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    Orange Appled

    Posted by Sean at 22:54, November 1st, 2006

    Wonderful. This is just what I wanted to hear:

    Stephen Viscusi, 46, of Manhattan, said the divide has made dating even more fraught. Mr. Viscusi, who is gay and a Republican, said he has been rejected by Democratic suitors once they learn his political views. [from this NYT article–SRK]

    (Gee, I think it’s even worse for them than for 40-something single neocon Jewish women in NYC.)

    I know for a fact that I would have had more sex, and maybe a long-term relationship by now, if the social arena was not so polarized. Spirited argument is sexy to me (think William Powell and Myrna Loy), and a marriage with someone who disagrees with me on various issues sounds energizing and playful and always interesting. (I would insert a link to Mary Matalin and James Carville here, but I think Carville is just too weird.) But most people don’t feel that way anymore, at least not liberals. Champions of diversity, they want lovers and friends just like themselves.

    It’s probably as good a time as any to mention that Atsushi and I are no longer a couple. Though it’s not something I’m eager to discuss, I’ll say that we’re still friends, there was no animosity, the long-distance thing was hard on both of us, it’s very unfortunate but we’re fine, et c. My buddies have been doing a great job of making sure I don’t spend these few months sitting on the floor of my darkened apartment drinking Laphroaig from the bottle and listening to Dusty in Memphis.

    Anyway, one of Atsushi’s many wonderful qualities is that he knows how to argue. He’s perfectly willing to discuss sticky topics such as World War II and hold his ground, while giving you an honest hearing and without being an asshole. Most other Japanese gay guys I know are…well, Japanese: they just avoid unpleasant subjects, including politics. Most American gay guys here assume, when politics comes up, that I’m a Democrat. And most other foreign gay guys put any right-ish tendencies down to my being the usual simple-minded, unworldly Yank.

    Eric links to the Kesher Talk post above and adds:

    I’ve noticed this for years, and it seems to have gotten worse. You’d think that none of these liberal activists knew that about half the country voted for Bush, and the other half for Kerry.

    Like many people, Judith notices that Republicans don’t behave this way towards Democrat friends. I think the reason is that Republicans are very accustomed to keeping their mouths shut, to not telling friends and coworkers how they voted. In some cases, their very livelihood depends on being “in the closet.”

    Have things really gotten that bad in New York and Philadelphia? I only spend a few days a year home, so I have no real way to judge. The friends I visit tend to be those with whom I’ve been debating politics since those 3 a.m. conversations in college, so nothing about my policy positions is news to them; and we still have good, rousing arguments. When politics comes up in a conversation with someone I’ve just met, I generally say what I think as firmly but genially as possible, and that’s that. Sometimes I’ll have to answer a bewildered follow-up question (“How the hell could you not be in favor of gay marriage?!”), but the discussion usually remains respectful.

    That said, it really is true sometimes that people will practically refuse to believe that I’m not a lefty fellow-traveler. The probability that a random urban gay guy who works in educational publishing is a liberal is very high, so I don’t mind the initial assumption that I am. What’s irksome is the half-hour of incredulity–expressed through lots of hamming, mugging, and double-takes–I have to work through to convince people that, you know, I really am right-libertarian on most issues and tend to vote Republican. No one likes being told what he thinks, especially by people who purport to be open-minded.

    Added on 3 November: Eric is trying to decide which senatorial candidate to vote for. I don’t envy him.

    Ooh, and, I almost forgot about this old but very good post from Megan McArdle:

    When the Q&A came around, unsurprisingly, the majority of the questioners turned out to be Democrats. And every single one of their questions started off something like this:

    “I think that one of the major problems we face, as Democrats, is that our policies are all about nuance and deep intellectual focus on maximizing the welfare of the public at large, while Republicans are a pack of venal liars who want to kill poor people and minorities. The American public seems to be far too stupid to understand the subtle genius of our ideas. How do we, as Democrats, overcome that?”

    The answer, from the Democrats on the dais, generally went something like this.

    “While the rest of the American public may not actually be drooling lackwits who should herded into camps for their own protection, they are clearly struck insensible by the blinding power of our intellects. As their voting record demonstrates, they are constitutionally incapable of comprehending the overwhelming superiority of the Democratic platform on the merits. We will have to make sure that this election cycle we speak very slowly, and clearly, and make our visuals on very large sheets of construction paper with pictures of puppies. We may also consider lying, since after all, the shameless mendacity of the Republicans is the only reason anyone ever votes for them.”

