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    Moderation in all things

    Posted by Sean at 23:40, June 8th, 2005

    And that, my dear blogdaddy, is why I still use the word libertarian. Moderate is a state of mind, not a set of political positions. This is not to trivialize the very important philosophical and ethical principle that we should all listen to those with opposing views, deal honestly with the valid points they make, and be willing to change our positions if their counterarguments are strong enough.

    It’s just that, if what you’re looking for is an indication of what the person you’re talking to thinks the relationship between government and society should be, hearing him says he’s a “moderate” tells you nothing except that he likes to congratulate himself about how fair-minded he is. You still need to find out whether he’s a conservative, a leftist, a nanny-statist, a one-world pacifist, or an isolationist; and the only way to do that is to start talking policy.

    Of course, libertarian has its downside–especially since all too many people like to hear “gay libertarian” as “gay libertine.” But in its implication that someone so labeled is likely to defend the strict delimitation of government power in relation to most issues that come up–which I’ve actually been known to do pretty immoderately–it suits me better than anything else I’ve encountered.

    Added on 10 June, Pretenders playing in the background: Alan Stewart Carl has his own take on centrism. It’s a good read. I’m still not entirely sure about this part, however:

    I have very firm beliefs (free markets, social inclusion, privacy rights, vigorous national defense, etc.) but other Centrists may fall to my left or right on some issues. That doesn’t make us mushy.

    Indeed? Sounds pretty mushy to me. I’m not accusing these individuals of being mushy, mind you, only saying that any political movement they’re all yoked into is going to be, unless you list out policy positions and do a sort of two-from-column-A-two-from-column-B diagnostic kind of thing.

    This part also caused my eyebrows to rise a bit:

    The current political environment too often serves up only two possible solutions. And too often the adherents to those solutions are unwilling to consider change (just look at the Social Security debate). Centrism seeks to get away from the choice A, choice B or no choice at all method of problem solving. We believe there is often a third way. And we want to find it.

    This is attractive on its face; we’ve all heard the proposals from the two major parties on a given issue and thought, “Wow, those both suck.” But surely centrists have noticed that, in the real world, the “third way” that is actually arrived at is frequently a cheerfully schizoid “bipartisan compromise,” produced by haggling and deal-brokering and back-scratching and pork-barreling in which coherent policy aims recede from view. If Alan thinks he has a better way that’s genuinely practicable, I, for one, would very much like to hear about it.

    I doubt that more hand-wringing about “special interests” is going to be of much help, though. By this point every American belongs to a half-dozen interest groups, whether he pays membership dues to any organization or not. Those that are very powerful tend to be those that have a lot of constituents (AARP, anyone?), which makes calling them “special” somewhat misleading. We are the special interests, and if those who self-identify as centrists want to decry the general entitlement-mindedness of the citizenry, I’m certainly on board. But in that case, you have to acknowledge (at least, I think you do) that stern, uncompromising calls for self-reliance are more likely to be effective there than yet more willingness to negotiate or endlessly poke around for more options.

    I don’t want to sound dismissive, because I do think what he’s saying is very important. The models for discourse we’re frequently offered these days usually come in two varieties: “politeness” = “namby-pamby PC-ism” and “character assassination/gruesomely gleeful expletive-throwing/screechy overstatement” = “daring truth-telling.” Both are tiresome beyond belief.

    But both also extend beyond the political realm and into popular culture, the arts, education, and what passes for conversation at dinner parties. Which is to say, a general return to civility, in which strongly-held, fact-based opinions are respectfully aired and heard, is what’s called for. Casting it as a move for political reform seems to me misleading and insufficient.

    Muslim refusenik

    Posted by Sean at 09:26, June 8th, 2005

    I bumped the mouse while I was over at Eric‘s and happened to land on this site. It turned out to be a felicitous accident, because he (I think it’s a he) has what looks like an author profile/review of a book posted. The book is by a Muslim lesbian, born in Uganda and brought up in Toronto. I could seriously learn to like this woman:

    “[Gay Muslim activists] say, ‘Don’t confuse me with being anti-Jewish, I’m just anti-Israel,'” Manji says. “I say, ‘Hold on sister. I oppose that premise and so should you.’ I have never said that Israel has a perfect human rights record. Neither does America. I make the case that Israel’s existence does not lie at the heart of what’s wrong with the Muslim world.

