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    Posted by Sean at 09:04, October 6th, 2005

    The Ministry of Justice is updating its policy on the furikome scams:

    The Legislative Council (the Minister of Justice’s advisory panel) has submitted to Minister of Justice Chieko Minamino an outline for the establishment of a new system by which the government will confiscate or seize holdings from organized crime rings running the “Pay up!” scam and distribute them to victims. The Ministry of Justice aims to submit a revised proposal quickly. Under existing law, victims have no recourse but to seek their own reparations, and there have been many cases in which they’ve cried themselves to sleep. It is hoped that assessing [how to provide] relief to victims will become easier through the legal revisions.

    I’m glad they’re making it easier for people to get their money back, though I have to say that anyone who gets a scam call at this late date and doesn’t check it out thoroughly is insane.


    Posted by Sean at 08:16, October 6th, 2005

    Kaoru Yosano on Japan’s plan to reduce contributions to the UN:

    There is nothing wrong with Japan’s reduction in financial contributions to the United Nations, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s top policymaker said Wednesday.

    “I don’t have the exact figure with me, but Japan covers roughly 17 or 18 percent of total contributions made by all U.N. member countries. So it’s not that strange at all that the share is cut by a few percentage points,” Kaoru Yosano, the LDP’s Policy Research Council chairman, said in his speech at the Yomiuri International Economic Society in Tokyo.

    Actually, Japan covers 19.47 percent of total contributions, or 37.1 billion yen, second only to the United States.

    Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura made a proposal to hold a review of member countries’ contributions last month in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, seeking to lower Japan’s spending.

    Rough going is expected for such a review as some prominent countries, including China and Russia, likely will be asked to increase their shares.

    But Yosano’s remarks Wednesday reflect a widely shared frustration among Japan’s political and business circles that Japan is asked for a too large contribution while not being given significant roles to play in the U.N. framework.

    Almost one fifth of the total. And the US kicks in more. Of course, China’s not going to be eager to kick in more. (The Mainichi, BTW, just conducted a new poll, the shocking results of which are that a lot of Japanese people are unhappy with China.)

    Yosano also discusses the proposed revisions to Article 9 of the constitution.

    The pull is in my muscle / The ache is in my bones

    Posted by Sean at 02:10, October 6th, 2005

    People who have been reading me for a while will know that, suddenly and without warning, I occasionally deliver a rant the length of War and Peace about what my gay friends are doing to make themselves miserable. If you’re just here for the Japan stuff (more of that coming tonight), you probably want to skip this post altogether.

    There. I feel much better.


    Posted by Sean at 03:14, October 5th, 2005

    The Harriet Miers nomination left me with little to say initially but “Huh?” Well, that and “Good thing I already know the words for cronyism in Japanese, so I can be ready for the inevitable discussions.” I reserved judgment at first, under the assumption that more useful information could be forthcoming, as it often is when the Washington press machine suddenly feels the need to educate America about a former unknown.

    But we still know little about Miers except that she is, as my Japanese friends would put it, “heartful.” As has happened every time Bush has done something incomprehensible, there are those who insist that this is yet another example of his rope-a-dope strategy, the subversive brilliance of which will manifest itself later. Whatever you say. (They are conspicuously few in number this week, it’s important to note.)

    Probably my favorite take is Rosemary’s: “Why didn’t he just nominate his mom?” she asks. “At least we know who she is.” LOL, girlfriend. I myself derive some small comfort from the fact that our LAST President didn’t take it into his head to nominate a woman lawyer of dubious facility with constitutional law to a USSC vacancy just because she happened to be a long-time intimate, because then, you know…. Grateful for small blessings, and all that.

    But not too grateful.

    Japan and US disagree over relocation of USMC base

    Posted by Sean at 22:05, October 3rd, 2005

    The Nikkei reports:

    The exchange of opinions between the Japanese and US governments revolving around where to relocate the facilities at the Futenma [USMC] Base in Okinawa, a focal point of the restructuring of US military presence in Japan, is heating up. Negotiations that were initially quiet on the surface have developed into a state in which each side responds with a ringing declaration of its own position. The Japanese government sent Japan Defense Agency [policy] head Kazuo Ofuru to the US on 4 October and is looking for an opening by which to work its way out of the current deadlock, but there is a deep divide between the Japan-side proposal to move operations to the Camp Schwab exercise grounds (the on-land proposal) and the US-side proposal to reclaim shallows for the purpose (the off-shore proposal).

    “The US is pushing its off-shore proposal, but we’ve said, ‘It will be very difficult to build [the base] on sea; let’s go with a land base.’ A plan for the same sort of base has also been rejected by voters in Nago [City].”

    Takemasa Moriya, Deputy Minister of Defense, revealed to a 3 October press conference that he was very dissatisfied with the US response.

    The Futenma facilities in question house helicopter operations, which are a touchy subject on both sides these past few years.

