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    Closet space

    Posted by Sean at 08:30, April 1st, 2005

    Michael uses a locution you see a lot in regard to outing:

    I’m in. My perspective on outing is simple. If you are a public figure, like a politician or whatever, I’m tentatively ok with it as long as it’s done to expose some hypocrisy.

    Some months back, I was taken aback to see Dale Carpenter use it, too, in establishing what he thinks are the criteria for justifiable outing:

    First, the outed person’s homosexuality must be directly relevant to some matter of public policy.

    Hypocrisy by an officeholder meets this test, as when a closeted politician opposes gay equality for homophobic reasons.

    Second, there must be credible evidence made available to the public that establishes the person is probably homosexual.

    The word that gets me is hypocrisy, an extremely useful term that unfortunately is extremely easy to use as a catch-all. Hypocrisy is acting in a way that clearly and directly goes against your professed beliefs. Someone who advocates a law against homosexual conduct and still indulges in it is a hypocrite.

    Just about everything else is a grey area, though. Opposing pro-gay legislation for “homophobic reasons”? Who gets to decide what’s homophobic? Does a politician just have to be “probably” homophobic the way she has to be “probably” homosexual? I’m afraid I still don’t think this is sufficient justification for revealing things about people’s private lives.

    The way to treat people you think are hypocritical and up to no good is to shun them. This seems to be the last move anyone thinks of nowadays, what with all the opportunities to sue people or sell their stories to tabloid shows. It’s still the best course, though. People who are just interested in tricks are unlikely to feel the sting, but those who act straight in public and then want to be all matey and down with the Family behind closed doors would, I think, get the message. And if they don’t, there’s not a whole lot we can do. It simply isn’t possible to stick it to everyone who deserves it, and we all lose when the boundary between public and private becomes even more blurred than it is now.

    Connecticut civil unions bill ready for Senate

    Posted by Sean at 08:48, March 31st, 2005

    Gay News reports that Connecticut’s civil unions bill has passed its three General Assembly committees and is ready to go to the State Senate:

    Gov. M. Jodi Rell has endorsed the concept of civil unions, though she said last week she would like the bill amended to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Rell has not said failure to adopt such an amendment would provoke a veto.

    If the bill becomes law, Connecticut would become the first state to allow same-sex civil unions without the threat of court action.

    Wouldn’t that be cool?

    The libertarian question

    Posted by Sean at 01:51, March 31st, 2005

    Oh, great–this discussion again.

    I’m not sure if I’m a neolibertarian or not, but I think I’m awfully close to what they’re driving at.

    Speaking of libertarianism in general, I’ve long thought of the hard-core libertarians–the really serious, no-compromisers–as the Marxists of the right. Interestingly enough, Scott Kirwin sent me an article in The American Conservative recently which makes that exact point, and makes it quite well: Click here to read Robert Locke’s “Marxism of the Right.”

    Dean’s correct. The article is good. I do think, though, that it only addresses those who are hard think-tank/political-activist libertarians:

    Free spirits, the ambitious, ex-socialists, drug users, and sexual eccentrics often find an attractive political philosophy in libertarianism, the idea that individual freedom should be the sole rule of ethics and government.

    Wacko Libertarian Party types might believe that, but Virginia Postrel, for example, certainly doesn’t. As you read Locke’s article, it becomes increasingly clear that what he’s refuting is only the perfectionist libertarians, who can’t see any grey areas in anything at all. Those people annoy the living bejeezus out of me, as they do a lot of other people, and I found very satisfying Locke’s temperate-but-vaguely-aghast tone in pointing out their flagrant idiocies.

    But still. I voted for Bush. I’m in favor of free markets, private gun ownership, school vouchers, the WOT, strict readings of the Constitution, and social security privatization; I’m against hate-crimes laws, campus speech codes, campaign-finance reform, the push for gay marriage, the ruthless secularization of the public sphere, UN-worship, and Richard Gere. I’ve had plenty of people tell me, “Dude [or sometimes Bitch], whatever you call yourself, you’re a conservative,” and that’s fine if they feel that way, but I persist in referring to myself as a libertarian, not a conservative.

    It’s not something I have a hang-up about. It’s just that, in the grand scheme of things, I think liberty is more fragile and needs more protection than tradition. The reason so many sensible people are calling themselves conservatives is that, at this historical moment in America, tradition has taken a bruising, with insights passed down through the ages flung aside or simply ignored over the last 40 years. Recapturing that wisdom is a big and important job, but I don’t think it’s the vast mission that animates civilization. The world is chock-a-block with societies that respect tradition just fine but offer their citizens miserable lives. It’s our liberty that makes us different and makes us a beacon to them. For the use of the word, it’s worth being occasionally mistaken for a LP head case; and it has the added advantage of alerting people that they’ll have to listen to you to find out what you actually believe.