    “I say, yes, feel free to criticize the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] and their policies. There absolutely is an occupation but there is also a political occupation inflicted by the Palestinian leaders,” she says. “They have rejected every proposal for an independent state. They have always been rejected without the consultation of the Palestinian people. The last one, the Oslo Accords, was not translated into Arabic. This should burn every human rights activist.”

    That’s something I’ve always found it difficult to get my head around. On the one hand, it annoys me to see people wringing sacred texts like dishcloths to squeeze out meanings that they happen to want to be there. I find it much easier to deal with Biblical literalists (like those I grew up around) than, like, Unitarians. On the other hand, debate (including that over meanings) is how you learn that strong, vibrant personalities are going to disagree, that you’re not always right, and that the only thinking and behavior you can reliably change is your own.

    Come to think of it, maybe it’s the lack of self-criticism and constant finger-pointing at the same bugbear that makes gay activists feel such an affinity for, say, Palestinian activists:

    “The fact that the neo-con right and preachers have called Muslims on their hypocrisy makes it difficult for the political left to condemn it,” Manji says. “To criticize, they say, says you are only feeding into the so-called fear of Islam. It’s the same thing if someone were to say, ‘Oh, I think we need to overthrow Hussein because of his atrocious record on human rights.’

    “To criticize the gross human rights violations of Hussein means that you support the Bush administration,” she says. “I long to see the day when gay and lesbian leaders will attend Muslim speak-outs and ask the Muslims in those protests if they in turn will speak out against gay homophobia. I don’t hear too many queer activists hammering that.”

    Manji contends that Islam is the only religion that has no sense of moderation. Even Christianity has moderate factions, she says, despite the loud, mouthy rhetoric of apocalyptic social conservatives.

    “Whenever I would air anti-gay remarks from Christian leaders on my television show, Christian viewers would flood our lines with tolerant biblical interpretations,” she says. “But when I expose anti-gay feedback from Muslim leaders, not once did other leaders offer other interpretations. It is as if these bigots spoke for Islam. Even those who don’t share mainstream Islam’s prejudices against homosexuality won’t speak up.”

    Manji says she hears from many Muslims on her Web site, www.muslim-refusenik.com, and face-to-face that they can’t be public with their support of diversity because they fear persecution. She believes this is because literalism has gone mainstream.

    “Every religion has its fair share of literalists but in Islam, literalism is worldwide. Even moderate Muslims believe that the holy Koran is God 3.0,” she says. “Most Muslims still don’t know how to debate because they have never been taught to. The same cannot be said of moderate Christians and Jews.”

    If their moderation is in conflict with their beliefs about God, I don’t really see what the moderate Muslims Manji is describing can do except pick one. That doesn’t make it much easier to explain why they bother offering her secretive shows of solidarity and support, though.

    Risk-free adventure

    Posted by Sean at 01:23, June 8th, 2005

    The Committee to Protect Journalists is not an organization I’ve done much paying attention to. Something one of its spokespersons said yesterday caught my eye, though, and made me wonder anew at how callow some people can be.

    Reuters says a Spanish judge wants to haul in US soldiers for questioning over an incident two years ago in which a Spanish journalist was killed:

    The Pentagon has exonerated the U.S. soldiers from any blame, but High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz wants to question the three who were in the tank, a court official said on Tuesday.

    “Spanish cameraman Jose Couso, who worked for Telecinco, and Reuters cameraman Taras Protsiuk, a Ukrainian, were killed and several people were wounded when the U.S. tank fired a shell directly into the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on April 8, 2003.

    The Spanish court would have jurisdiction only over the death of the Spanish citizen.

    The American soldiers would be questioned as suspects for murder and crimes against the international community, which carry sentences of 15 to 20 years in jail and 10 to 15 years respectively.

    “It is difficult to conceive of any set of circumstances under which we would submit U.S. military personnel to questioning before a foreign court of criminal jurisdiction regarding the conduct of authorized combat operations,” said Navy Cmdr. Jane Campbell, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

    Hey, I wonder whether targeting journalists is a hate crime in Spain. Perhaps US forces were trying to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. I’m not sure what other “crimes against the international community” [retch! heave!] we could be talking about.