    Now, is all this embarassing self-congratulation because Democrats are inherently arrogant bastards, crude elitists out of touch with the simple, homespun virtues of the common man? Or because losers need to lie to themselves in order to salve their egos? I’ve heard both explanations from Republicans who need to get out more.

    What is true is that Democrats, right now, have more ability to insulate themselves from being confronted with the views of the other side. Geographically, they can isolate themselves into coastal cities, which is why I never met any Republicans except my grandparents until I went to business school. And informationally, provided that they don’t watch Fox news, don’t subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, and keep the radio tuned to NPR, they can keep from ever hearing if the other side has a good argument.

    She was writing specifically about the Howard Dean phenomenon, such as it was at that point; but her points are certainly still relevant.


    Posted by Sean at 08:31, October 31st, 2006

    Not in the best mood this week, for a variety of reasons. Mostly giving myself over to music that makes me feel immersed in feelings without having to hear them articulated, if that makes sense.

    Of course, there’s no getting out of drawing some distinctions sharply. My absentee ballot got here, and while there’s no point in not voting for the dumb-but-pretty congressman who replaced Pat Toomey two years ago, and I’m going Lynn Swann for governor, I’m…uh, what else? Oh, yeah: the senate race. The pandering communitarian or the pandering communitarian? Decisions, decisions.

    On the upside, the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that it, the US, and the DPRK have agreed to restart the 6-party talks.

    Pitch the Baby

    Posted by Sean at 01:04, October 27th, 2006

    So the Tokyo Gas repair guy on Monday spent an hour jiggling things around, frowning at my bathroom and kitchen keypads, and turning taps on and off before announcing that my water heater was on the fritz because a leak had caused a short at the main heating unit. The repair would cost about US $350, and the part wouldn’t be in for three or four days. Not the worst-case scenario, possibly, but a pain.

    That means I spent the next few days relying on the largesse of friends to stay hygienic. (I work out religiously, but I have equipment at home and run outdoors–no gym membership. And this being Japan, there must be a bathhouse somewhere in the neighborhood, but it seemed more trouble to figure out where it is than to bum off a buddy or two. Besides, borrowing someone’s shower gives you leave to look at all his products at leisure without feeling as if you were snooping.) The part came yesterday; I skipped out of the office between our morning administrators’ meeting and my evening mid-year performance review to be at home while it was installed. This morning I was able to perform my ablutions at home again. And to wash my tea cup and strainer without boiling another kettle of water.

    What with all the busy-ness, I’ve only barely been keeping up with the news. (Something gay appears to have happened in New Jersey, right?) Anyway, Camille has another Salon interview that’s worth reading. I usually don’t agree with more than about 60% of her political pronoucements, but she seems to me to hit more bull’s-eyes than usual this time around.

    The ring

    Posted by Sean at 00:51, October 24th, 2006


    I realize this site has turned into GoReadClassicalValues.com, but I happen to think that Bill Quick is absolutely wrong about the point Eric makes here. That Eric didn’t digress from his discussion to flesh out yet again why he doesn’t support the push for gay marriage does not mean that his statement has “no logical support whatsoever.”

    Eric clarifies what he meant:

    I agree with Bill that “percentages do not constitute logical refutation,” and I did not mean to imply that just because 70% of the public disfavors same sex marriage, that this means they are not bigoted. However, if opposition to same sex marriage is defined as bigotry, then it flows that they (and most of the leaders of both parties) are. I just don’t think that, considering all the circumstances, opposition to same sex marriage constitutes bigotry, and I’d say that even if only 20% of the country opposed it. I try to reserve the “bigot” label for people who want to do things like call me names, beat me up, put me in prison, or kill me.

    I’m not sure that bigot has to be reserved for people who express their beliefs through confrontation; intolerance can be expressed by quietly cutting people socially or declining to employ them or the like. But I’m also not sure that Bill Quick has been following the gay marriage argument as it’s developed over the last ten years.

    It used to be that you had Andrew Sullivan and, for a few occasional paragraphs, Bruce Bawer arguing in favor of marriage or civil unions of some kind in the not-too-distant future, and you had the case in Hawaii, and that was pretty much it. At that point, most arguments from the opposition were confined to “gays don’t actually fall in love and care for each other” and “most gay couplings are transient.” Those arguments were, I think, often based on bigotry: people who didn’t like gays much to begin with were all too willing to take Friday night in the Castro as representative of all gay life everywhere, pronounce us all sub-adult, and not dig any deeper before considering the issue closed.

