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    Posted by Sean at 08:42, April 22nd, 2005

    PM Koizumi spoke today in Jakarta:

    Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi spoke at the Asia-Africa Summit that began in Jakarta 22 April. He cited the talk given in 1995 by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to commemorate the end of World War II, in which he apologized for past actions such as the way occupied territories were governed. “We must humbly absorb all the facts of history, and keep always etched on our souls a sense of keen self-reflection and regret.”

    There’s an English translation of some of Murayama’s remarks here, and there’s a further discussion here. I do think it’s important to bear in mind that mutual hostilties in this region are as old as the hills. From that perspective, every Japanese government worker down to the Diet Building janitors could apologize for the atrocities of World War II, and the Chinese might very well still be complaining. At some point, it’s unreasonable to expect Japan to keep asking to be forgiven.

    At the same time, it’s not hard to understand where the ire comes from. Simon linked to this terrifically-done list of Japanese politicians’ apologies to Korea, and the one of apologies to China is now up, too. I have rarely heard any of these politicians accused of being insincere, though some of them are on the vague side. The point that’s usually made is that, given things like the treatment of Iris Chang’s work, the pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine, and the repeated controversy over history textbooks, it’s pretty clear that there are other people in positions of power over how the War is semi-officially depicted who are very frequently successful in making sure that no wrongdoing is ascribed to the Japanese. That raises questions over the extent to which those issuing the apologies are speaking on behalf of the Japanese government.

    Whichever side you come down on, the PRC has transparently taken a have-it-both-ways-at-once approach to the protests: it condoned them while people’s rage was directed at Japan and deflected away from the CCP–and the minute they got enough out of hand that there was a danger the protestors might start remembering how much they dislike about their own government, too, the serious warnings started. Not surprisingly, the Japanese ambassador to Beijing is still warning Japanese citizens that China may not be safe, despite officially stating that there is no information to indicate that demonstrations will continue within the jurisdictions of large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Being an ambassador, he’s chosen the most tactful possible wording: “In such a large country as China, it is impossible to guarantee that nothing will happen.” Gotta love that litotes.

    Added at 22:38: Oh, yeah, almost left this out: 80 Diet members decided to visit the Yasukuni Shrine today.

    End of civilization continues in CT

    Posted by Sean at 08:08, April 21st, 2005

    Civil unions have been signed into law by the Connecticut governor. No court case. Very cool. Even the marriage-or-bust types are reeling it in enough to recognize that there’s much to celebrate:

    Love Makes a Family, a gay rights organization that wanted legislators pass a gay marriage bill, called civil unions an important step toward protecting the rights of same-sex couples. But Anne Stanback, the group’s executive director, said the fight is not over. [“Love Makes a Family” sounds like the kind of entity that should have a headmistress, not an executive director–SRK]

    “As important as the rights are, this is not yet equality,” she said.

    Naturally, it’s that last quotation that 365Gay has seen fit to use as its quote of the day. Whatever. On the opposite side of the country, the Montana domestic partnership bills were voted down by its House of Representatives this week; that it passed the Senate was apparently big news. Things go in fits and starts.

    Universal mother

    Posted by Sean at 07:18, April 21st, 2005

    The LDP will ask the government to provide 2 trillion yen to ensure that universal service is maintained. This is double the previous recommended amount:

    The government will accept a request from the Liberal Democratic Party to increase a fund to maintain universal banking and insurance services by at least 1 trillion yen in negotiations on postal privatization bills, government sources said Wednesday.

    The government also is expected to study the need to raise the amount to be stated in the bills from 1 trillion yen to up to 2 trillion yen.

    The government also will not ensure capital ties among postal saving, kampo insurance and other new companies in the bills.

    Customizing the pontiff

    Posted by Sean at 01:43, April 20th, 2005

    My first thought on reading the news that the pope had been selected this morning was, as you might imagine, “Hmm…I wonder whether Andrew Sullivan has torn himself clean in half with rage yet, like Rumpelstilskin, or I’m a little early.” I was just in time, apparently, but QandO already has it covered.

