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    The Ron-Yasu relationship, then and now

    Posted by Sean at 22:52, September 1st, 2004

    The Daily Yomiuri has a dual interview with former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and US Ambassador to Japan (and White House Chief of Staff toward the end of the Reagan administration) Howard Baker. The English version focuses mostly on their impressions of Reagan and, against that backdrop, what leadership is. But in the Japanese (I’m assuming Baker spoke in English and Nakasone in Japanese, but I’m not sure whether to call it the “original”), there’s more about Japan’s role in the WOT and on current issues along the Pacific Rim:

    The Japan-US relationship is one of amity. Japan sent SDF personnel to Iraq, but that was on its own behalf. It was not just predicated on the Japan-US friendship. Of course, America applauded the deployment, but the SDF was sent in the national interests of Japan. [Yes, it’s that repetitious in the Japanese version.–SRK]

    We are well aware that Japan has a pacifist constitution. We acknowledge fully that there are restrictions on the SDF. Howvever, the world perceives Japan as a superpower. Japan has begun to take on the responsibilities of a major nation. The deployment of peacekeeping forces (PKO) to the Golan Heights and East Timor is such a role of a superpower. And I think that the deployment of the SDF to Iraq was also in that vein.

    For Japan, the chief threat now is not North Korea. The very biggest issue is Japan’s China policy. China wields gargantuan economic and military power, and it is looking to expand it. For the sake of the world, and not just the Pacific Rim, it is extremely important for Japan and China to build an amicable relationship.

    All of which makes me wonder–what exactly is in the RNC platform about China and Japan? Baker is an ambassador now, after all; you expect smooth talk from him. I still can’t seem to get to the text. Maybe I’m just using harebrained search terms. It’s clearly toned down from 2000, but I wonder whether it sounds like what I surmise from my slapdash back-translation from the Nikkei .

    Added at 3 a.m. (don’t ask): Nathan says that things in China are not as 1984-ish as they’re often made out to be. He seems to be talking mostly about daily life for the people. I’d have no trouble believing that. Japan is a way more accessible country than China, and Western journalists still insist on doing that whole Mysterious Ways of Japan routine whenever they can. At the same time, the fact that police brutality may be less common than the press makes out doesn’t mean that the PRC’s foreign policy and designs on superpower-dom are any less troubling. Even if we agree that the Kuomintang was not populated by angels.

    The Abode turns two

    Posted by Sean at 11:48, September 1st, 2004

    My fast-track career has kept me pretty busy this week, but before the day is too far in the past, I wanted to say happy 2nd blog-iversary to Amritas. Marc doesn’t just rant about the left–funny as he is when he does–he also affirms his love for America well and often. While his posts on linguistics are often so specialized they make my head spin, even there, he always has an unshowily intelligent comment about how the mind works, or how we convert thoughts into sentences, that makes the reading worth the effort. And his personal kindness has made him a friend [swelling orchestral music] across the ocean that separates our respective archipelagos of collectivism. Glad you’re still around, man.

    Stick or twist / The choice is yours

    Posted by Sean at 11:00, August 30th, 2004

    This is one of the reasons I have issues with outing as a political tactic: Andrew Sullivan reports that a Virginia congressman, Ed Schrock, is dropping out of the election in his district over allegations that he’s gay. It’s hard to imagine that he’d be bowing out of the race if he were not gay; but you never know what’s going through people’s heads, and this just happened yesterday. The stuff at BlogActive does look pretty ethically damning, if it’s all legit. The Christian Coalition doesn’t give you a 92% rating if all you do is fail to support gay marriage, you know. But the only specific accusation (on the posts I looked at) is the part about ending “Don’t ask, don’t tell” for the purpose of rooting out the queers before they’re able to enlist.

    Where I get queasy about this stuff is at the point at which someone has to decide what “rights” are, because that’s the only way to determine whether someone’s legislative record on our “rights” is in conflict with his personal conduct. I don’t consider marriage a right; indeed, as people are currently campaigning for it, I don’t support gay marriage. Therefore, if someone supports legislation against gay marriage but engages in homosexual conduct, I don’t see the necessary conflict. I do support the end of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”–yeah, right, tell me gay recruits would be rejected in the sort of last-ditch exigency with which conservatives most persuasively argue about unit cohesion. There’s no word that Schrock was sexually active with men while in the armed forces, though. If everything about Schrock is true, I can’t pretend not to be glad he’s going down (so to speak). If nothing more than what BlogActive has published is true, though, I can’t see any ethical grounds for outing him. There’s no defense for exposing people’s private lives unless they’re breaking laws that they themselves have championed; mere hypocrisy is not a crime.