    Moriya, BTW, is an interesting character. He’s the highest-level pure bureaucrat at the Japan Defense Agency. (The cabinet ministers themselves, of course, are selected by the Prime Minister and approved by the ruling party, so they tend to come from outside.) He’s very powerful, and he doesn’t mince words–you learn to stop and pay attention when one of his soundbites comes on NHK, because what he says is usually as reliable an indicator as you get of what Japan’s military strategists are thinking. Or at least what they want the Japanese public and the rest of the world to think they’re thinking.

    They have their houses and their lawns

    Posted by Sean at 04:40, October 3rd, 2005

    Several days ago I received a wonderful e-mail from reader Leslie W. She gave me permission to post it:

    I wonder if gay guys have the same problem I do, being a lesbian who is amazed at how antagonistic literally every lesbian I know is about our not being let into a terribly boring party we’re so desperately trying to crash! I just don’t get this fixation on marriage as against civil unions. Though not religious in any institutional sense, I do respect the rights of traditionally religious people and do not see it as overarchingly “mean” for them to express the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. I also don’t mind when people of that ilk assert that sex with someone of the same gender is sinful. Of course, I don’t think that–and I always tell such people that it’s OK to have that viewpoint but that they should check out Romans 2 before they ponder what punishment to inflict. But why should I be concerned with what they feel, much less with what they say? That is, unless what I’m really seeking is their absolute approval–cheap grace, you might say. If my rights as a citizen are genuinely threatened by a rightist religious agenda, I’ll be among the first to man the barricades. But I’m very tired of the false oppression that so many lesbians claim as their lot in life, and I’m extremely weary of the us-them dynamic that permeates my milieu surely as much as any other.

    Right. Just a dozen or so years ago, Bruce Bawer could write the following:

    Committed gay couples exist by the millions, and it is unquestionably in the state’s interest that homosexuals live in such couples rather than live alone and sleep around; why shouldn’t the state, then, recognize those relationships as it does heterosexual commitments? For the state to do so would not deny to anyone the right to consider his or her marriage morally superior to my domestic partnership–or, for that matter, to anyone else‘s heterosexual marriage.

    Note the lack of assumption that recognition of our relationships must call them marriages and, in every last finicking little respect, treat them as exactly THE SAME as straight relationships, lest some gay person’s self-esteem be dinged. When was the last time you heard a gay public figure talk that way? Now it’s all about enshrining our love for each other in state policy.

    BTW, Leslie, and anyone else, if you’re looking for sensible lesbian writing, check out Ace Pryhill. She supports marriage rather than civil unions, but I agree with her about big-picture issues of what legal recognition means and how it relates to individual responsibility.

    Oh, and while I’m on the subject of e-mails and policies, it appears that this is a good time to formulate…well, an e-mail policy. I think this post from a few months back should get the point across.

    Bali bombed again

    Posted by Sean at 03:10, October 3rd, 2005

    Rumor fatigue (as well as a busy-busy-busy Sunday) prevented me from posting about the Bali bombing yesterday. 30 or so deaths is a terrible tragedy, and many of the 127 injured are probably going to have hellish recoveries; but given the initial, speculative news reports, things aren’t as bad as feared. Ross at Romeo Mike’s Gumption tracked the sensationalizing and subsequent backing and filling. Bali is a major, major tourist destination for Australians and East Asians, so reporters immediately started looking for local angles. Of course, that can obscure the bigger picture:

    The Nursing Home News (aka Ten News) has just shown Deegan saying he “wasn’t surprised Australians were targeted”. He’s been “expecting it for some time.” Except Aussies weren’t targeted, Westerners were. The bombers didn’t distinguish, even toward their countrymen.

    Most of the bodies that have been identified were of Indonesians.

    You’ve caught me at a bad time / So why don’t you piss off

    Posted by Sean at 02:31, October 1st, 2005

    I have to say that out of all the misinterpretations and distortions and namby-pamby-isms of PC, this stock statement (indirectly quoted in the bold text below) has to be my very least favorite–and I was an undergrad at Penn from ’91-’95, honey. I’ve heard them all:

    While the alleged felony of ethnic intimidation that involved a University student urinating on two Asian students continues to enrage student organizations on campus, the suspects and their neighbors say the Ann Arbor Police Department and the media have exaggerated the incident.

    Stephanie Kao, a Business senior and co-chair of the United Asian American Organizations, said that whether the incident is true or not is beside the point—-it highlights the negative campus climate toward Asians students.

    Since it fits our narrative of aggrievement, it’s symbolically true, you see. That makes it okay, nay necessary, for us to harp on it.

    “A lot of us are angry about these racial slurs — we’re so focused on this issue of urination and beer. It’s beyond this issue at this point. This incident might have been the catalyst, but we are trying to address why these incidents are possible and what in this University climate makes it possible and acceptable for racial harassment to happen,” Kao said.

    My question is this: If racial harassment did not, in fact, occur in this case, what could you possibly learn about the actual university climate from acting as if it had? If Michigan hasn’t forgotten about such trifles as free speech, the unshackled life of the skeptical mind, and vigorous debate in its rush to embrace pigment-level diversity, then surely the distinction between the threat of physical harm and the possibility that one may occasionally feel insulted should matter.

