Atsushi flies in tomorrow–have I ever told you how much I love the way Japan has bank holidays practically every month?–so this time around, I’m making the over-sugared French toast.

    I also went shopping today. It’s been a while since I greeted him at the door in a new outfit, and with fall pretty decisively, if anemically, here, another cool-weather shirt is always useful. Having been told by a stranger yet again this week, “You’re from the States? Really? You look so European!” I decided to go Pointedly All-American.

    Man, what is up with even Brooks Brothers’s making (1) no-iron shirts that (2) have ostentatious logos on the chest? If you don’t want fusty, old-fashioned clothes that need pressing, why go to Brooks Brothers? (Actually, it’s not the lack of necessity of ironing that bothers me. It’s that this wrinkle-free stuff doesn’t look crisp even when it is pressed.) If you do want clothes that crassly announce how expensive they are to everyone else on the subway, why not go to Polo? At least Burberrys has enough of a sense of shame to have created diffusion labels to market all its label-on-the-outside goods under.

    Unfortunately, the green + purple + orange plaid on offer was too utile to resist; being a secondary colors kind of guy, I’ll be able to wear it under every sweater I own come November, and no one will be able to see the embroidered Golden blasted Fleece then anyway. That the cute sales guy told me the shirt was flattering had nothing to do with my handing over my credit card. No, really.

    Have a good weekend, everyone.

    I’m living without you / I know all about you

    Posted by Sean at 10:01, October 7th, 2005

    Eric likes the Constitution State’s Supreme Court’s ruling on a First Amendment case a few days ago. (Well, the actual opinion is here.) Eric refers to a prior post of his:

    Whether the imputation of homosexuality is defamatory these days is open to question, at least in some places.

    Should it be?

    If the imputation of homosexuality is defamation, then is that not itself an outright admission by the tort system that there is something so dreadful about homosexuality that we will allow you to sue others if they accuse you of it?

    I’m kind of hors de combat on this particular issue, of course. I don’t think people should get away with telling lies, but I don’t see identifying someone as homosexual as some kind of smear in and of itself.

    At the same time, I wish there weren’t this sort of blanket statement (from Michigan’s Between the Lines) from the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s representative of what we hear in the run up to National Coming Out Day every year:

    Readers of BTL’s editorial pages in the past have heard us say it before, but it bears repeating: come out, come out wherever you are.

    It is difficult to imagine how one could argue that staying in the closet enables a person to live a full, rewarding and emotionally healthy life. Heterosexuals, for example, would never dream of keeping their wives and husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends and even children a secret from their coworkers, neighbors, family and friends.

    Oh, wouldn’t they? People have been known to keep marriages secret for the sake of not angering parents who didn’t give permission, or not giving the appearance of a conflict of interest if they met through business. Those arrangements aren’t the hetero default setting, but you can’t say straight people would “never dream” of keeping their relationships a secret.

    Besides, everyone is subject to intrusive questions these days. I know more than one single straight person who’s heartily sick of being asked when he’s going to get married or why she hasn’t settled down and had children yet. “Maybe if people thought I was gay they’d shut up and give me some peace,” one exasperated career-focused acquaintance said to me once.

    I don’t want to slush things together to the point of being obtuse about the real issues that remain. I assume, though I haven’t run about polling people, that most closeted gays would prefer not to have to be secretive about the relationships that matter to them most. Being known as gay, risky though it is, means that you don’t have to mask something important about yourself when interacting with people. I think it’s great to have public voices reminding closeted gays that, if they meet a hostile reception when coming out, their gay friends will stick by them and they won’t be left to deal with the fallout alone.

    But some people really do think that their sexuality is an individual matter and appreciate the way remaining unmarried allows them to avoid opening their private lives to public scrutiny. Why is it hard to believe that the way they live is “full, rewarding and emotionally healthy”? If you value personal liberty, you believe that people get to choose their own trade-offs, even if those trade-offs wouldn’t suit you. The only people I think should be pressured into coming out–not, just so I’m clear, forcibly outed, but pitilessly encouraged to put their money where their squalling mouths are–are those who bitch that our public advocates haven’t yet made it safe for them to do so. It’s not Michelangelo Signorile’s job to take your risks for you, honey.

    The buck stops…I dunno, over there somewhere

    Posted by Sean at 00:20, October 7th, 2005

    I realize there are still a few months left, but I’m giving Alice the award for Best Post Title 2005 for this one. Need I say that the post itself is of heirloom quality also?


