• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post

    Long Way 2 Go

    Posted by Sean at 05:31, October 3rd, 2006

    Okay, I wasn’t going to write anything more about Mark Foley–trying to keep the herbed chicken and ratatouille baguette down, you know?–but Michelle Malkin has a post that’s full of links and has, I think, the best-pitched response I’ve seen so far to the whole thing:

    What I am hearing from some conservatives inclined to pooh-pooh Foley’s behavior and carry on about Barney Frank instead does not sit well with me. You can’t possibly read Foley’s communications with minors that have been disclosed so far–including his attempts to rendezvous with one–and dismiss them as merely “naughty e-mails.”

    At this point, I think the GOP is making a mistake banging the drum so hard over the apparent far left/MSM orchestration of the story. However long the other side sat on the e-mails and IMs, the fact is that Mark Foley–and Mark Foley alone–is responsible for giving his enemies something to spring upon his campaign in the first place.

    It’s interesting that so many of the same people who seem fond of referring to everyone under the age of thirty as “children” whose unworldliness must be preserved by any means necessary have taken, this weekend, to acting as if nothing short of “Lay me down and f**k me, stud!!!!” crossed the line into inappropriate sexual content. As Michael and one of the people Malkin cites say, whether Foley planned to close the deal isn’t the only, or even the primary, issue. Flirtation from a powerful adult mentor, with recommendations and network access to offer or withhold, is not in the same category as flirtation from one’s prom date.

    And yet…and yet…calling this “child abuse” (as Malkin approves of) unsettles me. This is not an apologia for Foley, mind you; assuming things are as they appear, he’s done nothing illegal, but he deserves a ruined reputation and an end to his political future. Yes, I know–I’m a childless gay guy who lives abroad and doesn’t know what it’s like for parents, et c. But it seems reasonable to expect people who are parents to know the difference between a Capitol Hill internship and church camp.

    They should also know the individual adolescents they’ve been rearing for a decade and a half. Washington is an exploitative place in many ways, including plenty that are non-sexual. A teenager who is still psychologically a child shouldn’t be permitted to spend a semester there away from parental supervision.

    Added on 4 October: So Foley’s team of handlers appears to be going for the Victimization Triple Crown–the Alkie Derby, Gayness, and the Molestation Stakes. It’s a shame to have to be so cynical, and it’s not the literal statements that make me suspicious. If it’s true that Foley was molested as a child, it must indeed have been traumatizing, and it’s certainly plausible that the pressures of his double life drove him to bona fide alcoholism. But the timing of these revelations (which Foley himself may have little to do with by this point) still smacks of responsibility-dodging, suggesting as they do that the man was simply overwhelmed by his inner demons. (And no, of course, I don’t consider homosexuality a proper source of torment in and of itself, but there are plenty in the viewing audience who do.)

    Added on 5 October: Thanks to Eric for the link and the (excessive) compliment. He has a lot of his own thoughts and more links to other people’s, as usual; his focus is on the thought-policing angle:

    Thus, the Foley scandal does what ordinary “outing” could not have possibly done. It emboldens those in the GOP for whom homo-loathing is a bread-and-butter issue, and if things go the way the activists want, maybe some of them will call for witch hunts. (According to the predictable meme of restoring morality or something.)

    That’ll teach the cowards in the closet who their friends are!

    Whenever two apparent adversaries agree with each other, it worries me. Right now, I see agreement along the following lines:

    RESOLVED: Gays do not belong in the Republican Party.

    But there’s still hope for these people who hate themselves. If they convert now, it’s not too late.

    Why, the libertarian apostates will welcome them with open arms! (Aren’t they forgetting that former leftists who become libertarians are already apostates?)

    Such condescension is a bit hard to take.

    In my view, identity politics–especially the “self hatred” meme in conjunction with “outing”–makes non-conforming gay citizens afraid to voice what they think.

    That’s a first step towards not being allowed to think what they think.

    Well, I do think that it’s still people’s own responsibility if they don’t say what they think needs to be said. Still, it’s sad that you can so readily come off as a brave non-conformist for being openly gay and republican (or Republican, or conservative, or libertarian).