    Camille Paglia dealt with this amply in an essay when I was in college, but it’s not an issue that’s likely to go away soon. To add to what Dale writes at QandO: if you believe that your principles are moral and just, and you believe that external, obdurate reality bears them out without the gloss of wishful thinking, that’s that. Religions don’t have line-item vetos. There are gay-friendly churches around, and I’m at a loss to figure out why gay Christians don’t join them instead of trying to shift thousands of years of tradition to fit their beliefs this very minute.

    That doesn’t mean they should just sit down and shut up if they seriously believe that scripture is being misinterpreted or interpreted too narrowly. It’s just that lasting change happens slowly. If their chief concern is that the long-term trajectory of Christianity be in the direction of truth, they have to accept that their arguments may take hold slowly and not have any effects on doctrine within their lifetimes. And if what they’re arguing really isn’t clearly supported by the Bible, it may never take hold in the church in which they were reared. They must be content with serving God to the honest best of their understanding, and standing firm in the face of earthly disapproval. I still think Andrew Sullivan has contributed a great deal to the public discourse, but I can’t get his position on religion to boil down to anything but “I’ll fuck whoever I damn well please, and the church will love me for it.” That seems to me just a bit off the mark.

    Added on 21 April: Susanna is back to posting more frequently, which is a good thing. She had this to say about the ascension of the new pope and Andrew Sullivan’s reaction to it.

    Also, Michael thinks I’m engaging in pro forma Sullivan-bashing. Well, I’m not. When people attack or belittle Andrew Sullivan as if he were useless, I am more than happy to defend him. But you can defend his overall contribution to the public debate and still conclude that his recent positions are either not well supported or mutually inconsistent, and that the flibbertigibbety way he’s taken to expressing them doesn’t do him any favors, either.

    Airport screening officially sucks, again

    Posted by Sean at 21:50, April 19th, 2005

    Since I would prefer to keep my blood pressure in the healthy range, it’s probably just as well that the new federal reports on the efficacy of airport screening are not available in all their depressing detail.

    The Florida Republican said he would ask the Bush administration and Congress to hand the function back to the private sector, which would be overseen by homeland security officials.

    “This annual multibillion-dollar system has received its second poor performance report card,” Mica said.

    Details of the two reports are classified but Mica described a system — which he helped create even though he opposed it — as inefficient and struggling despite a $20 billion investment at 429 commercial airports.

    The Transportation Security Administration oversees nearly 50,000 screeners.

    The homeland security report, parts of which were publicly released, noted screeners performed no better in covert tests after a stinging assessment last year on failures to detect prohibited items at airport security checkpoints.

    And now they’re supposed to be making sure luggage is purged of every last lighter, among other things. Those who fear that the system may actually be re-privatized can probably rest easy, though:

    Democrat Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the former ranking member of the aviation subcommittee, sharply criticized TSA. But he said it would be a mistake to return to private screening and doubted Congress would agree to do so.

    “It’s time we give screeners 21st century tools to combat 21st century threats,” DeFazio said.

    Uh-huh. I predict a bipartisan vote to give the screening agency lots of money for new procedures and equipment. Perhaps they’ll revamp training to enable screeners to identify big, scary knives without assistance.

    Fukuoka shakes again

    Posted by Sean at 21:30, April 19th, 2005

    Fukuoka has had another strong earthquake–M 5.8. This one wasn’t as strong as the one in March, but they’re reporting multiple injuries already. Also, it happened at 6:11 on a weekday morning, so a lot of commuter lines have been affected. I haven’t gotten a message from Atsushi saying he felt it in his city, though I assume he must have.

    Ay-yi-yi-yi-I wanna dance (but my feet won’t let me)

    Posted by Sean at 22:28, April 18th, 2005

    This shouldn’t need to be said again, but it does, and Ghost of a Flea says it.

    Friends, they tried to warn me about you

    Posted by Sean at 13:46, April 18th, 2005

    Man, you know how sometimes you wish you could take some of your good fortune and give it to someone else? It never becomes easy to see a friend who’s open and giving and true get screwed over by some shallow charmer, even if you know that he’ll get the guy he deserves eventually.

    US Ambassador delivers blandishments

    Posted by Sean at 01:02, April 18th, 2005

    New US Ambassador to Japan certainly picked a nice, tranquil time to start his duties. He’s understandably making the bland diplomatic best of things, according to the Nikkei . From his first press conference:

    [On the anti-Japan demonstrations in China]: “The relations between the two are crucial with respect to the stability of the entire Asia region. It is our hope that they will aim to find a peaceful resolution through dialogue.”

