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    New book on SSM

    Posted by Sean at 23:28, April 3rd, 2005

    Michael has posted a review of a new book on gay marriage. It’s an issue he and I disagree over, and from what he says, the book doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground–though even I hadn’t heard Naomi and Ruth described as lesbians. Did Orpah leave because she felt like a third wheel? Anyway, Michael’s a fair-minded guy, and his evaluation is worth reading. The book is In Support of Same Sex Marriage and Gay Rights in America.

    More Japan and China friction over energy rights

    Posted by Sean at 22:56, April 3rd, 2005

    The conflict between Japan and China over fossil fuels continues, since Japan has few natural resources and China’s mushrooming economy is consuming more:

    Shoichi Nakagawa, minister of economy, trade and industry, announced the results of a study Friday that he said shows a link between China’s undersea exploration and Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

    The study found that the subterranean structure of the oil fields being explored by China was connected to an area that Japan claims as part of its EEZ.

    While the study concludes that the structure is connected to parts of the seabed in Japan’s EEZ, it also found a complex number of faults around the area in which China has been exploring.

    Experts said it was too early to determine if China’s continuing exploration would result in valuable natural resources rightfully belonging to Japan being sucked out from under its EEZ.

    The oil fields in question are in the East China Sea.


    Posted by Sean at 21:08, April 2nd, 2005

    The Pope has died. Reuters, which is attracted to cutesy-poo constructions like iron filings to a magnet, goes for the gravitas-free opener:

    Pope John Paul II, whose globetrotting papacy inspired millions but left a divided Church, died Saturday, ending years of painful physical decline for the Polish prelate once known as God’s Athlete.

    Like Reagan’s funeral and memorials last year, the Pope’s death watch has been very moving. There’s plenty of hot-headed, off-the-cuff hysteria going around these days, but it’s rare that you get a chance to see deep-rooted devotional ecstasy. It’s not my place to determine what Catholic dogma is, but his native Poland (from which my mother’s grandparents came to the US) and the rest of Europe are the better for his political influence. He stood for hope and the belief in larger things we can’t entirely understand. May he rest in peace.

    Added at 11:21: The BBC has a compilation of statements from heads of state around the world. I was hoping to see something from Margaret Thatcher. She’s the only one left now.

    Jane Galt on gay marriage

    Posted by Sean at 11:37, April 2nd, 2005

    Megan McArdle has an essay up about gay marriage, which is a fascinating read. It’s fascinating both because she makes good points and because she falls all over herself to assure people that she’s not just ragging on gays. Personally, I find it a little insulting to be approached so gingerly, but I can understand where she’s coming from. These days, we’re flatly informed that anything less than full marriage equality is a mark of second-class citizenship.

    Added on 4 April: Megan says that there’s nothing wrong with assuring friends and loved ones that you’re not trying to stick it to them. Point taken, especially since she didn’t soften her argument itself in order to do so.

    Eric has his own post up that, as always, is worth reading. I think there are gays who are sincere in wanting to commit to the obligations of marriage in order to get the benefits, but the far louder talk about getting our relationships respected sure makes it hard to believe that the majority aren’t more concerned with self-esteem-building. It’s a mark of how mainstream we’ve become that we’re as entitlement-minded as everyone else now.

    Mishima’s diaries reveal shocking truth about train fares

    Posted by Sean at 04:25, April 2nd, 2005

    Those who know Yukio Mishima’s 仮面の告白 (kamen no kokuhaku: “Confessions of a Mask“) may be interested in this (English, Japanese):

    A diary that novelist Yukio Mishima kept when he was a student is believed to have provided material for his later novels, contradicting previous theories on his works.

    “Railway fare, 1 yen,” and “Nikkan Sports (a sport newspaper), 0.5 yen,” the diary partially reads.

    In the diary he kept from 1946 to 1947, Mishima described in detail his efforts to become a novelist, his relations with another famous novelist, Osamu Dazai, and his reunion with a woman believed to be the model of Sonoko, a woman in his masterpiece, “Kamen-no-Kokuhaku (Confession of a Mask).”

    In the novel, after the main character rebuffs Sonoko’s advances, she marries another man, but they are subsequently reunited.

    Well, you could kind of put it that way. Here’s a hurried translation from part of the café reunion scene, in which Sonoko tells the protagonist that she still doesn’t understand what kept him from marrying her:

    [Warning: clunky literalness below!]