    Posted by Sean at 09:43, October 2nd, 2006

    Thanks to Michael for saying I’m a nice guy. I try to be–or at least, I try to put things in a way that suggests I won’t respond to opposition by jeering or throwing a fit.

    Speaking of how well things are put, Michael also links (approvingly, I assume) to this post by Andrew Sullivan about the Mark Foley flap. Maybe I’m being too picky, but I find his choice of words troubling:

    Equally, the news about Mark Foley has a kind of grim inevitability to it. I don’t know Foley, although, like any other gay man in D.C., I was told he was gay, closeted, afraid and therefore also screwed up. What the closet does to people – the hypocrisies it fosters, the pathologies it breeds – is brutal.

    What I do know is that the closet corrupts. The lies it requires and the compartmentalization it demands can lead people to places they never truly wanted to go, and for which they have to take ultimate responsibility.

    That last clause is a little jarring for me, coming as it does at the tail end of an explanation of all the ways closeted gays end up as they do because they’re buffeted by circumstance. Talking about what “the closet” does in the active voice–as if it were some kind of independent baleful force–can be rhetorically effective, but the flip side is that it makes closeted gays sound helpless and passive.

    It’s still not clear what Foley’s situation is, but let’s assume he’s gay. Well, he was in his twenties in the ’70s, not the ’50s. Even considering all the ways coming out has become easier in the subsequent three decades, he had options. The only thing that makes his current pickle “inevitable” or a place he may have “never truly wanted to go” (exquisite euphemism, that) is that he kept making the same unwise choices. I’d bet that plenty of embezzlers could say honestly that they didn’t really want to steal from anyone. They just wanted a bunch of money they hadn’t earned and…well, you know.

    Abe buttonholed about Yasukuni Shrine in Diet

    Posted by Sean at 02:01, October 2nd, 2006

    Abe’s cabinet line-up was publicized on Tuesday. The Japan Times has an English list attached to its article on the announcement that unfortunately doesn’t contain the brief biographies from the print edition. Different commentators have different prognostications to offer, as always, but most agree that what will be most important to pay attention to is how the Abe government decides to prioritize and compromise. The cabinet members and advisors who are personal allies of his are almost uniformly hard-right in their public positions, but much of the rest of the LDP isn’t. Besides, some of Abe’s policy goals are, on their face, at odds with each other. (I’ll be interested to see how he manages to repair relations with China while also scotching its plans to become the preeminent regional economic and political power and increasing Japan’s military autonomy.)

    Speaking of which, Abe has not stated one way or another whether he plans to visit the Yasukuni Shrine as prime minister. He was, however, questioned about it this morning:

    The first questioner from the Democratic Party of Japan was party leader Yukio Hatoyama, who raised the point that the prime minister is coordinating visits to the PRC and ROK without having stated clearly whether he will make pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine. Hatoyama criticized the prime minister: “This is going to turn into Jun’ichiro Koizumi, the Second Act–losing trust [from China and Korea] through evasive maneuvers.”

    Touching on the prime minister’s [previous] argument that “thinking that requires separating Class-A war criminals from others is off-target,” Hatoyama pressed him: “Just where does responsibility lie?”

    The second act part is originally 二の舞 (ni no mai: “second dance”), usually used when you fail in the same way as someone else by making the same dumb mistakes. Abe is, if anything, more combative about the Yasukuni issue than his predecessor was. Koizumi’s line was, to the extent that one could get meaning from it, that it was possible to pay respect to those who’d served Japan in good faith while leaving the malefactors to whatever reward/retribution had been served to them in the next life.

    Still standing

    Posted by Sean at 21:13, September 27th, 2006

    Shinzo Abe is now Prime Minister of Japan and has appointed his cabinet and blah-blah-blah…but more importantly, Kylie says she’s back on track after he breast cancer treatments (via the Flea (who heard from some other people):

    The 38-year-old singer–who was given the all-clear by doctors at the start of the year–was a surprise guest at the Red Square concert, where she introduced the Scissor Sisters. [Sorry I missed that!–SRK]

    She enthusiastically urged the crowd to cheer louder, and was even seen ‘spinning around’ as she danced along to the music in the wings.

    She said: “My energy’s coming back now. I am so revved up. I can’t wait to get back to my day job.”