    Added on 1 September: While editing the above for clarity, I may as well point out that Right Side of the Rainbow has a nicely pitched take on this, expressing awareness of the ethical problems with outing while warning conservatives who lead double lives that, in practical terms, they’re not likely to be able to play both ends against the middle for long.

    Don’t you give up so soon

    Posted by Sean at 22:44, August 29th, 2004

    I’ve just discovered that, when making pan gravy while bopping around the kitchen to Taylor Dayne, it helps to pay more attention to the gravy than to the music. I had a good quarter-cup of drippings–and this week, there were lots of gorgeous little crackly bits, too. You just never know what the quality of the deglazings is going to be until you go ahead and bake your chicken parts, so I was very excited that I won the jackpot this time. Perhaps a bit too excited, because before I thought of it, I scooped up about twice as much flour as I had fat in the pan and threw it in. 1 second, 2 seconds…realization! Dammit! Of course, if I’d had the presence of mind, I would have just scooped some of the dry flour out of the pan and thrown it away. But my mind was elsewhere, so in my moronic haze, I figured I’d put in enough more butter to make the paste the usual consistency. I’m from Pennsylvania Dutch country, after all. “Add more butter” is stored somewhere in my brain near “Look both ways before you cross the street.”

    Well, suffice it to say, I had enough thickener for a good quart of gravy by the time all was said and done, but I decided to brazen it out with just 3-odd cups of milk. You can see the results here:


    Note the eggshell finish, not the usual meat-juice shimmer, on the gravy. That’s courtesy of flour overload, though of course I had the sense to keep cooking it until it didn’t taste raw anymore. It stood up like soft whipped cream, too, rather than running lasciviously down the chicken and potatoes the way gravy’s supposed to. Tasty, though. You can’t beat butter, chicken fat, and crackly bits. Of course, even after I flooded the extra chicken leg with as much as seemed defensible before putting it away, I had a good cup of gravy left. I have this feeling that when it’s chilled, I’ll be able to slice it and eat it like aspic. Maybe on a baked potato?

    Added 15 minutes later: I know what you’re thinking. You’re panicking and saying to yourself, Does he realize that that extra butter has cost him some of his discretionary calories?! Rest assured that I’m not about to contravene the wisdom of our bureaucratic betters and have allotted myself exactly three-eighths of a Hydrox cookie for dessert.

    And did I forget to mention / That I’ve found a new direction

    Posted by Sean at 19:30, August 29th, 2004

    The Washington Blade has an editorial from NY Blade editor Steve Weinstein, effusing to Jim McGreevey about the lovely new life he’s about to embark on. It’s annoying as hell–the editorial, I mean. How annoying McGreevey’s life is going to be, I don’t know. Things don’t look to be smooth in the short-term, though, and he’s got the potential to stick around and annoy us for a while yet.

    Weinstein does give the obligatory acknowledgement that not all gays are rich and effete…

    Coming out is never easy. Whether you

    I’m just burnin’ doin’ the neutron dance

    Posted by Sean at 14:17, August 29th, 2004

    (Susanna and Toren, you’ll like this one.)

    With fantastic timing, another nuclear power plant has developed a water leak. Good thing no one is, like, spooked from any other such recent incident, or anything. And this time it’s not Reuters but the Mainichi that has the misleading headline. It reads, “Nuclear Water Leak Delays Plant Reopening,” which sounds to me like a problem with radioactive water (though would you call that “nuclear water”?). In any case, the article says:

    A water leak found at a nuclear power station has forced Tohoku Electric Power Co. to delay the scheduled reopening of the plant, officials at the firm said.

    The leaked water was not radioactive and there was no chance of radiation leaking outside the plant, officials said.

    These things are important because worries that radioactive water actually will leak from a power plant are more than just theoretical. This past spring (the same day Atsushi and I found out he was being transferred to Kyushu, actually), the Ikata nuclear power plant disgorged one and a half tons of radioactive coolant water in Ehime Prefecture. And then–I can’t believe that in my previous posts on the subject, I forgot to mention this–there’s the fact that TEPCO (the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which as you might guess serves us here in Tokyo) falsified years of inspection reports, including those pertaining to the presence of cracks in its containers and equipment.


    Posted by Sean at 13:19, August 29th, 2004

    Wow. You usually don’t see these lefty types being quite this up-front:

    Leslie Cagan, national coordinator for United for Peace and Justice, said the message revolves around the word “no.”