    Maybe my irreverence is misplaced; it’s possible that the actual journalists who were killed had a clear-headed, philosophical view of the risks involved in covering combat operations and would be displeased at their colleagues’ reactions to their deaths.

    The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists obtained the full report under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Among other criticisms, the committee said the report failed to address “the question of why U.S. troops were not aware that the Palestine Hotel — one of the best-known civilian sites in Baghdad at the time — was full of journalists.”

    The Committee to Protect Journalists (and Reuters) made similar noises at the time, it seems:

    “I note that the commander of the U.S. 3rd Infantry has now said that one of its tanks fired a round at the Palestine Hotel,” Reuters Editor-in-chief Geert Linnebank said in a statement. “He said it did this after it came under fire from the hotel.”

    “… the incident nonetheless raises questions about the judgment of the advancing U.S. troops who have known all along that this hotel is the main base for almost all foreign journalists in Baghdad. (The Reuters cameraman’s) death, and the injuries sustained by the others, were so unnecessary.”

    The Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday that the incidents violated the Geneva Conventions and called for an “immediate and thorough investigation,” the results of which should be made public.

    These people are out of their gourd. The idea of marking off a little Temenos of Innocence in the middle of a war zone, in which journalists can expect absolute safety, is idiotic. Central Command made the common-sense point that such sites become a magnet for dirty-fighting combatants who want to camouflage themselves (and to make the enemy hestitate to strike at them hard). CPJ seems to think that the ground forces involved should have been told that there was a significant press presence in the Palestine Hotel. How that would have changed the fact that those ground forces were being shot at and needed to respond is not explained. As it was, those manning the tank didn’t keep firing, or call in reinforcements to help flatten the place, so they clearly didn’t mistake it for an enemy bunker.

    CPJ keeps its own statistics on journalists who die in the line of duty. Its total for 2004: 39 confirmed, including 13 in Iraq. Considering the risk involved in walking around a war zone without combat training, that doesn’t strike me as an outrageously high number.


    Posted by Sean at 22:44, June 6th, 2005

    This is very cool–I’m assuming it’s the “announcement of monumental significance” referred to in the last newsletter:

    June is gay pride month and to mark the occasion, the gay community will gather for a mortgage burning party on Friday, June 3rd at 2 p.m. to celebrate a mortgage retirement gift of $274,000 to the William Way Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Community Center. The donor, a respected community leader and businessman, will be announced at the event. The William Way Community Center is located at 1315 Spruce Street in Philadelphia.

    The Center will save $391,270 in mortgage principal and interest payments over a ten-year period. For this reason, the gift will enable the community center to immediately develop a new spectrum of educational, cultural, social, and health services for Philadelphia’s diverse sexual and gender minority community.

    When I was looking for a gay community center in Philadelphia to donate to, I asked this guy, and it was William Way he suggested. He showed Eric and me around when I was in Philadelphia in December. Great place (love the URL, too). Congratulations.

    A long way from rice rations

    Posted by Sean at 22:26, June 6th, 2005

    Japanese convenience stores, especially 7-Eleven, have shaped food retailing here in ways that have drawn a lot of attention. The egg-salad sandwiches on spongy white bread, the triangular o-nigiri, and the salads consisting largely of shredded iceberg lettuce and canned corn are still there, but they’ve been joined by snazzier and tastier offerings (some developed in cooperation with restaurant chefs) that are very popular among people who have to eat lunch at their desks or just hate to cook. The industry has become very competitive.

    Of course, the potential downside is the eternal problem of inventory. The Mainichi appears to be doing a series on wastefulness in Japan, spurred by the declaration by Nobel Peace Prize Wangari Maathai winner a few months ago that she just loves Japanese conservation-mindedness, and the first installment (Japanese, English) is about how much prepared food is thrown away at various convenience stores:

    In Japan, about 20 million tons of food waste is thrown out each year. That’s about 150 kilograms per person. As Japan looks to eliminate wastefulness, adopting the spirit of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, this unused food is raising questions over overproduction, especially in Japan’s convenience store business.

    “We do this because we’re taking into consideration the period in which the products will actually be consumed after they are taken home,” explains an official from the Kanto convenience store. As a rule the store is not permitted to discount products approaching their expiry date in the same way as supermarkets do.

    On the day the store was visited, it discarded 75 items, with a combined price of about 16,000 yen. Last year, a total of 4.5 million yen worth of prepared food products were thrown out — about 8 percent of sales of prepared food.