    I know I’ve said this before, but how is it possible not to love Kylie? I will adore Madonna until the day I die, but you just know that if she’d gotten breast cancer, she’d have been all over the media by now talking about the battle to survive and attendant profound spiritual transformation–as if she’d been the first cancer patient in human history. (At least, she would if the way she handled first-time motherhood is anything to go by.)

    In any case, good for Kylie. Can’t wait for the album.

    This is not a coincidence

    Posted by Sean at 00:06, September 22nd, 2006

    James McGreevey isn’t the only controversial public figure offering “confessions” of dubitable religious sincerity this week.

    If you live in a major Asian city and have spent the last few days wondering where all the fags got to, I have your answer. It’s still warm enough to sit outside at night, so a few buddies and I were having a drink when one of us noticed all the men around speaking Chinese. Gucci trainees off the chain after a day of workshops? Traveling dance or drama company? Nope. “We’re here for Madonna!”

    Of course. You could see gaggles of them in Shibuya Wednesday and yesterday, too. And at the last show last night (a friend and I went).

    I wasn’t sure how I’d like the show, but I loved it to pieces. The political and religious [ahem] commentary was predictably witless…or I guess “directionless” is a better way to put it. The mirror-tiled crucifix from which she sang “Live to Tell” has become the most notorious part of the show, but it was way less thrilling than the big mirrorball that was lowered to the stage and opened like a flower from outer space to disgorge her and her dancers at the start of the show. And while it was clear that Madge was repeatedly addressing us as “motherf*@ers!” as a gesture of inclusiveness–we in the audience were part of her in-group of fearless, super-transgressive free spirits, you know?–the effect was lame compared with the pleasurably shocked sense she could produce so reliably twenty years ago.

    Madonna’s a better live singer than you’d expect. I know she has plenty of gizmos to help her with power and pitch; but there were enough blue notes and cracks to convince you that she was mostly going au naturel, and she projected lots of personality and charm. And there’s no faking that amount of energy. Toward the end, she was obviously kind of tired from having been flinging her limbs around for two hours, but it didn’t come off as the Tired of someone frantically pushing herself beyond the physical limitations of age. Though I think she’d look sexier if she settled into having just a little body fat, it’s hard to deny that her healthfulness obsession is paying dividends in the long term. (The party of hopped-up dykes in the row in front of us paid frequent and voluble notice.)

    And my two favorite songs from the latest album (“Jump” and “Forbidden Love”) were spectacular–high points even in a show full of crowd-pleasers. A good time all around.


    Posted by Sean at 22:47, September 20th, 2006

    Surprise! It’s Abe.

    I mean, the next president of the LDP and therefore Prime Minister of Japan will be Shinzo Abe. He got 66% of the vote. Of course, that’s internal. The public has been ambivalent, despite Abe’s Clinton-ish way of addressing himself to the average middle-class citizen and even as reports hammered away at the near-inevitability of an Abe win.

    It now remains to be seen how his “beautiful country” plan will take shape. He’s promised to deepen ties with the US while repairing relations with the PRC and the Koreas. Sounds good, but it’s hard to tell what concrete approach he plans to take. He’s been one of the highest-profile members of the Koizumi administration to make pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine, which is hardly a way to endear oneself to the rest of East Asia. He’s also in favor of amending the constitution, and there’s little doubt he’s referring to Article 9 (which contains the non-aggression clause). How far does he want to go in restoring military capability to Japan? No one’s sure.

    Economically, the guy’s a wild card, too. Koizumi was an economic liberal from the get-go; he brought in Heizo Takenaka and, as much as possible, gave him carte blanche when it came to banking and finance reform. The bills for privatization of Japan Post ended up going through a predictable defanging process on the way to ratification, but Koizumi was willing to draw a line in the sand over them. Abe wants to control deflation, doesn’t think the Allied military tribunal that sentenced Japanese war criminals (yeah, I’m begging the question there…you know what I mean) was just, and doesn’t seem to want schoolchildren learning about comfort women during World War II.