    “We are saying ‘no’ to the Bush agenda, ‘no’ to the war in Iraq, ‘no’ to the regime change by our government, ‘no’ to pre-emptive war, ‘no’ to the economic policies,” Cagan said.

    There are times when defining things by negatives is a good thing. If, for example, you think of rights as being based on non-interference by the government while you freely go about your business, that in effect affirms your ability to pursue your own ends your own way. But Cagan unintentionally summarizes why even a lot of us “social liberals” and registered Democrats feel such frank post-9/11 revulsion for these groups. All they do is bitch about what the Republicans are doing, which is as easy as falling off a log. About as useful, too.

    But it goes deeper than that. Americans know the value of restraint and self-discipline. But we also think of life as full–full of possibility, full of color, and full of worthwhile business to get on with. A message that “revolves around ‘no'” in its entirety doesn’t jibe with reality as Americans perceive it. It just sounds cranky and out of touch, which is unfortunate. There are plenty of legitimate questions to raise about Bush administration policies; associating them in the minds of a nationwide television audience with naysaying petulance makes it less likely that ordinary voters will take them seriously.

    Perspectives on the RNC platform

    Posted by Sean at 16:57, August 28th, 2004

    A question from a friend reminded me that I started a post about this Nikkei report on the RNC platform that I then didn’t finish. The daily exposure to the things foreign media (mostly Japanese, in my case) think are important about goings-on in the US is one of the most fascinating things about living abroad, as you might imagine. The Nikkei starts with the part about terrorism and ends with economic proposals to increase house ownership and private asset holdings, but it’s clear that the important stuff to the audience is in the middle:


    In terms of international relations, [the RNC platform] positioned Japan as a “vital partner” and stated, “We support Japan in the ongoing project of building for itself a leading role in regional and global security.” On the other hand, with respect to China, it proposed a check: “We have lagged behind in strengthening our military preparedness. This behavior could have the effect of interfering with national prosperity.”

    I’m not entirely sure I’m parsing that correctly, though I don’t see how else it could be interpreted. It sounds kind of cryptic to me out of context, and I can’t seem to connect to the gop.com text of the platform to see the original English. In any case, it cannot be construed as displaying warmth toward the PRC. Since the Japanese don’t care about actual party politics–That’s not a criticism. Why should they?–the article says nothing about gay marriage or respecting differences.

    Still more on Japanese child violence

    Posted by Sean at 14:26, August 27th, 2004

    The Asahi reports today that child violence in schools increased dramatically in the last fiscal year:

    The number of violent acts committed by children at public elementary schools reached a record 1,600 in fiscal 2003, up 27.7 percent from the previous year, education ministry officials said Friday.

    When the elementary school figure is added to the number of violence acts committed by students at public junior and senior high schools, the total stands at 31,278, up 6.2 percent from fiscal 2002.

    It is the first time in three years that the total number has risen, according to the ministry.

    “It is a serious situation,” a ministry official said. “We must strengthen our instructions on how to control emotions.”

    The ministry official here is exactly the type that I was talking about earlier when Susanna Cornett asked about this: More children are flipping out violently on classmates and teachers? Obviously, the solution is to wind ’em up tighter.

    Again, I don’t want to act as if the problem here isn’t real. The relationship between childrearing at home and education at school is changing in ways that no planners are in control of, and the transition is not going to be easy. But these new figures from the Ministry of Education and Culture show a troubling rise in violence, predictable based on the economic and social changes over the last decade, not a descent into chaos. Japan is a nation of 125 million, after all. What could ensure that it does become a permanent problem is dogged pursuit of policies that no longer work but everyone is used to.

    Strange bedfellows

    Posted by Sean at 12:51, August 27th, 2004

    Now, that’s something. It’s one thing for the Cheneys to talk about gay issues at a campaign stop–everyone knows their daughter is a lesbian, even if they don’t make a big deal out of it. But Cheney’s apparently going to appear in an HRC ad:

    The ad will air next week during the convention in New York media.

    It features portions of Cheney’s remarks on gay marriage and ends with an announcer saying “He spoke from the heart for millions of parents. Discrimination is wrong. What if it was your child, Mr. President?”

    There’s a link to the ad in Windows Media format (which I can’t get to work, even when I open it in IE instead of Firefox). This is weird timing, to say the least. It makes me wonder whether those people who’ve been suggesting that Cheney will be gently pushed aside for another nominee are on to something.

    PS: Couldn’t they get some gay guy who works in education or publishing to proofread that final, climactic, and errant use of the counterfactual? Sheesh.