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    Posted by Sean at 08:16, March 30th, 2005

    The cherry blossoms have started to open in Atsushi’s city. They’re late again this year and are still closed in Tokyo, so the following is anticipatory:



    negawakuba/hana no moto nite/haru shinan/sono kisaragi no/mochidzuki no koro

    Saigyō Hōshi

    If I have my wish,
    I will die beneath the boughs
    laden with blossoms–
    Spring, the night of the full moon,
    second moon of the new year.

    The Priest Saigyo

    All right, I had to shove the “spring” after the caesura and pad the part before the caesura with “boughs” (in case you don’t know where the flowers on trees grow). And Saigyo doesn’t actually indicate that he’s talking about 夜桜 (yo-zakura: “night viewing of cherry blossoms”). Anyway, I think the point gets across. This is one of Saigyo’s most famous poems, and it has an uncharacteristic swooning tone (not that there’s anything wrong with swooning occasionally). It antedates the practice of appreciating the cherry blossoms by getting mortally tanked and singing karaoke, rather than dying, beneath them.

    Actually, I suppose they were getting tanked back then, too. I’m pretty sure they weren’t singing karaoke.

    Taking away the performance

    Posted by Sean at 01:11, March 30th, 2005

    See, if I were able to write headlines as hilarious as the one on this post, I wouldn’t just slap on the first song lyrics that come to mind and consider my entry finished. As Samizdata’s Johnathan Pearce says, “God forbid that alcohol should be sold on the basis that it is to do with fun, ooooh noooo.” Fun might lead to not only sex but also spontaneity and the formation of irreverent individual opinions. Then where would we be?

    BTW, I see that the old nannyculture.com has been transformed entirely into consumerfreedom.com, which is missing the fabulous finger-wagging-granny logo of old but is still depressingly informative.


    Posted by Sean at 11:00, March 29th, 2005

    Japan is contemplating an environmental tax:

    On 29 march, the government’s advisory body on global warming policy (Chair: PM Koizumi) decided on a new proposal for achieving environmental goals; the purpose is to hit targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions set by the Kyoto Protocols. The main pillar of the plan is to urge industries to make efforts independently, so factory-based reduction targets were increased and home- and office-based targets were relaxed. The proposal names an environmental tax as an possibility to be investigated but does not specify whether such a tax will actually be introduced. The proposal contains few concrete policy recommendations, so some have raised concern that targets are in danger of not being achieved.

    Should we laugh or cry? All of this is in response, of course, to the realization several weeks back that the Kyoto Protocols were going into effect, but Japan had no plans in place to implement them.

    Another Mitsubishi Fuso recall

    Posted by Sean at 09:58, March 29th, 2005

    Apparently under the assumption that any publicity is good publicity, Mitsubishi Fuso is taking the tack of spacing out its revelations of product malfunctions to make sure there’s always a new one circulating:

    The transport ministry started questioning executives of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp. on Monday about suspicions the commercial vehicle manufacturer had hidden defect-induced accidents yet again, this time under new leadership.

    The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport summoned three executives, including Hideyuki Shiozawa, senior executive officer in charge of recalls, for questioning over suspected violations of the road transportation vehicles law.

    After a spate of scandals over defect cover-ups as well as pledges for improvement, it was discovered that Mitsubishi Fuso had delayed by six months reporting a series of vehicle fires and other problems involving its large trucks.

    It was not until March 18 that the company reported 22 incidents, including seven fires, that took place after it filed for recalls of 4,454 large trucks due to faulty suspension parts in September 2004.

    It’s literally been years that these recalls have been in the news.


    Posted by Sean at 09:03, March 29th, 2005

    Christian Grantham and IGF have interesting comment threads going over GayPatriot’s precipitous exit from blogging. Of course, some of the back-and-forth is little more than “You suck!”–“No, you suck!” stuff, but most of it is pretty thoughtful. Michael, who e-mailed GayPatriot himself about the whole thing, has a post of his own. I agree that the real story is not GP’s identity. What most deserves attention is the vileness of Michael Rogers, which isn’t new but has yet again manifested itself in a way that any honorable person should condemn. May I point out, briefly, though, that there really is a lesson or two to be learned in the other direction?

    First, don’t strike out at someone if you’re not prepared to deal with his counterstrikes. You don’t have to defend the behavior of a knife-brandishing rapist to point out that someone is stupid take him on with nothing but a squirt gun. As it happens, through dumb luck I clicked on GayPatriot when the original post with photographs and “terrorist” accusation was still up. I thought it was just his being overheated again and forgot about it; but I do not think like people who practice outing. It is not exactly unheard of for a miscreant to try to work vengeance through an enemy’s employer, even if it’s not Rogers’s usual MO.