    Since it’s not clear what his prime policy directives are, it’s not clear what his deal-breakers are. He’s obviously pretty nationalist by personal conviction, but he lacks the long-standing network of powerful connections to make it likely that he’ll be able to push through controversial pet proposals. He doesn’t seem to have the force of personality to convince people to put aside their doubts, but he will need allies–the LDP is not in the most secure position itself. We should begin to see pretty rapidly what will be the driving force behind his policies when his beliefs hit reality. You can bet that the rest of East Asia, in addition to the Japanese public, will be watching.

    Reflection without introspection

    Posted by Sean at 21:53, September 18th, 2006

    Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey’s memoir is excerpted in this week’s New York magazine.

    I was prepared to warm to the guy. However self-serving his initial reasons for coming out as he did may have been, McGreevey’s had nearly two years to do some hard thinking since then; and there’s nothing we Americans like more than a redemption story. Also, I’m not really worried about whether, in general, McGreevey will do good work for the causes that employ him from here on; it seems almost certain that he will.

    But a good portion of the gay press has been touting him as a potentially worthy and worthwhile public representative for our interests. My sense–and I’m just going by the New York excerpt here–is still that we can do better. This is how McGreevey describes the beginning of his affair with then-aide Golan Cipel (or alleged affair, since Cipel denies that anything beyond sexual harassment by McGreevey ever happened between them):

    It was wrong to do. I wasn’t an ordinary citizen anymore. There were state troopers parked outside. My wife was in the hospital. And he was my employee. But I took Golan by the hand and led him upstairs to my bed.

    My core group of supporters still felt [when the scandal was about to break because of Cipel’s threatened lawsuit] I should serve out my term, but not run for reelection. I wasn’t convinced that was penance enough for my transgressions. What I did was not just foolish, but unforgivable. Hiring a lover on state payroll, no matter the gender, was wrong. I needed to take my punishment—and to begin my healing out of the fishbowl of politics.

    Having sex with state troopers outside? Hot!

    Uh, I mean, the logic of that first paragraph eludes me. I can see the point about its being a betrayal of voters’ trust to court scandal just when you’ve ascended to the job they elected you to do. I’m not sure whether cheating on your unwitting wife is worse when she’s in the hospital, but her having just borne your child would certainly make it more difficult to leave you if she decided to do so. And no, one should not be propositioning employees, who may not feel in a position to refuse without repercussions.

    It remains difficult to shake the feeling that McGreevey sees his coming out as a way to spin potential political and legal lemons into lemonade–a convenient opportunity to start a less pained and stressed-out life but not a moral or ethical necessity. He has an interesting way of using the word integrated to refer to “not feeding different people different lies to get what you want from each of them,” but one is left wondering whether he thinks that approach is good and right or just eats up less space on his BlackBerry. And as for his “punishment,” well…the gay political machine may not get you into the White House, but it’s powerful enough in liberal circles in the Mid-Atlantic to be a good place for a soft landing from the governorship of New Jersey. Especially if the alternative is a costly sexual harassment suit.

    Homosexuality isn’t a club, and the guy is clearly as gay as the rest of us. We own him now. I’m just not sure why we’re exhorted to be proud of him.

    Added on 20 September: Joe has, if anything, more apserity to direct at McGreevey’s public grandstanding than I did. He begins by quoting an AP story:


    Once publicly opposed to gay marriage, former New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey now says he spoke out against the idea as a way to keep his homosexuality hidden.

    “I did not want to be identified as being gay, and it was the safe place to be,” McGreevey said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I wanted to embrace the antagonist. I wanted to be against it. That’s the absurdity.”

    No, the absurdity is the fame, fortune and acceptance he’s getting for his despicable, craven, cowardly and profoundly immoral behavior.

    I disagree with Joe that McGreevey is a good example of justifiable outing. There’s no evidence that he expected to use his power to circumvent the law against gay marriage he supported. The man went so far as to marry two women, after all.

    I do find the use of the word absurd very interesting, implying as it does that McGreevey’s conduct was irrational. Poor thing, he wasn’t quite thinking clearly, et c. (Chris at Gay Orbit seems as aghast as Joe, but he also implicitly labels McGreevey’s actions “crazy.”) In fact, opposing gay marriage was an eminently sensible, reasonable, even inevitable move for someone who’d made the conscious decision to place his highest priority on fulfilling his lust for political power. McGreevey himself acknowledges as much later in the article, saying, “I was proud to be against gay marriage because that’s where I thought a majority of New Jerseyans were. That’s successful politics.” One wonders whether this joker has any deep convictions at all.


