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    Posted by Sean at 08:01, September 12th, 2005

    Here you go:


    Yeah, I know—not funny. Cute, though. (It’s from here.) My camera batteries were dead, and I didn’t get around to recharging them until I was getting ready for my buddy’s birthday party yesterday. Here I am cropped from one of the group shots:


    Posted by Sean at 23:40, September 11th, 2005

    What Connie said.

    Japan to DPJ: “Get lost”

    Posted by Sean at 23:02, September 11th, 2005

    Yesterday was the birthday party of a very close friend, so from 19:00 on I was pretty much away from sources of news, except when I talked to Atsushi at midnight-ish. He told me then that it was 自民党大勝利 (jimintou daishouri: “big victory for the LDP”), but I spent the rest of the night carousing and have just awakened.

    My loverman was not exaggerating. The ruling coalition won over 300 seats. And the LDP alone–without its coalition partners–has an outright majority:

    The 44th lower house general election, in which the major point of contention was which party would control the government, was held on 11 September, with vote counting beginning immediately [after the polls closed]. The LDP won overwhelmingly in both single-seat districts and proportional representation blocs, and together with the Komeito topped 300 seats. It appeared to be an expression of confidence in the trajectory of party president Jun’ichiro Koizumi’s reforms, and it is probable that the Japan Post privatization bills will be passed in a special diet session at the end of this month.

    The LDP will control the chairs of, and won more than the 269 seats necessary to form an absolute majority of members in all of, the lower house’s standing committees.

    In the morning print edition of the Nikkei, the numbers are updated:

    LDP: 295
    New Komeito: 30
    DPJ: 113
    Social Democrats: 6
    Communists: 9

    The rest of the seats that have been counted went in handfuls to unaffiliated candidates or those with the People’s New Party, which was founded by rebel LDP legislators who voted against Japan Post privatization. DPJ leader Katsuya Okada has already announced officially that he’s stepping down. Prime Minister Koizumi looks as if he really enjoyed swallowing that canary.

    A 2/3 majority! I can’t even wrap my head around that–and I like Koizumi and was rooting for him. Of course, there’s a lot to think about. The LDP made Japan Post its focal point for the election, but the opposition parties were very vocal about Article 19, the SDF in Iraq, and social welfare policy. Those are issues on which the Japanese are deeply divided, and the election results surely don’t signify an unqualified mandate for all aspects of Koizumi’s foreign policy. Nevertheless, the voters had a chance to reject the Koizumi government, and it means something that they didn’t. (It’s worth noting, though, that coalition partner New Komeito is much more pacifist than the LDP–certainly than the Koizumi cabinet–but despite its new dominance in the lower house, the LDP still needs the New Komeito to maintain its upper house majority.)

    The English editions of the major dailies have their stories so far here: Asahi , Mainichi , Yomiuri , Japan Times . (Does the Sankei even have an English edition?)

    Added at 17:11: Another interesting aspect of the snap election was the use of 刺客 (shikaku: “assassin,” lit., “specialized stabber”) candidates. These were the high-profile candidates fielded by the LDP in single-seat districts against those (formerly) in its own party who had voted against Japan Post reform. Most of the assassin candidates won.

    Added at 18:31: Okay, just one more link to the Mainichi, whose English reports are most closely reflecting what we’re seeing in non-linkable broadcast media. This one quotes a series of hilariously stunned LDP members all saying, essentially, “Whoa!” The original Japanese article is here, and its lead paragraph is far funnier:

    As day broke the morning after lower house election day in the Nagatacho district of Tokyo, the LDP was having an attack of “296-seat shock.” “We won so many seats, the prospect of the next election is frightening.” With the LDP victorious and jubilant, and the DPJ soundly defeated and dazed, the blessed and the cursed were sharply distinguishable.

    BTW, that former cabinet member quoted in the English article actually said this: “勝ったのにどうかと思うけど、怖い。ものが言えなくなってしまう。ファッショだよ。” (“We won, but I wonder whether this is for the best. It’s frightening. I’m just dumbstruck. It’s fascistic.”) Yes, that last sentence is a literal translation, but since the quotation ends there, I’m not sure whether the official was referring to the cult of personality that can be said to surround Koizumi or to the high percentage of seats won or what.

    Added at 19:24: Riding Sun calls the success of the Koizumi administration’s strategy to field high-profile women candidates a vindication of the “Japanese Babe Theory.” I think he’s right–it’s not a joke. Most of the women “assassins” seemed smart and lively and, dare I say, sassy. They stood in clear visual contrast to the stereotypical LDP politician. At the same time, I believe the move was also smart because the women candidates suggested a connection to the social and family issues–employment and pension figures, especially, but also education and child and elder care–that the party PR machine was deemphasizing but that most voters care the greatest deal about.