    Posted by Sean at 08:16, March 30th, 2005

    The cherry blossoms have started to open in Atsushi’s city. They’re late again this year and are still closed in Tokyo, so the following is anticipatory:



    negawakuba/hana no moto nite/haru shinan/sono kisaragi no/mochidzuki no koro

    Saigyō Hōshi

    If I have my wish,
    I will die beneath the boughs
    laden with blossoms–
    Spring, the night of the full moon,
    second moon of the new year.

    The Priest Saigyo

    All right, I had to shove the “spring” after the caesura and pad the part before the caesura with “boughs” (in case you don’t know where the flowers on trees grow). And Saigyo doesn’t actually indicate that he’s talking about 夜桜 (yo-zakura: “night viewing of cherry blossoms”). Anyway, I think the point gets across. This is one of Saigyo’s most famous poems, and it has an uncharacteristic swooning tone (not that there’s anything wrong with swooning occasionally). It antedates the practice of appreciating the cherry blossoms by getting mortally tanked and singing karaoke, rather than dying, beneath them.

    Actually, I suppose they were getting tanked back then, too. I’m pretty sure they weren’t singing karaoke.

    Taking away the performance

    Posted by Sean at 01:11, March 30th, 2005

    See, if I were able to write headlines as hilarious as the one on this post, I wouldn’t just slap on the first song lyrics that come to mind and consider my entry finished. As Samizdata’s Johnathan Pearce says, “God forbid that alcohol should be sold on the basis that it is to do with fun, ooooh noooo.” Fun might lead to not only sex but also spontaneity and the formation of irreverent individual opinions. Then where would we be?

    BTW, I see that the old nannyculture.com has been transformed entirely into consumerfreedom.com, which is missing the fabulous finger-wagging-granny logo of old but is still depressingly informative.


    Posted by Sean at 11:00, March 29th, 2005

    Japan is contemplating an environmental tax:

    On 29 march, the government’s advisory body on global warming policy (Chair: PM Koizumi) decided on a new proposal for achieving environmental goals; the purpose is to hit targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions set by the Kyoto Protocols. The main pillar of the plan is to urge industries to make efforts independently, so factory-based reduction targets were increased and home- and office-based targets were relaxed. The proposal names an environmental tax as an possibility to be investigated but does not specify whether such a tax will actually be introduced. The proposal contains few concrete policy recommendations, so some have raised concern that targets are in danger of not being achieved.

    Should we laugh or cry? All of this is in response, of course, to the realization several weeks back that the Kyoto Protocols were going into effect, but Japan had no plans in place to implement them.

    Another Mitsubishi Fuso recall

    Posted by Sean at 09:58, March 29th, 2005

    Apparently under the assumption that any publicity is good publicity, Mitsubishi Fuso is taking the tack of spacing out its revelations of product malfunctions to make sure there’s always a new one circulating:

    The transport ministry started questioning executives of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp. on Monday about suspicions the commercial vehicle manufacturer had hidden defect-induced accidents yet again, this time under new leadership.

    The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport summoned three executives, including Hideyuki Shiozawa, senior executive officer in charge of recalls, for questioning over suspected violations of the road transportation vehicles law.

    After a spate of scandals over defect cover-ups as well as pledges for improvement, it was discovered that Mitsubishi Fuso had delayed by six months reporting a series of vehicle fires and other problems involving its large trucks.

    It was not until March 18 that the company reported 22 incidents, including seven fires, that took place after it filed for recalls of 4,454 large trucks due to faulty suspension parts in September 2004.

    It’s literally been years that these recalls have been in the news.


    Posted by Sean at 09:03, March 29th, 2005

    Christian Grantham and IGF have interesting comment threads going over GayPatriot’s precipitous exit from blogging. Of course, some of the back-and-forth is little more than “You suck!”–“No, you suck!” stuff, but most of it is pretty thoughtful. Michael, who e-mailed GayPatriot himself about the whole thing, has a post of his own. I agree that the real story is not GP’s identity. What most deserves attention is the vileness of Michael Rogers, which isn’t new but has yet again manifested itself in a way that any honorable person should condemn. May I point out, briefly, though, that there really is a lesson or two to be learned in the other direction?

    First, don’t strike out at someone if you’re not prepared to deal with his counterstrikes. You don’t have to defend the behavior of a knife-brandishing rapist to point out that someone is stupid take him on with nothing but a squirt gun. As it happens, through dumb luck I clicked on GayPatriot when the original post with photographs and “terrorist” accusation was still up. I thought it was just his being overheated again and forgot about it; but I do not think like people who practice outing. It is not exactly unheard of for a miscreant to try to work vengeance through an enemy’s employer, even if it’s not Rogers’s usual MO.