    Posted by Sean at 09:04, October 6th, 2005

    The Ministry of Justice is updating its policy on the furikome scams:

    The Legislative Council (the Minister of Justice’s advisory panel) has submitted to Minister of Justice Chieko Minamino an outline for the establishment of a new system by which the government will confiscate or seize holdings from organized crime rings running the “Pay up!” scam and distribute them to victims. The Ministry of Justice aims to submit a revised proposal quickly. Under existing law, victims have no recourse but to seek their own reparations, and there have been many cases in which they’ve cried themselves to sleep. It is hoped that assessing [how to provide] relief to victims will become easier through the legal revisions.

    I’m glad they’re making it easier for people to get their money back, though I have to say that anyone who gets a scam call at this late date and doesn’t check it out thoroughly is insane.


    Posted by Sean at 08:16, October 6th, 2005

    Kaoru Yosano on Japan’s plan to reduce contributions to the UN:

    There is nothing wrong with Japan’s reduction in financial contributions to the United Nations, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s top policymaker said Wednesday.

    “I don’t have the exact figure with me, but Japan covers roughly 17 or 18 percent of total contributions made by all U.N. member countries. So it’s not that strange at all that the share is cut by a few percentage points,” Kaoru Yosano, the LDP’s Policy Research Council chairman, said in his speech at the Yomiuri International Economic Society in Tokyo.

    Actually, Japan covers 19.47 percent of total contributions, or 37.1 billion yen, second only to the United States.

    Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura made a proposal to hold a review of member countries’ contributions last month in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, seeking to lower Japan’s spending.

    Rough going is expected for such a review as some prominent countries, including China and Russia, likely will be asked to increase their shares.

    But Yosano’s remarks Wednesday reflect a widely shared frustration among Japan’s political and business circles that Japan is asked for a too large contribution while not being given significant roles to play in the U.N. framework.

    Almost one fifth of the total. And the US kicks in more. Of course, China’s not going to be eager to kick in more. (The Mainichi, BTW, just conducted a new poll, the shocking results of which are that a lot of Japanese people are unhappy with China.)

    Yosano also discusses the proposed revisions to Article 9 of the constitution.

    The pull is in my muscle / The ache is in my bones

    Posted by Sean at 02:10, October 6th, 2005

    People who have been reading me for a while will know that, suddenly and without warning, I occasionally deliver a rant the length of War and Peace about what my gay friends are doing to make themselves miserable. If you’re just here for the Japan stuff (more of that coming tonight), you probably want to skip this post altogether.

    There. I feel much better.


    Posted by Sean at 03:14, October 5th, 2005

    The Harriet Miers nomination left me with little to say initially but “Huh?” Well, that and “Good thing I already know the words for cronyism in Japanese, so I can be ready for the inevitable discussions.” I reserved judgment at first, under the assumption that more useful information could be forthcoming, as it often is when the Washington press machine suddenly feels the need to educate America about a former unknown.

    But we still know little about Miers except that she is, as my Japanese friends would put it, “heartful.” As has happened every time Bush has done something incomprehensible, there are those who insist that this is yet another example of his rope-a-dope strategy, the subversive brilliance of which will manifest itself later. Whatever you say. (They are conspicuously few in number this week, it’s important to note.)

    Probably my favorite take is Rosemary’s: “Why didn’t he just nominate his mom?” she asks. “At least we know who she is.” LOL, girlfriend. I myself derive some small comfort from the fact that our LAST President didn’t take it into his head to nominate a woman lawyer of dubious facility with constitutional law to a USSC vacancy just because she happened to be a long-time intimate, because then, you know…. Grateful for small blessings, and all that.

    But not too grateful.

    Japan and US disagree over relocation of USMC base

    Posted by Sean at 22:05, October 3rd, 2005

    The Nikkei reports:

    The exchange of opinions between the Japanese and US governments revolving around where to relocate the facilities at the Futenma [USMC] Base in Okinawa, a focal point of the restructuring of US military presence in Japan, is heating up. Negotiations that were initially quiet on the surface have developed into a state in which each side responds with a ringing declaration of its own position. The Japanese government sent Japan Defense Agency [policy] head Kazuo Ofuru to the US on 4 October and is looking for an opening by which to work its way out of the current deadlock, but there is a deep divide between the Japan-side proposal to move operations to the Camp Schwab exercise grounds (the on-land proposal) and the US-side proposal to reclaim shallows for the purpose (the off-shore proposal).