    I don’t want to downplay the capabilities of any of the candidates. They may, in fact, have expertise in hard policy issues that hasn’t been given much attention yet. (At least one, Yuriko Koike, has already been Minister of the Environment.) But image matters, especially when the key issue in an election is an unsexy topic such as Japan Post privatization.

    NHK’s political yak show has all the party leaders on right now, BTW. No one is saying anything even slightly more interesting than you’d expect. Takebe is, of course, in his cool-biz shirt, looking as if he were headed off to the club for a few whiskeys the minute the lights go down; he appears very somber, but maybe he’s just tired. Okada has regained some of his color, but of course he looks very unhappy, and it seems somewhat unkind for NHK to be showing him in extreme close-up when he talks.

    LOL. Tamisuke Watanuki, a leader of the Japan Post opponents who were abandoned by the LDP, is talking. The expression on Takebe’s face across the table! He looks as if he wanted to vault across the studio and throttle him.

    Free xone

    Posted by Sean at 00:48, September 11th, 2005

    Michael appears not to think anything interesting or important is being addressed here. I do. His current position on gay-directed charity work doesn’t very obviously flow from what he said here, where that “color-blind” part seems to me to imply that he wanted no distinctions made at all. If he thinks it’s okay to have relief efforts that are publicized as gay-friendly as long as they’re not exclusionary, that seems sensible to me. That’s my position, too. But then, on the basis of Michael’s own reasoning about the rights of gays vis-à-vis those of ethnic minorities, I think asking him whether and why it’s still wrong to say “we’d be especially happy to help other white folks” is pretty shrewd.

    To me the distinction is, as social conservatives never tire of saying in a lot of other contexts, about behavior, not who you are. If someone offered room to refugees and included the line “We welcome Orthodox Jews,” I don’t think most people would find that inherently discriminatory. Orthodox Jews run their households according to certain constraints and could hardly be faulted for looking for help from (or offering help to) someone with whom they won’t have to have lengthy discussions about expectations.


    Posted by Sean at 22:46, September 10th, 2005

    Today is the snap election here. We’ll see whether Koizumi’s conviction that the electorate supports his reforms–or supports the way he’s going about them–is justified. Atsushi voted last week while he was here. The street was a madhouse yesterday when I got my haircut. (For those who follow my hair-related travails, yesterday found me being massaged with some cinnamon/ginger-y oil and then washed down with apple-scented shampoo. I half-expected to be loaded onto a platter, garnished with mint leaves, and served for dessert with hard sauce and whipped cream.) The Komeito flacks were, indeed, focusing exclusively on Japan Post privatization as they walked by and shook hands. The communists went by in a van blaring about health care and Article 9. We’ll see who gets what when the results come in.

    Beard update

    Posted by Sean at 09:43, September 9th, 2005

    We’ve gotten to the point at which I can look in the mirror without jerking back and saying aloud, “Dad! When did you fly in to Tokyo?” Seriously, I look like my father, but with facial hair, I look exactly like my father. I still don’t like having to trim the stupid thing and am hoping to get the go-ahead from my dermatologist to lop it all off again as soon as is feasible.

    My most sarcastic friend–who once, when I showed up in my new flirty little acid-green knit shirt, greeted me with a hand on the shoulder and a drawled, “Thank goodness you’ve arrived, baby–a five-foot-tall Bloody Mary just came by looking for you”–was as non-judgmental as could be expected: “So, did you always have that on your face and I just didn’t notice because of the lighting at GB?” More than one other friend has said, “It looks okay, but I liked you when you were more boyish-looking before.” These are not, mark you, lecherous middle-aged friends; these are the guys I know in their early 20s. Not sure what that means.

    Atsushi says I feel like a hedgehog. But it’s only fair to note that I’ve been telling him he feels like a hedgehog every weekend for four years. He has the typical Asian whiskers that are sparse but perfectly round in cross-section. Each shaft sticks straight out like a boar bristle. After two days of not shaving his chin, he’s like an emery bit. The emery bit of my dreams, but an emery bit nonetheless.


    Posted by Sean at 08:06, September 9th, 2005

    Exactly what are you on about, honey?

    The LGBT liaison for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is sharply critical of the American Red Cross’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Larry Bagneris is encouraging the LGBT community to donate money to a newly established fund directed to the needs of LGBT people. “I’m not willing to stick GLBT money where we’re not getting any benefits from,” said Bagneris, who is also the executive director of the New Orleans Human Relations Commission. “The needs of the community should be recognized.”