    Second, when you routinely proceed from a Pharisaical stance of uncritical faith in your own rectitude, you are eventually going to get yourself into a pickle. Leftist gay activists do a lot that’s destructive to our interests and those of society as a whole; there isn’t a thing wrong with GP’s wanting to rant about them and having a sense of mission about doing so. But that sort of operation requires a sense of proportion. It simply isn’t true that gay activists cause every hangnail. (Not that they wouldn’t if they could, especially if someone convinced them that hangnails were somehow transgressive.) He seems to have gone so far off the deep end in enthusiasm for sticking it to the gay left that he didn’t realize, before pushing “Publish,” that it might not be the wisest idea to post about the “terrorists” in our midst with a vague exhortation to strike back against them. I blame Michael Rogers for being outrageous, but I regret that GP gave him an opening.

    Added on 30 March: Eric agrees that we should all post limeshurbert’s newly laid-out adaptation of GP’s original post. Fine by me:


    One final thing: I find it thrilling to be able to look at comment threads and see so many gays debating outing under their own names, purely out of a desire to protect the privacy of others on principle. I can’t imagine such a discussion here in Japan.

    A girl’s got to suffer for fashion

    Posted by Sean at 07:16, March 29th, 2005

    So, how often does it happen that the new Kylie single and the new New Order album come out the same day? Pretty cool! Waiting for the Sirens’ Call makes me think basically what Get Ready made me think: glad to hear the Brotherhood guitars come back, but I miss Gillian’s keyboard lines. But, hey–you can’t have everything.

    As for Kylie, okay, “Giving You Up” sounds kind of like “Can’t Get You out of My Head” a whole lot like “Can’t Get You out of My Head” like the backing track for “Can’t Get You out of My Head” with 80% of Cathy Dennis’s little noises erased and a new melody slathered on top. But who cares? There are worse things than sounding like “Can’t Get You out of My Head.” And I’ll tell you–that Kylie may not be much of a singer, but she was born to sigh “Ah-ha ah-haaaah” over a dance track. And since boys who know how to handle themselves in the sack but can’t have an adult relationship show no signs of decreasing in number, I don’t see why there’s shouldn’t be more songs about them. The London-as-Lilliput video’s pretty good, too.

    The world street

    Posted by Sean at 08:54, March 28th, 2005

    Jonathan Rauch’s newest column is about a topic of great interest to us on the Pacific Rim:

    China — yes, repressive, aggressive Communist China — is now more highly regarded in the world than is the United States. A pair of recent BBC World Service polls of more than 20 countries finds that the plurality of respondents (47 percent to 38 percent) and of countries (15 out of 21) regard America’s influence in the world as “mainly negative.” A plurality of respondents (48 percent to 30 percent) and of countries (17 of 21, excluding the U.S.) regard Chinese influence in the world as “mainly positive.”

    Why the sharp turn against America? Not just because President Bush is personally unpopular abroad; Pew notes that world opinion of America did not plunge until 2003, well after Bush’s election. Nor, Pew finds, is the trans-Atlantic values gap wider today than it was in the early 1990s. Rather, says Pew, “in the eyes of others, the U.S. is a worrisome colossus,” quick to throw its weight around and selfish in its aims. In a 2003 Pew survey, majorities in seven of eight predominantly Muslim nations (including Turkey) said they regard America as a potential military threat to their own country. In a Eurobarometer poll of European Union nations in 2003, respondents placed America on a par with Iran as a threat to world peace. Pew finds that in France, Germany, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey, many people believe that America’s real goal in the war on terror is not to reduce terrorism but to dominate the world.

    Rauch is focused on how America’s motivations are viewed. His conclusions ring true to me, though, of course, data from polls have to be used with caution.

    I do think that another part of the problem is that too many of us take “people the world over long to be free of tyranny” to imply “people the world over long to live like Americans.” We Americans tend to take the idea of government by the people pretty literally. (Of course, sometimes we do so even while trying to offload risk and its consequences on the government–which is why the mention of social security, the public schools, or health care policy gives us out-of-my-face-with-you! libertarians high blood pressure.)

    To a lot of people, that looks like chaos–the lawlessness of a country formed by people who swore off the traditions of their homelands to follow their bliss. While many of the traditions peoples repair to in structuring their societies are illiberal, I don’t think the overall results are flat-out unjust if everyone has the right of exit and those who stay do so out of choice. If Karen Hughes can emphasize to foreign audiences how the Afghan constitution, the transition government in Iraq, and the democracy movement in Lebanon represent the adoption of democracy in a way that’s sensitive to local preferences, she’ll be doing a good thing.