    But things really have moved on in the intervening decade or so. Skeptics began discussing how a legal change in the definition of marriage could affect the choices of straight couples who planned to have children. The most sound thinkers among gay advocates (Dale Carpenter and Jonathan Rauch, notably) deliberated over the same issues and often made good counter-arguments; but at the same time, the pro-gay side was frequently stuck in a “we DO TOO love our partners!” mode that the debate had moved beyond. And “self-esteem,” that all but infallible indicator that malarkey is on the menu, was frequently invoked.

    I realize that I haven’t proved that, say, Maggie Gallagher and Stanley Kurtz aren’t bigoted against homosexuals. But even if we could prove they were, does that mean much in policy terms? We’re still left with the fact that they’ve taken the time to research and construct arguments for their positions, and that those arguments have to be answered on their own terms. I’d much rather see gays and those who sympathize with us keep at that than prolong the (already seemingly interminable) back-and-forth over who’s a bigot.

    Piping hot

    Posted by Sean at 01:00, October 23rd, 2006

    Well, that bites. Today’s a day off for me, and I’d planned to run some errands and shop and stuff…then I noticed that the water heater wasn’t working. As in, the electronic panel shut off whenever I turned on one of the hot taps. I’ve tried flipping the breaker and looking for a reset button, but no luck. The customer service operator at Tokyo Gas was very nice, but (naturally) she can’t tell me when between now and 7 p.m. the repair guy will get here, so I appear to be staying close by until he calls to say he’s coming. At least the gas itself is working, so I can boil water at will.


    Posted by Sean at 23:40, October 22nd, 2006

    The US is giving control of some airspace controlled by Yokota Air Force Base back to Japan:

    The airspace controlled by the United States will be reduced from the current six areas, which range in altitude from 7,000 meters to 3,700 meters, to five areas with altitudes ranging from 5,500 meters to 2,400 meters, a reduction of more than 20 percent of the current airspace, the sources said.

    U.S. permission is needed for aircraft to fly through Yokota’s airspace. Because of this, flights to and from Haneda and Narita airports usually fly high over the space or detour around it.

    In January, the Construction and Transport Ministry said that a 40 percent reduction of Yokota’s airspace will benefit the economy to the tune of 19 billion yen annually, due to savings in airline fuel costs.

    The partial return, to be accomplished by September 2008, is the first step in the process of giving full airspace control back to Japan. I have no way of knowing how the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport came up with that figure, but airspace around Tokyo is notoriously overcrowded, and from various observation decks around the bay, you can clearly see planes stacked up for landing at Haneda. And though the Yomiuri doesn’t mention it, the move would fit into possible plans to make Japan increasingly responsible for its own military defense.

    Root causes

    Posted by Sean at 23:03, October 22nd, 2006

    Rondi gets letters and finds that the ability to spell does not necessarily vary directly with the ability to think. She and I may disagree over the relative merits of Madonna (yay!) and The Sound of Music (KILL. ME. NOW.), but she’s absolutely right about this:

    It turns out that students in a Toronto-area high school class were asked to pick a newspaper column they disagreed with. At least 12 students picked mine. In groups of two or three, they explained why.

    Explain they did … and all I can say is, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained defeatism. Rather than the adorable youthful conviction that war is not the answer, these teens seemed sure of two things: 1) The United States is to blame for the anger and actions of Islamofascists, for “creating more enemies,” and 2) War may be the answer, but since Islamofascists will always be two steps ahead of us, we’re bound to lose.

    More student optimism: “As our technology becomes more advanced, so does Al Qaeda’s. An example of this would be the liquid explosives disguised as Gatorade found in an airport in Great Britain this summer … no matter how much we spend on precautions … our lives will always be endangered….”

    Ah, blithe spirits! Did your teacher happen to tell you about fighting on the beaches and landing grounds and never surrendering? Or did he at least, say, mention the intelligence that uncovered the liquid explosives plot and other information? If so, I’d be curious to know the spin he put on it, given these words from a pupil: “Our intelligence is useless today because they are always two steps ahead of us.” Where can I order my burqa?

    Of course, you don’t have to go to Canada to hear such arguments made. Besides frequently being wrong in the particulars–if al-Qaeda were really always two steps ahead of us, life would have looked a lot different over the last five years–they seem to me to betray a more general misunderstanding of the way life works. Civilization doesn’t just happen; human progress is produced by warring against other people’s malevolence and nature’s indifference. Societies that just kind of accept their surroundings and harmonize with them as a first principle tend not to get anywhere. Not every project the human imagination can dream up is practicable, no, but history certainly indicates that wars can be won. Of course, if you’re not convinced that we deserve to win anyway, I suppose that doesn’t make much difference.