    At that point, my eye was drawn to one of them. He was a very rough-looking, swarthily handsome youth–22 or 23. He was shirtless, and he was retying a white loincloth, dingy and moist with sweat, around his waist. All the while, his chatter and laughter with his friends went on, and he seemed to be purposefully taking his time about winding the cloth band. The thick, taut swells of muscle on his chest were on brazen display; downward from the center of his chest fell more solid bands of muscle, deeply ridged. On his left and right sides were thick chains of flesh, like fast rope bindings. Around this smooth, hot mass of a torso the bleached loincloth was being wound and pulled tight. His naked suntanned shoulders glistened as if oiled. From the hollows of his armpits peeked a black thicket that threw off the sunlight in a glinting gold tangle.

    Seeing these things–seeing, above all, the tatoo of a peony on his toned upper arm–I was assailed by lust. My feverish gaze was fixed on this rough, barbaric–this uncommonly beautiful–body. He was laughing beneath the sun. When he threw his head back, he showed the swell of his Adam’s apple. A dangerous flutter ran beneath my chest. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him.

    I’d forgotten that Sonoko existed.

    In fact, much of the book is like this: the progtagonist lusts after the nightsoil man, an athletic boy at school, and a print of St. Sebastian. Gay humanists frequently make a big to-do about homosexual content that doesn’t really seem to be there, but there’s no mistaking it in 仮面の告白. Of course, it’s no surprise that a Japanese newspaper would glide over it. For one thing, a lot of people still take the line that there’s no homosexuality here. (I’ll wait for you to stop laughing. Done? Okay.) For another, describing the book accurately might be skirting close to commenting on Mishima’s own sexuality. This is, after all, a country in which you can find articles about Mutsuo Takahashi that don’t mention his sexuality.

    Japan Post bill almost ready

    Posted by Sean at 01:00, April 2nd, 2005

    Japan Post reform is still in process. Yesterday morning, the big news was of PM Koizumi’s growing impatience with the reform panel:

    The outline is based on a plan to place the postal services under a holding company in April 2007 after dividing them into four units–mail delivery, counter services, postal banking, and postal insurance.

    Government shares in the postal bank and the postal insurance firm would be sold by the end of March 2017.

    The outline also includes the following points to gain LDP support in the negotiations:

    — The related bills will spell out that post offices will be established around the country to provide nationwide services and a ministerial ordinance will be issued to require post offices in remote areas not to close.

    — To maintain financial services, the postal bank and the postal insurance firm will be required to contract the counter services firm as their agent for the time being as a condition for receiving a license. After 2017, a fund to cover deficits in provincial areas will be established.

    — A system will be introduced to select postmasters for special post offices.

    How to divide up Japan Post’s current services has been one of the major remaining sticking points. The proposal is supposed to be submitted to the LDP on Monday.

    Temblor in Fukuoka

    Posted by Sean at 08:59, April 1st, 2005

    Fukuoka (the city, not just somewhere in the prefecture) just had an earthquake of 4 M an hour ago. That level of quake doesn’t usually cause damage here in Japan, but I’m sure it did little to cheer the residents, who are still righting things after the earthquake last month. Atsushi probably felt it in city, too, where he’s probably already out with coworkers to welcome the new hires. (Because of Japan’s school year, they start in spring.)

    Of course, the Indian Ocean had yet another earthquake last week. Despite the high number of deaths, it looks as if the frame of mind that lingered after the December tsunami helped minimize losses. Still, there are fears of more disasters ahead:

    Seismologists are already sure that Monday’s magnitude 8.7 quake off Sumatra island was a direct result of raised stress levels in the earth’s crust caused by the Dec. 26 tremor.

    And they say there is now a heightened risk of further large quakes — not just aftershocks — in the area, although predicting them accurately remains impossible.

    “Unfortunately that is a real possibility — the world works that way,” Professor John McCloskey, head of environmental sciences at the University of Ulster, told Reuters by telephone.

    I don’t think it can ever be proved either way, but one explanation submitted by scholars for the rapid decline of Mycenean civilization is an “earthquake storm,” which is pretty much what it sounds like: a series of quakes resulting from a long period of built-up pressure. Not everyone accepts that explanation, of course; the traditional one involves invasions from the “Sea People.”

    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.