    “The US is pushing its off-shore proposal, but we’ve said, ‘It will be very difficult to build [the base] on sea; let’s go with a land base.’ A plan for the same sort of base has also been rejected by voters in Nago [City].”

    Takemasa Moriya, Deputy Minister of Defense, revealed to a 3 October press conference that he was very dissatisfied with the US response.

    The Futenma facilities in question house helicopter operations, which are a touchy subject on both sides these past few years.

    Moriya, BTW, is an interesting character. He’s the highest-level pure bureaucrat at the Japan Defense Agency. (The cabinet ministers themselves, of course, are selected by the Prime Minister and approved by the ruling party, so they tend to come from outside.) He’s very powerful, and he doesn’t mince words–you learn to stop and pay attention when one of his soundbites comes on NHK, because what he says is usually as reliable an indicator as you get of what Japan’s military strategists are thinking. Or at least what they want the Japanese public and the rest of the world to think they’re thinking.

    They have their houses and their lawns

    Posted by Sean at 04:40, October 3rd, 2005

    Several days ago I received a wonderful e-mail from reader Leslie W. She gave me permission to post it:

    I wonder if gay guys have the same problem I do, being a lesbian who is amazed at how antagonistic literally every lesbian I know is about our not being let into a terribly boring party we’re so desperately trying to crash! I just don’t get this fixation on marriage as against civil unions. Though not religious in any institutional sense, I do respect the rights of traditionally religious people and do not see it as overarchingly “mean” for them to express the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. I also don’t mind when people of that ilk assert that sex with someone of the same gender is sinful. Of course, I don’t think that–and I always tell such people that it’s OK to have that viewpoint but that they should check out Romans 2 before they ponder what punishment to inflict. But why should I be concerned with what they feel, much less with what they say? That is, unless what I’m really seeking is their absolute approval–cheap grace, you might say. If my rights as a citizen are genuinely threatened by a rightist religious agenda, I’ll be among the first to man the barricades. But I’m very tired of the false oppression that so many lesbians claim as their lot in life, and I’m extremely weary of the us-them dynamic that permeates my milieu surely as much as any other.

    Right. Just a dozen or so years ago, Bruce Bawer could write the following:

    Committed gay couples exist by the millions, and it is unquestionably in the state’s interest that homosexuals live in such couples rather than live alone and sleep around; why shouldn’t the state, then, recognize those relationships as it does heterosexual commitments? For the state to do so would not deny to anyone the right to consider his or her marriage morally superior to my domestic partnership–or, for that matter, to anyone else‘s heterosexual marriage.

    Note the lack of assumption that recognition of our relationships must call them marriages and, in every last finicking little respect, treat them as exactly THE SAME as straight relationships, lest some gay person’s self-esteem be dinged. When was the last time you heard a gay public figure talk that way? Now it’s all about enshrining our love for each other in state policy.

    BTW, Leslie, and anyone else, if you’re looking for sensible lesbian writing, check out Ace Pryhill. She supports marriage rather than civil unions, but I agree with her about big-picture issues of what legal recognition means and how it relates to individual responsibility.

    Oh, and while I’m on the subject of e-mails and policies, it appears that this is a good time to formulate…well, an e-mail policy. I think this post from a few months back should get the point across.

    Bali bombed again

    Posted by Sean at 03:10, October 3rd, 2005

    Rumor fatigue (as well as a busy-busy-busy Sunday) prevented me from posting about the Bali bombing yesterday. 30 or so deaths is a terrible tragedy, and many of the 127 injured are probably going to have hellish recoveries; but given the initial, speculative news reports, things aren’t as bad as feared. Ross at Romeo Mike’s Gumption tracked the sensationalizing and subsequent backing and filling. Bali is a major, major tourist destination for Australians and East Asians, so reporters immediately started looking for local angles. Of course, that can obscure the bigger picture:

    The Nursing Home News (aka Ten News) has just shown Deegan saying he “wasn’t surprised Australians were targeted”. He’s been “expecting it for some time.” Except Aussies weren’t targeted, Westerners were. The bombers didn’t distinguish, even toward their countrymen.

    Most of the bodies that have been identified were of Indonesians.