    Bagneris charges that his request for assistance for the LGBT community was met with indifference from Red Cross officials. He said that the Red Cross – which stands to gain $2 million thanks to the Gay and Lesbian Fund of Colorado which announced that because of a $1 million pledge by philanthropist Tim Gill, it will match donations to the Red Cross by Coloradoans up to $250 – was also not helpful in his appeal to raise money within the gay community and seemed to be more concerned about keeping its logo from being used for the effort than it was about helping people within the community. “Specifically, we said we need cash money. But we were shuffled from one room to the next. I said, ‘The hell with it, let’s take care of our own people,'” he said.

    Notice that “let’s take care of our own people” is seen as the last resort. [Sigh.]

    You know, I’ve actually kind of been looking for something like this to funnel part of my donation money into. Obviously, general relief for whoever needs it is the highest priority, but let’s face it: prejudice exists. Gays may, in fact, have a harder time finding people to take them in. Community centers that were assisting addicts or runaways might have little access to resources at this point. I don’t see why I shouldn’t earmark some of my donation money for taking care of my own.

    But I have to say I’m pretty disinclined to hand it off to a drive led by someone like Bagneris. I know that not everyone who lives paycheck to paycheck does so because of devotion to the party mentality. Sometimes you need major car repairs and a root canal and new shingles over the garage during the same three-month period, and there goes the nest egg. I don’t know that that would explain why most gays in New Orleans would be in such straits–assuming Bagneris knows what he’s talking about–but we can introduce people to the wonderful concept of the savings account after the emergency has passed.

    Be that as it may, I’m still not clear what the Red Cross was supposed to do better. Three incidents of harassment out of the thousands of gays that had to leave the city don’t sound like an epidemic of homophobia to me. Could the Red Cross have done anything to prevent them? Did they involve serious physical threats? The other charges are even more nebulous. Was Bagneris trying to get Red Cross money for gays because they were somehow at a disadvantage when seeking relief? I can think of all kinds of reasons that unmarried, able-bodied men might be expected to yield in these circumstances that have nothing to do with homosexuality. And as for the unheeded requests for money, it’s not clear whether the Red Cross was giving out funds to any specific population groups at the time he was dunning it.

    Maybe it’s not nice of me to harp on this. As I say, I’ve been looking for a good place to send gay-directed aid. I just wish people like Bagneris didn’t take every conceivable opportunity to carp that people are being mean to the queers when there are a gajillion other things to manage. It would be nice to hear about gay guys’ saying, “Look, I don’t have children to worry about. I go to the gym and am in good shape. And I had a job that honed my CONTROL FREA…uh, organizational skills. How can I help?” I’m sure that’s happening a lot in reality; it’s just that well-connected complainers such as Bagneris are the ones who get quoted as representative of What Gays Are Thinking.

    (Via Gay News)

    防災 II

    Posted by Sean at 06:25, September 9th, 2005

    I know that a lot of us are heartily sick of this topic, but for those who can still take it, the following might be instructive.

    I write, of course, from Japan. You know, the Japan that makes social-democrat/third-way types feel all warm and fuzzy? The Japan in which enlightened technocrats, enshrined in the federal ministries in Kasumigaseki and insulated from elections and politicking and evil market forces and stuff, guide the nation toward a bright nationally-insured future? Yeah, the bloom is somewhat off the economic rose, but in social policy terms, a lot of my left-leaning acquaintances still swoon over the degree of ministry control here.

    Well, I will tell you as someone who has lived here for a decade: what you hear about disaster preparedness ALWAYS involves local intiatives. Sometimes, municipal governments are involved; other times, it’s smaller public institutions. 1 September, the anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, was Disaster Prevention Day here. Apparently, over a million people participated in demonstrations and drills and things. Our apartment building’s management company distributed leaflets to our mailboxes, outlining what would happen if a quake hit and our building were declared unsafe until inspection. New survival gadgets are always cropping up in human interest features on NHK.

    None of this means that the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Infrastructure, for instance, doesn’t get involved in a big-time disaster. What it does mean is that…I mean, read this at Q and O. Bruce McQuain corrals a lot of criticisms of response at various levels of government and weighs their merits. One in particular is–well, I was going to call it butt-stupid, but that would be an insult to butts everywhere. Not to mention to the average stupid person, who could probably be relied on not to say anything quite this inane:

    If Allbaugh were not an amateur, he would have known that communities, “faith-based organizations” and the private sector become overwhelmed by disasters more modest than this one. In a crisis the federal government should be the first responder, not the last, to take charge, not wait to be asked.