    Apple listens to the opera and disco queens

    Posted by Sean at 04:08, October 22nd, 2006

    Do my eyes deceive me, or does iTunes say it’s loading gapless playback information? Very exciting….

    I said, “In these shoes? / I doubt you’d survive”

    Posted by Sean at 05:20, October 21st, 2006

    An old friend sent me a link to this column from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. I agree with her that the angle it takes is interesting:

    In every movement to right a perceived social wrong, a fringe element with no apparent social upside (who hence emphasize their differences from the traditional) becomes the image of the enemy to supporters of the status quo. In this case, these are the leather- and tutu-clad lads who wind up in defense-of-marriage literature and DVDs. Only after a movement has gained some visibility, some credibility and some respectability do suit-and-tie supporters, people invested in society with something material to lose, risk identifying with it.

    Here’s where the paradox of rising expectations kicks in. Even as overt public discrimination against same-sex couples grows smaller, the inequities of law loom larger. The Williams Institute study suggests same-sex couples are more at ease declaring their relationships. They do so, however, with expectations of expanding their participation in society on equal terms with heterosexuals. Taking a risk, they are impatient with barriers to fulfillment of expectations of equality.

    Of course, that still begs the question of what “equality” looks like, and I don’t think that Westover’s seeming conclusion that it requires the legalization of gay marriage follows very well from his own argument. Nevertheless, one useful thing he does is to consider the push for SSM in the larger context of the American entitlement mentality and how interest groups jockey for government goodies. (Reading some opponents of gay marriage, you could get the impression that decent Americans were all self-effacingly going about their business when all of a sudden the fags and dykes burst in and introduced self-centeredness into public policy debates.) Anyway, it’s worth a read if you’re not heartily sick of the subject already.


    Speaking of tired subjects, music today is apparently tuneless, witless, and derivative. This is the opinion of Sting, which is pretty rich, considering the upscale adult-contemporary crap he’s shoveled at the public on most of his releases over the last ten years. Boring and pretentious–not exactly a winning combination.

    I guess I don’t buy a whole lot of new music by musicians I don’t already like, either, anymore. I was pleasantly surprised that Cassie‘s album lived up to the hype–though “Me & U” is getting the seriously-overplayed treatment here in Japan at the moment. The new Janet is okay, but the last week or two has been mostly a Full-Figured British Diva moment in my household: Alison, Kirsty, and some Gabrielle.

    Various debates

    Posted by Sean at 01:37, October 21st, 2006

    For obvious reasons, everyone is talking about how the PRC has reacted to the DPRK’s nuclear test, but it’s worth paying attention to the ROK, too:

    South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun confirmed Friday morning that South Korea will faithfully implement the U.N. Security Council resolution on North Korea, which was passed following Pyongyang’s nuclear test last week.

    Roh made the remark during a meeting with Foreign Minister Taro Aso at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

    However, Roh implied that South Korea would proceed cautiously with the sanction measures. “Each country has final authority over how to interpret the resolution,” he said.

    Roh, with an apparent reference to Japan’s possible nuclear armament, said to Aso, “There are various debates [in Japan] on how best to respond to North Korea’s nuclear test.”

    Aso countered by saying, “Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe has promised that Japan will uphold the three nonnuclear principles [in which Japan pledges not to produce, possess or allow nuclear weapons into the country].”

    Japan has been considering a full-scale cessation of not only imports from North Korea (which have already been implemented) but also exports to it. South Korea’s participation in executing UNSC-based sanctions matter, of course, because part of the package is maritime inspections:

    In South Korea, criticism of the “sunshine policy” of the administration of President Roh Moo-hyun increased after the nuclear test.

    Tokyo and Washington intend to make more efforts to coax the South Korean government over to their side, a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

    Though the U.N. resolution includes inspection of cargo carried to and from North Korea, the measure cannot be effective unless checks around the Korean Peninsula are intensified.

    The key is whether South Korea will participate in and cooperate with the inspection on ships entering and leaving North Korea.

    Also, while Japan and South Korea regard North Korean nuclear weapons as a direct threat, what the United States fears most is proliferation of the weapons to other parties, such as terrorists.

    Joel also posted on more fundamental (and well-recognized) differences in perceptions between the US and the ROK.