    That does sound like a lot, though I suspect that among Japan’s notoriously inefficient domestic industries it may not be egregious. You also have to wonder about a few things. For one, how does it stack up against the noodle shops and corporate dormitory cafeterias where many people who now eat convenience store meals would otherwise have eaten? Or against the amount of food such people who don’t like to cook throw away after one of their valiant but futile attempts at shopping?

    I was also wondering about compliance with recycling regulations, oddly unmentioned in the Mainichi article. I’m not very familiar with Japan for Sustainability, but it also quotes the 20 million tons figure and gives some others that are, presumably, based on the same data:

    Of the household and general commercial waste, about 20 million tons consist of food waste. This is six times the weight of used-newspaper waste and 4 times that of discarded automobiles.

    Out of 20 million tons of food waste, 18% is produced at the “processing and manufacturing” stage, about 30% is commercial waste from food distribution channels and restaurants, and the remaining 52% is from households. This means that, every year, Japanese households produce about 10 million tons of food waste, equivalent to annual rice consumption in Japan.

    The article also has a few interesting examples of businesses that are recycling their food waste. (I’m not really sure I needed to know that the New Otani Hotel has a compost pile underneath it, but, hey.)

    Dispute over natural gas deposits continues

    Posted by Sean at 06:28, June 6th, 2005

    The US-Japan cooperative missile defense program is moving forward:

    Speaking to reporters at a hotel in Singapore, Ono said the sea-based missile defense project would move from research to development, with the agency planning to request several billions of yen in fiscal 2006 for the first year’s development.

    Production will begin following a five-year development phase that ends in fiscal 2011, he said.

    Japan and the United States are jointly developing a large sea-based interceptor missile with a 53-centimeter diameter with a longer range that enables it to cover a wide area. The missile can distinguish a targeted missile from a decoy.

    The most interesting reason this is a good thing for Japan to be considering is buried near the end of the article:

    “Japan doesn’t consider China a threat, but Beijing’s defense spending is under wraps. A Chinese submarine intruded into Japanese waters and its marine survey and gas field development are provocative,” Ono said.

    The conflict over exploration for fossil fuels (especially a particular natural gas field) has been growing. Demand is growing in China’s expanding economy, and it’s always been high in Japan’s:

    Although the current standoff has not changed, it is very regrettable that the PRC has continued its project of developing the Shungyo Gas Fields near the center line [between China and Japan]. The Chinese side says that it expects to open the field for production as early as October. It will be a major problem if the rough sailing for negotiations and long-term developments turn out to be advantageous only for the PRC side. The PRC should first temporarily cease development of the Shungyo Gas Fields.

    From some on the PRC side, the following argument has recently emerged: there is a fault line between the gas fields and the center line through maritime territory on the Japanese side, so because it is partitioned by geological structure, Japanese natural resources will not be affected even if [China] begins production of gas and petroleum from Shungyo. But if that is the case, we would like to see it proved clearly with detailed data. After all, what both countries need to do is get an objective confirmation of what the true state of the available natural resources is. The sharing of accurate information will make cool-headed dialogue possible.

    The Japanese government has already deemed the move by the Chinese to develop the gas fields a “possible infringement on our rights.” It’s not surprising everyone is so worked up: estimates are that there are 7 trillion cubic feet of gas under there, and (as the Nikkei editorial above implies) it is not certain that the fault line actually partitions the reservoirs into distinct pockets. The BBC has a simple surface map that gives at least a basic idea where we’re talking about.

    No one is predicting at this point that China and Japan are in danger of full-scale war over natural resources. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember, as accusations about history books and shrine visits fly around, that there are more substantive things under dispute.

    Social disease

    Posted by Sean at 05:42, June 6th, 2005

    Well, knock me over with a feather:

    A rapid spread of AIDS over the past decade has reached a level that has confounded and alarmed the health establishment in Japan, a country that has long felt protected by a first-rate health system and widespread condom use.

    Infections which had stayed at infinitesimal levels [as in, official levels–SRK] are surging at rates similar to developing countries, and some experts say the real number of Japanese with HIV or AIDS is two to four times the official toll.