    Second, when you routinely proceed from a Pharisaical stance of uncritical faith in your own rectitude, you are eventually going to get yourself into a pickle. Leftist gay activists do a lot that’s destructive to our interests and those of society as a whole; there isn’t a thing wrong with GP’s wanting to rant about them and having a sense of mission about doing so. But that sort of operation requires a sense of proportion. It simply isn’t true that gay activists cause every hangnail. (Not that they wouldn’t if they could, especially if someone convinced them that hangnails were somehow transgressive.) He seems to have gone so far off the deep end in enthusiasm for sticking it to the gay left that he didn’t realize, before pushing “Publish,” that it might not be the wisest idea to post about the “terrorists” in our midst with a vague exhortation to strike back against them. I blame Michael Rogers for being outrageous, but I regret that GP gave him an opening.

    Added on 30 March: Eric agrees that we should all post limeshurbert’s newly laid-out adaptation of GP’s original post. Fine by me:


    One final thing: I find it thrilling to be able to look at comment threads and see so many gays debating outing under their own names, purely out of a desire to protect the privacy of others on principle. I can’t imagine such a discussion here in Japan.

    A girl’s got to suffer for fashion

    Posted by Sean at 07:16, March 29th, 2005

    So, how often does it happen that the new Kylie single and the new New Order album come out the same day? Pretty cool! Waiting for the Sirens’ Call makes me think basically what Get Ready made me think: glad to hear the Brotherhood guitars come back, but I miss Gillian’s keyboard lines. But, hey–you can’t have everything.

    As for Kylie, okay, “Giving You Up” sounds kind of like “Can’t Get You out of My Head” a whole lot like “Can’t Get You out of My Head” like the backing track for “Can’t Get You out of My Head” with 80% of Cathy Dennis’s little noises erased and a new melody slathered on top. But who cares? There are worse things than sounding like “Can’t Get You out of My Head.” And I’ll tell you–that Kylie may not be much of a singer, but she was born to sigh “Ah-ha ah-haaaah” over a dance track. And since boys who know how to handle themselves in the sack but can’t have an adult relationship show no signs of decreasing in number, I don’t see why there’s shouldn’t be more songs about them. The London-as-Lilliput video’s pretty good, too.

    The world street

    Posted by Sean at 08:54, March 28th, 2005

    Jonathan Rauch’s newest column is about a topic of great interest to us on the Pacific Rim:

    China — yes, repressive, aggressive Communist China — is now more highly regarded in the world than is the United States. A pair of recent BBC World Service polls of more than 20 countries finds that the plurality of respondents (47 percent to 38 percent) and of countries (15 out of 21) regard America’s influence in the world as “mainly negative.” A plurality of respondents (48 percent to 30 percent) and of countries (17 of 21, excluding the U.S.) regard Chinese influence in the world as “mainly positive.”

    Why the sharp turn against America? Not just because President Bush is personally unpopular abroad; Pew notes that world opinion of America did not plunge until 2003, well after Bush’s election. Nor, Pew finds, is the trans-Atlantic values gap wider today than it was in the early 1990s. Rather, says Pew, “in the eyes of others, the U.S. is a worrisome colossus,” quick to throw its weight around and selfish in its aims. In a 2003 Pew survey, majorities in seven of eight predominantly Muslim nations (including Turkey) said they regard America as a potential military threat to their own country. In a Eurobarometer poll of European Union nations in 2003, respondents placed America on a par with Iran as a threat to world peace. Pew finds that in France, Germany, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey, many people believe that America’s real goal in the war on terror is not to reduce terrorism but to dominate the world.

    Rauch is focused on how America’s motivations are viewed. His conclusions ring true to me, though, of course, data from polls have to be used with caution.

    I do think that another part of the problem is that too many of us take “people the world over long to be free of tyranny” to imply “people the world over long to live like Americans.” We Americans tend to take the idea of government by the people pretty literally. (Of course, sometimes we do so even while trying to offload risk and its consequences on the government–which is why the mention of social security, the public schools, or health care policy gives us out-of-my-face-with-you! libertarians high blood pressure.)

    To a lot of people, that looks like chaos–the lawlessness of a country formed by people who swore off the traditions of their homelands to follow their bliss. While many of the traditions peoples repair to in structuring their societies are illiberal, I don’t think the overall results are flat-out unjust if everyone has the right of exit and those who stay do so out of choice. If Karen Hughes can emphasize to foreign audiences how the Afghan constitution, the transition government in Iraq, and the democracy movement in Lebanon represent the adoption of democracy in a way that’s sensitive to local preferences, she’ll be doing a good thing.