    But the current campus climate is such that the Michigan Daily reporter is duty-bound to proceed with poker-faced speculations about whether it would be possible to pee on passersby below from the balcony in question, based on its layout and dimensions, and about the counter-allegation that the complainants called the accused a “white fat American piggy” and a “bitch.”

    As always, the infuriating thing is that there’s a real issue here. It’s hard to argue that anything in American society is keeping Asians down economically–certainly not the stratum that’s studying at a public Ivy like Michigan. Nevertheless, prejudice is wrong, and it really is true that there are ignorant people who don’t seem to understand that there are people of Asian extraction who were born in America and are as much native members of our society as we with other genes are. As someone who majored in an Asian language and had a lot of Asian friends, I saw it quite a bit. There’s nothing wrong with discussing that, though I don’t know that there’s any policy that will help except the passage of time.

    I just wish that every once in a while, these people would get around to acknowledging that Korea, Japan, and China are not exactly beacons of racial inclusiveness themselves. In fact, a lot of the racism in East Asia is codified. Does that make Asia the world HQ of venality or, conversely, excuse racism in America? Of course not. But it behooves people who are going to come on all multi-culti and pro-sensitivity to have a sense of context and proportion. Fake-cosmopolitan college administrators may be cowed by this America-is-egregiously-evil-to-minorities crap, but it looks idiotic to anyone with experience of the wider world.

    (Via Erin O’Connor)

    Stranger in a strange land

    Posted by Sean at 02:00, October 1st, 2005

    I think this is the worst part: the time exactly between Atsushi’s last visit and his next. In the few days before we see each other, I do the giddy-with-preparation thing. Right after he leaves, my worries over whether he’s eating and sleeping right are animated by the fact that I’ve just been able to spend a few days taking care of him.

    It’s during the in-between time that I get–it isn’t depressed. We’re in a great situation compared to a lot of couples. It’s just that my senses are slightly deadened. I don’t do the slovenly-atavistic bachelor thing, of course. I just finished bustling around the kitchen to Mozart’s 40th, making myself tea and poached eggs on toast with my usual homemade gravy and heating up some frozen ratatouille to go with it. (It’s always funny how listening to music while cooking affects the result. One memorable weekend, Atsushi decided that he had to listen to, of all things, the death scene from Don Giovanni. Over and over and over. And this being a Japanese apartment, the living/dining/kitchen/non-bedroom space is all together, so I was auditing, as it were. I swear, my lasagne ended up viciously peaked and valleyed as if it were resisting being pulled into the pasta underworld. Since I poached today’s eggs during the second movement of Mozart’s 40th, they came out rather serene and perfect.) This afternoon will be sheet laundering. Atsushi’s side of the bed no longer smells like him–just like sheets that need to be changed. And it’s a very sunny fall day anyway. Good for airing things.

    Since it’s 1 October, I will also ritually listen to this album. It’s amazing how silly half-superstitious fanboy habits don’t desert you even when you’ve been a stodgy adult for a decade. It’s almost a shame about the weather. I mean, that it’s not a very good backdrop to the music. It’s certainly cooler than it was a few weeks ago, but there’s no real nip in the air during the day time. You don’t get a sense that nature is hunkering down for winter. Not yet. (Of course, given the candy-assed winter we get in Tokyo, it’s not really any wonder. As a transplanted Pennsylvanian, I miss snow, and the ubiquitous sleet and freezing rain hardly make up for it. I miss deer and maples with big leaves, too.)

    Even so, I’m trying to speed it along a bit. The sweaters are within easy reach. See, weather gods? Sweaters–like what you wear when it’s chilly. I realized, reaching for a short-sleeved job on one of the first cool days last week, that my favorite orange pullover, which it was stacked on top of, is almost exactly five years old. I bought it when Atsushi and I were I-think-we’re-kind-of-dating-but-I’m-not-sure-ing. I figured that for a drive in the countryside (one of our first outings), it was best to aim for a sort of all-American rugged-but-potentially-huggable thing. Not sure whether it worked, though the ultimate result was clearly in my favor. I wish Atsushi were closer, but you can’t have everything.


    Posted by Sean at 01:15, October 1st, 2005

    One of the obvious solutions to Japan-China energy competition, on its face at least, would be for the two countries to cooperate. The problem, besides deep-running historical enmity, is that no one can agree on what the terms of cooperation should be. But the governments are at least gesturing in the direction of giving it the old college try:

    At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the morning of 1 October, the Japan and PRC governments opened their second day of high-level talks revolving around development of gas fields in the East China Sea. The Japan side proposed joint development of natural gas fields along the Japan-China boundary line (the center line [along the ocean floor]), on the conditions that China cease [independent] development of the fields and share information about maritime subterranean natural resources. The China side responded that its intention is to give the idea “serious investigation” and provide an answer within the month, when the second round of talks are hosted in Beijing.

    This is the first time Japan has officially proposed such cooperation. Its request for information about the PRC’s undersea resource development program was greeted with a curt refusal yesterday. As always, we’ll have to wait and see.