    [On the reform of the UN]: “Complex issues have been piling up, and it is not desirable that we set a firm deadline at this point…. The US government, and I as an individual, do support Japan [in its petition for permanent UNSC membership].”

    [On the first East Asia summit to be held at the end of this year in Malaysia]: “The US is a Pacific country. We would like to participate if it means that we will have a chance to have a hand in setting broad policies that will have an effect in the region.”

    The East Asia summit will feature the ASEAN members plus inseparable buddies Japan, the PRC, and the ROK. Australia has already been snubbed after hinting that it would like an invitation. Malaysia and China are (go figure) those who are are most hesitant over the participation of Australia, let alone the US. Incidentally, Schieffer’s last post before Japan was Australia.

    He hit me first!

    Posted by Sean at 09:06, April 17th, 2005

    The Japanese do not permit themselves to be upstaged in the sly dig department, so the PRC’s remarks that Japan may, perhaps, not have enough “respect” (for history or from the rest of Asia) to be a member of the UN Security Council have not gone unanswered. Shinzo Abe, head of the LDP, was in Sendai today and mused,

    They [the PRC government] are supposed to host the Olympics and the World Expo. One wonders whether they’ll really be able to manage, assuming the situation continues as it is now. Doubts cannot but arise.

    The “situation” he’s talking about are this weekend’s repeat-performance protests, which were the headline news yesterday and today here. The news here has been stressing the violence of some of the protests, though it’s hard to have a good sense of how out-of-hand things really got. Reuters’s version is here:

    China has come under fire for tacitly encouraging the anti-Japanese unrest but Beijing denies the charge. But authorities have pledged to protect Japanese businesses and nationals in China.

    In the third weekend of violent protests, thousands marched Saturday to Japan’s consulate in Shanghai, smashing windows, pelting it with paint bombs and eggs and attacking Japanese restaurants along the way.

    Relations between the two Asian powerhouses are at their worst in decades and China’s official Xinhua news agency put the number of protesters in Shanghai at 20,000.

    “The students and citizens spontaneously took to the street to demonstrate and protest, expressing their discontent with the right-wing forces in Japan on violating the Sino-Japanese relations,” it quoted Shanghai municipal government spokeswoman Jiao Yang as saying.

    It’s rather interesting how the PRC regime’s ability to keep protestors in check varies. Personally, I find it improbable that the protests were engineered by the Chinese government–or even encouraged in the active way we usually think of it. All kinds of unrest have been building in China, though, and it seems likely that the PRC is taking advantage of the fact that this ill-feeling is directed outward and hoping to use it as a pressure release.

    Japan itself is not a protest-heavy country, compared with its neighbors; but, of course, anti-Chinese feeling is never a really hard sell here, and there are small but real fears that some Japanese will get into the counter-protest act:

    The violence has raised concerns about a backlash in Japan, and police have tightened security at the Chinese embassy, consulates and residences after several incidents of harassment.

    A man hurled a bottle at the Chinese consulate in Osaka, western Japan, Sunday and set himself on fire when officers tried to subdue him, police said. Right-wing groups were driving around Tokyo in trucks fitted with loudspeakers, but riot police prevented them from approaching the Chinese embassy.

    For anyone who doesn’t know Japan, that “right-wing groups were driving around Tokyo in trucks fitted with loudspeakers” part is not, heaven knows, a distinguishing feature of this weekend; the exhortations to defend Japan’s purity and honor are probably a bit less generalized in tone, though. Japanese foreign minister Nobutaka Machimura is in Beijing for a meeting with the Chinese foreign ministry.

    Added on 18 April: Japan demands that China apologize for letting demonstrations get out of hand; China says it’s Japan’s responsibility to apologize first. At least the two countries’ foreign ministers, meeting this weekend in Beijing, were able to agree on something: there should be a joint China-Japan center for historical research. That’s the least likely issue to help resolve the immediate problems, but, hey–you have to start somewhere.

    BTW, here‘s the original Japanese report on the Mainichi poll referred to at the end of the Reuters story. For once, the Japanese version doesn’t contain much that was left out of the English story.