    Japan’s spy satellite development proves existence of black holes

    Posted by Sean at 22:23, March 27th, 2005

    Japan’s spy satellite development program combines technological research, communications infrastructure, and procurement of components from international sources. It is, therefore, the perfect project to fall prey to just about every weakness in Japanese organizational behavior.

    You have a mishmash of government ministries, private corporations, and neither-here-nor-there public corporations in charge, which maximizes the number of people who can put claims on funds without being questioned too closely:

    About 5 billion yen that went into the development and manufacture of Japan’s first spy satellites was siphoned off by middlemen who added little value, sources said.

    The three independent institutions involved in the spy satellite procurement are the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT).

    The chartered corporation is the Japan Resources Observation System Organization (JAROS).

    The former Science and Technology Agency was in charge of the satellite and rocket. The former Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) was given authority over the satellite radar, and the former Posts and Telecommunications Ministry was in charge of data transmissions.

    Get it straight–there will be a quiz later.

    You have an initiative that sprang from ad hoc worries and that no one bothered to fit into an overall plan or mission:

    The Cabinet of then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi approved acquisition of a spy satellite in November 1998.

    The main catalyst for that move was North Korea’s launch in August 1998 of a Taepodong missile over the Japanese archipelago.

    You have the sub-contracting of work in chains that recede into the infinite distance, sometimes crossing in odd places:

    NEDO, for example, commissioned JAROS to do most of its work, such as radar design.

    And you have the involvement of the Mitsubishi conglomerate, which just cannot stop getting itself in trouble lately (and frequently in ways that result in fires and explosions at inopportune moments–just what you want in a satellite):

    The spy satellites were manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric Corp.

    Created ostensibly to provide guidance, the process actually led to some money being used to pay the difference in salaries for Mitsubishi Electric employees loaned out to the intermediaries, sources said.

    Further, sources said that those institutions did little of the actual oversight work.

    That Japanese link above, BTW, is to a story about soil pollution in Osaka by Mitsubishi Estate and Mitsubishi Materials for housing development; several executives are being investigated.

    Notice that there’s no mention of the Japan Defense Agency or the SDF anywhere in the article. Presumably, they’re the ones that are actually going to be using the satellites? Did they have a say in things? If not, why not? Then again, given the size of the crowd, maybe it’s just that no one noticed their absence.

    KEPCO resignations over Mihama accident

    Posted by Sean at 19:44, March 27th, 2005

    The president and two other top men at Kansai Electric (KEPCO) will be stepping down over last year’s disaster at the Mihama nuclear plant:

    To take responsibility for Japan’s worst accident at a nuclear power plant, Yosaku Fuji will step down as president of Kansai Electric Power Co. in June, the company said Friday.

    The accident occurred at the Mihama nuclear power plant’s No. 3 reactor last August. Five workers were killed and six injured when steam spewed from a ruptured, corroded pipe.

    Fuji’s resignation was also influenced by repeated requests that came from a government investigative committee asking KEPCO to revise an outline of measures to prevent a recurrence of the accident.

    Investigations revealed that the pipe that ruptured had not been replaced for years, despite clear signs of corrosion.

    By “years” they mean “almost three decades.”


    Posted by Sean at 12:51, March 27th, 2005

    It’s the Charlie’s Angels episode where Kris is kidnapped by a hick family whose mother she picked up for prostitution while she was a SF cop, and the agency hires a psychic to help find her. This is so great I can’t stand it. See, at some point, the psychic says she thinks Kris is headed toward a big light, and Julie, the Fulbright scholar (well, she took over for Shelley Hack, who took over for Kate Jackson, who played the Smart One), thinks it might be “The sun!” Okay…here we are. Better than I remembered! Wind machines, you gotta love ’em. And, of course, this was the recapture-the-ratings gambit that involved taking the whole cast to Hawaii for a bunch of episodes.

    You know how I was all talking about how much I love high-toned ancient stuff? Forget I ever mentioned it. (It’s the Hansel and Gretel allusion part when Kris drops her purse out the back of the truck. And her barrettes are still in place even though she was full-on tackled by the daughter while she was trying to get away. So 70s!) As long as they play reruns of Charlie’s Angels on cable, I will never think of Catullus again. Or Saigyo. I mean, the psychic is played by Jane Wyman in a twin set. Does it get better than this?