    Posted by Sean at 03:28, September 16th, 2006

    Well, it’s about time:

    The cost of DDT is low, so it had become the insecticide of choice to kill lice and mosquitoes after the 1940s, but after the heightening of interest in environmental problems in the ’60s, it was designated a harmful chemical substance and its use forbidden in country after country.

    According to WHO, in cases in which it is restricted to indoor use, it has almost no environmental impact, and it has become clear from recent research that it has no carcinogenic effect on humans. WHO states that it is s it diffuses through indoor spaces, it “makes the inside of the house into one big mosquito net,” preventing the mosquitoes that transmit malaria from landing on walls and ceilings.

    This is not new information. (Kindly ignore Ronald Bailey’s misplaced participle in the second sentence.):

    DDT has, of course, been a major target for the environmentalist movement ever since Rachel Carson hexed it in her influential 1962 book, Silent Spring. Widely used as an agricultural pesticide, Carson accurately indicted DDT for harming various forms of wildlife. Less accurately, she and others in her wake fingered residual DDT as causing problems in human beings, including increased rates of cancer. In 1972, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, then only two years old, banned it, a policy adopted by many other countries. Worldwide use of the pesticide plummeted. DDT remains a powerful symbol of environmental sin and environmentalists have literally been pursuing it to the ends of the Earth in their efforts to banish it forever. Elimination under the POPs Treaty was to be their final triumph over this accursed chemical.

    However, it turns out that spraying small quantities of DDT on the interior walls and eaves of living spaces is one of the most effective ways to control malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In fact, during the 1950s and 1960s, DDT use nearly eradicated malaria in many countries. For example, malaria in Sri Lanka dropped from 2.8 million cases in 1948 to 17 in 1963. In India, the case load dropped from 100 million in 1935 to under 300,000 in 1969. Bangladesh was declared a malaria-free zone. DDT was also an important weapon against malaria in parts of the United States and Italy. The World Health Organization estimates that DDT may have saved as many as 50 million lives since it was introduced in 1945. A grateful world cheered when the man who discovered DDT’s properties as an insecticide was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948.

    Let’s hope WHO follows through.


    Posted by Sean at 02:29, September 8th, 2006

    Dear Jessica Simpson,

    Please go away. Please.

    Yr. most humble and faithful servant,

    Sean K.


    Posted by Sean at 00:21, September 5th, 2006

    Thanks to everyone who’s written to make sure things are okay. It’s flattering to have smart, interesting people say they miss your writing. Unfortunately, extra-blog life is still pretty busy at the moment, and I’m still mentally kind of tired; so while I’ve been posting about things as they’ve caught my attention, I fear my recent output, such as it is, has been lame and distracted.

    One thing I expected to be more interested in blathering about was the upcoming LDP election, but the twists and turns have turned out not to be particuarly interesting or revelatory. It’s still looking like Abe. Maybe my dullness of mind is making me miss telling little allusions or suggestive turns of phrase, but it all sounds like bland campaign-speak to me. Abe wants to make Japan a great land for men, women, children, and the elderly, to live prosperous, healthy lives. Relations with the US, China, and the Koreas will be good. The pension system will be easy to understand. Birdies will sing and crocuses bloom in the mild sunshine. Daisies will spontaneously weave themselves into nosegays. Adorable fawns will munch on tender young leaves by the babbling brook, in the clear water of which you will see minnows playing merrily and blah blah blah.

    No, I’m not really getting cynical. I’m just kind of tired, and I’m only following this stuff to the degree I am because that’s what a responsible citizen resident does. Well, that and I’m a news junkie even on auto-pilot.

    In any case, posts should become more frequent and (I hope) sharper within the next few weeks. In the interim, I was directed to a site called Japan for the Uninvited last week, which those who have a casual interest in Japan may find entertaining. The front page makes it look sex-obsessed, but there’s actually quite a bit on a variety of cultural topics, little of it exhaustive but most of it delivered without that irksome ain’t-these-Yamato-folks-weird? tone that you get from a lot of writing on Japan.