    The rest of the experts probably peg it at five times. This is one of those Japan stories that get recycled every few years (I commented on a few others last year when Susanna asked about a specific one). That isn’t to say that such articles aren’t addressing real problems; it’s the air of discovery that’s irritating. Likewise the tendency toward exaggeration:

    Among women, Sato is one of the careful ones. The 23-year-old Tokyoite has unprotected sex with multiple partners, but at least she occasionally gets herself tested for HIV.

    That first sentence is idiotic. Ms. Sato may be “one of the careful ones” among the women who live in Tokyo (or Osaka), go clubbing frequently, and hook up with strange men all the time. But Tokyo and Osaka don’t represent Japan any more than New York and LA represent America, even if they do comprise a higher proportion of the population.

    Still, the government is not worrying over nothing. I will leave straight people and their dissolute ways to those who know them more intimately. But I heard plenty of real lulus as a gay guy newly arrived from New York in the mid-90’s. Chief among them was the one that said you can’t get HIV from Japanese people (unless they’ve lived abroad, in which case they’re practically foreigners, anyway). For at least two or three years, the messages with the free condoms in the bar toilets have emphasized that the incidence of reported infection in Tokyo has been on the rise and that Japanese-only saunas are not to be considered extra-safe. I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be to bring down infection rates in a country in which “if nobody talks about it, it’s not happening” is a major social principle and tolerance for male playing around is frequently taken to an extreme.

    Dressing down without loosening up

    Posted by Sean at 00:50, June 4th, 2005

    Nichi Nichi has a good roundup of the depressing results of the Japanese government’s new “no taste” “no tie” policy. Among the pictures is one of Prime Minister Koizumi in an Okinawan shirt, looking as if he were practicing his Bea Arthur drag act.

    Naturally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs isn’t pressing the policy too much; an acquaintance of mine who was brought up in Switzerland was recently taken to task by his supervisor there for wearing a striped shirt and wine-colored tie rather than the funeral-director look (white shirt, tie in color range from grey to navy with non-assertive pattern) that’s an unofficial requirement.

    Otherwise, there’s a lot of huffing and puffing going on to make un-suit-edness “cool.” Yuriko Koike, the Minister of the Environment, has called upon designers to come up with “cool biz” looks. There will be a fashion show of them at the Aichi World Expo.

    As Joe says, given the torturing heat and humidity of summer here, and the fact that a lot of people travel around in packed trains rather than cars, it makes sense not to require them to dress to the point of near-suffocation. Still, it’s unfortunate, if not unexpected, that everyone seems to be gravitating toward the dress-shirt-without-a-tie look. (I mean, everyone besides the high-ranking officials who are dressing distinctively just to draw attention to the policy.) It makes them all look as if they’d neglected to finish putting their clothes on in the morning. Or taken off their jackets and ties in preparation for a few rounds of beer and karaoke. Outfits that didn’t look as if something were missing–linen or scrupulously pressed chambray with trousers would be the obvious choices–would look more on-duty.

    Pride month

    Posted by Sean at 11:23, June 3rd, 2005

    Now that Gay Pride is a full month, Paul Varnell says, we should find a way to use it that goes beyond just being one of the installments of the “Let’s Celebrate [Designated Aggrieved Group]” routine:

    If you are not impressed by any of these ideas, create your own. The point is to use Gay Pride Month to create circumstances where gays and lesbians get to know a few more people, learn a little more, develop a greater appreciation of the community they are a part of and experience something in common beyond the mere datum of being gay.

    Pride is best expressed by viewing our sexuality as a potential good and talent to be cultivated. I understand the impulse toward “liberation,” but when coarsely indulged in, it sends mixed signals: “We’re ordinary folks just like you” + “We’re freaks who run loose on the streets in magenta leather thongs” is not a message that’s easily parsed, though it should be easy to figure out which part of it is likely to stick in the Middle-American memory.

    Since I’m not a big organization-joiner, my own modest suggestions are of the pokier, everyday variety:

    Gay people have to stop making excuses for each other all the time. Yes, we suffer. Yes, there’s a lot of crap to take. Yes, it’s wrong. But there’s no more “pride” involved in listening sympathetically while our friends explain for the 100th time why they can’t [break it off with that married man / stop drinking to the point that it affects their job / resist the impulse to flee whenever a relationship threatens to get riskily intimate / stand up to their parents] than there is in behaving that way ourselves. I don’t recommend being sententious, but a little more shunning of chronic liars and cheaters would not do most of us any harm. Nor would making it clear to nebbishy friends that they cannot count on an inexhaustible series of bailouts when they get themselves in trouble.