    I don’t know. Individual organizations may be feeling overwhelmed, but the overall response by private and local organizations seems to be working a damned sight better than anything the government has come up with. The issue isn’t just that the constitution doesn’t permit the President to barge in and tell a state governor, “Now, little lady, you just stand back and let the big boys handle this”–important as that is. It’s also that only locals know local conditions. Level-headed people who are prepared can find ways to keep going until the government does, in fact, have a chance to get to them if necessary (via Joanne Jacobs).

    In Japan, what we’re told is this: A disaster may render you unreachable. It may cut you off from communication networks and utilities. The appropriate government agencies (starting at the neighborhood level and moving upward depending on the magnitude of the damage) will respond as quickly as they can, but you may be on your own for days until they do. Prepare supplies. Learn escape routes. Then learn alternate escape routes. Know what your region’s points of vulnerability are. Get to know your neighbors (especially the elderly or infirm) so you can help each other out and account for each other. Follow directions if you’re told to evacuate. Stay put if you aren’t. Participate in the earthquake preparation drills in your neighborhood.

    If that’s the attitude of people in collectivist, obedient, welfare-state Japan, it is beyond the wit of man why any American should be sitting around entertaining the idea that Washington should be the first (or second or fifteenth) entity to step in and keep the nasty wind and rain and shaky-shaky from hurting you. Sheesh.

    Oh, and you have to read this post by Andrea. You have to keep reading even after you think all the funny parts are over. You have to read to the end. I second Ilyka’s comment, trans-Pacifically. I also get where Connie’s coming from.

    Added on 13 September: Thanks to Virginia Postrel for the link–not to mention the flattery. I can think of far better sources of news about Japan than my blog, but we’ll just let that pass for now. She adds a few points that differentiate earthquakes from typhoons and are worth noting:

    Of course, in an earthquake, you have no warning–not a couple of days to get out of town (assuming you have transportation, of course). And there’s always that question of where to store the earthquake supplies, since the house could collapse on them, making them inaccessible.

    They tell you to choose the corner you think is most structually sound, but, of course, you don’t really know what that is until the quake hits and your walls either don’t give or do. In a new building (such as ours, fortunately), you almost always have shear walls on the exterior. They can help ensure that the only things that are likely to fail are tall cabinets and shelves and things, so you have to find space for your stash that isn’t near furniture. That’s no contemptible feat in the average Tokyo apartment, but it’s better than expecting the ceiling to come down on your head. My own solution, if that’s the word, is to keep my major survival kit in the bedroom but to have supplies (bottled water and flashlights and things) in other places around the apartment also, under the assumption that if the quake is so strong it takes all of them out, I’ll probably be too dead to need them anyway.

    While I think of it, Dean linked (no trackback) and got a short but good discussion going about whether my comparison between the US and Japan is valid. Justin at Classical Values also linked, and he and Eric and Dennis have a great crew of commenters; it’ll be interesting to see what they have to say.

    Added on 15 September: Why, how sweet. This nice professor from Tennessee also linked to this post. I don’t know much about him, but a little digging reveals that he has a sister who lives in Sevier County. We know what that means, don’t we, boys? This guy’s sister lives in the county where Dolly Parton was born. And WE LOVE DOLLY TO TINY LITTLE BITS! So welcome, Instapundit readers.


    Posted by Sean at 01:20, September 9th, 2005

    Atsushi’s been working a lot of overtime the last four weeks. He always sounds tired, though he’s cheerful about it. He takes everything with a good grace–which only goes to prove that opposites do attract.

    Speaking of which, it’s the sixth anniversary of the opening of the bar where we were introduced. I’m representing our household, as it were, at the party tonight. Like a lot of gay bars here, it isn’t a pick-uppy place at all–more like a pub where you can meet your friends and talk and act the way you want. (It’s labeled 会員制 (kaiinsei: “members only”) outside the door, but that’s just to keep reveling straight people from blundering in and getting themselves all weirded out. You don’t actually need an introduction from someone who’s already a regular customer the way you do at many other Japanese gay places.) Atsushi and I know all the regulars, so I’ll be in for a lot of matey gibes about my ongoing work-widow status. Happily, I think there are two bank holiday weekends in October, so he might actually have a chance to recharge a little.

    Could you be the dream that I once knew?

    Posted by Sean at 00:31, September 9th, 2005

    Oh, yeah, did something gay happen in California this week? Hmm. Sample reaction (the comments, not the main post): Bleating about the democratic process? Check. Mewling about equal protection? Check. Hysterically brandishing dodgy civil rights analogies? Check.

    Where, oh where, I keep asking myself, do people get the idea that gays are cheap opportunists with self-centered princess complexes? I just don’t understand, you know?