    That includes those who complain about society’s attitude toward gays but have a litany of reasons they can’t come out to their families. The only real way to address anti-gay ignorance is to refute it, visibly, in the way we live. If you’re so blasted filial, by all means go the whole way: get married and start giving Mom and Dad grandchildren. Or stay gay and honorably closeted, and quit–as in, COLD TURKEY–generalized bitching about homophobia.

    Straight people who support us have a role in this, too. The valuable kind of pride comes from solving problems, overcoming obstacles, and accomplishing things–that’s no less true for us than for you. Considering it natural, even entertaining, for us to live brittle, neurotic, messy lives (while you do everything you can to stabilize your own) does no one any favors.

    All of this is stuff that should be happening anyway, of course; but as long as someone has waved a wand over June and declared it All Hail the Queers month, there’s no reason not to make the best of it.

    Tough questions (for one’s opponents) about Japan Post privatization

    Posted by Sean at 09:27, June 3rd, 2005

    Sometimes, it feels as if I’d never left America:

    The Democratic Party of Japan’s return to Diet sessions Wednesday reflected its acknowledgement of the limit on what can be gained from adopting the outmoded parliamentary tactic of boycotting debates.

    During the current Diet session, the DPJ refused to attend debates for several days over a dispute concerning the absence of Heizo Takenaka, the minister responsible for postal privatization, from a session of the House of Representatives’ Internal Affairs and Communications Committee.

    The 10-day boycott did not result in any remarkable achievements. Instead it gave the impression that the largest opposition party was indecisive on how to confront the ruling coalition.

    Which country is this? Oh, yeah: the one where the leader of the Democratic Party is actually kind of cute, which is a convenient distinguishing factor.

    Regarding larger developments in the Japan Post privatization free-for-all…let’s see. A former Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Seiko Noda, had some questions for Prime Minister Koizumi in committee this morning:

    “Mr. Prime Minister, if you are so certain that Japan Post is irredeemable as a public corporation, why did you pass its public incorporation bill during your administration?” Ms. Noda asked, attacking the Prime Minister’s position.

    Koizumi stated, “Both ruling and opposition parties overwhelmingly opposed privatization, so as a politician it was my job to find a way to push through that.” He indicated that setting up the Japan Post Public Corporation had not been his real intention all along.

    Ms. Noda went on to indicate that the government had not explained thoroughly the disadvantages of privatization and ended her series of questions by saying, “One can by no means clearly see what ideals would be accomplished by the results of privatizing the [existing] public corporation. In the midst of that [state of affairs], there’s extraordinary uncertainty and room for hesitation involved in pushing forward with this [plan].”

    Also heard:

    Eiji Ozawa (LDP) critized the bills related to the privatization proposal as unrealistic and said, “The Prime Minister is [behaving like] Don Quixote.” The Prime Minister stated, “Well, actually, I like Don Quixote. I’d like the privatization of Japan Post to make people say [later], ‘That Koizumi knew what he was doing, after all.'”

    (I took quite a bit of liberty with that last part. 先見の明があったな actually means something more literally like, “had the clarity of foresight, huh!” I couldn’t find a better way to de-clunk-ify it.) Ozawa is presumably talking about the literary character and not the arson-prone discount retailer. Before I moved into Atsushi’s apartment, I lived in the Dogenzaka section of Shibuya–right across the street, essentially, from the 東急本店. Whenever I so much as went out for a run, I’d be assailed by that insufferable “Don, Don, Don…Don Quiiiii…Don, Qui…Hoh, Teh” theme song. I thought I’d lose my mind.

    What was the topic? Ah, yes: Japan Post, as it so often is. Anyway, things are moving along, kind of. No one expected the opposition to melt away, or to fail to play the who-knows-what-will-happen-without-the-government-to-nanny-this? card. I’d kind of enjoy it if someone in the government just stood up and said, “Mr. Prime Minister, Japan Post has a great deal of money, and, to be frank, WE WANT THAT MONEY! WE WANT TO KEEP OUR MITTS ON EVERY YEN OF THAT MOOONNNNNNEEEEEEEY!” Hoping for that amount of forthrightness would be…well, quixotic, one might say.