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    Japan Post Reform (née Privatization)

    Posted by Sean at 10:58, December 17th, 2004

    The LDP has drafted its Postal Service reform proposal, and having been developed by a committee, the thing appears to have fallen prey to all-things-to-all-people syndrome:

    Having duly recorded the multiplicity of opinions [Gulp!–SRK], ranging from the argument that the current single-agent handling of mails, postal savings, and insurance functions should be maintained to opposition to privatization in its entirety, the committee hammered out a proposal in which post offices will be arranged as they are currently and will be uniformly charged with providing postal savings and insurance services nationwide. Mindful of opposing voices within the party, the committee also decided to forgo the use of the word privatization in the proposal.

    Later in the (brief, as yet) report, the Nikkei explains that “the summary of points for debate released by the committee last month was predicated on privatization; however, because opposition within the party was so strong, the committee retreated into the wording ‘postal reform,’ which does not imply that the organization will be split into separate corporations or changed in other specific ways.” So we’re not privatizing the thing, just…rearranging it. Somehow. How, exactly, we’ll tell you later.

    The plan to priva…ACK!…reform Japan Post has been dragging out for a while now, and with this latest development, painful but necessary changes to its operations don’t look as if they’re going to be coming any time soon. Good thing much of the household wealth of the country doesn’t hang in the balance, or anything!

    Make it easy on yourself tonight

    Posted by Sean at 10:18, December 17th, 2004

    I think I’ve successfully gotten www.seorookie.net to redirect to the front page here. I’ll add it to my masthead/banner/whatever as soon as I can figure out what font and size to use to avoid making it look too cluttered. Apologies to anyone who might have tried to memorize iwamatodjishi!

    The cherry tree

    Posted by Sean at 05:05, December 17th, 2004

    In the shuffle of being at home and then returning to non-vacation life here, I forgot about this on the exact day, but….

    Last year, AgendaBender posted a post called “A Day without Bill,” which is one of my two or three favorite posts ever by anyone. (I was going to fix all the redundant uses of post in that last sentence, but since Tom’s story is about a very tall man, maybe they’re kind of fitting.) It’s a good read for this time of year, and I’m glad I remembered about it again while we’re still in the zone between World AIDS Day and Christmas.

    CNN tells all (紅葉の下での挿話)

    Posted by Sean at 12:13, December 15th, 2004

    Today, we’re doing the yin-yang contrast thing.

    Tokyo, you see, is a vertical city. Full of concrete and glass. It can get awful stressful! But…but…there are pockets of escape in Tokyo’s gardens. Requisite in these gardens is a Japanese maple tree (shown–can you guess?–with red leaves filtering the sunlight. Hey, stop kvetching, you cynical rabble-rousers! At least they remembered it’s not cherry blossom season). Some Japanese guy is shown saying that the Japanese feel relaxed and refreshed when they’re around nature, which as we all know is unique among world cultures.

    What goes discreetly unmentioned, of course, is that Tokyo wouldn’t have to call every tuft of grass poking up between two sidewalk bricks a “restful out-of-the-way garden” if the city weren’t so relentlessly grey and neon and overhead-wired. As does the specific dearth of tree-lined boulevards that are the hallmark of just about every other world city. It’s a shame we couldn’t work in a shot of Mt. Fuji’s looming snow-capped bulk (nature!) through which a bullet train glides across the foreground, since someone somewhere might figure out that that’s not Tokyo. I’m sure there’s still time, though.

    Won’t you listen to me when I’m telling you / It’s no good for you

    Posted by Sean at 10:14, December 15th, 2004

    Steve Miller at IGF links to this new piece Rich Tafel has in NRO about Bush-voting gays:

    The one statistic confounding pundits in this election is the number of gays who voted for George W. Bush. Polls show that the president received anywhere from 1.5 million to 2 million gay votes, up from 1 million votes in 2000 and double the number of gay votes for Bob Dole in 1996. This dramatic increase comes despite the fact that no gay organization endorsed him, no gay journalist editorialized on his behalf, and no gay leader supported him.

    The post-election conventional wisdom fueled by gay leaders and the media is that President Bush won because he gay bashed. This notion serves all of their purposes: Gays can maintain their image of themselves as hated victims and liberal sections of the media can salve their wounds by admitting that because of their own tolerance they failed to appeal to America’s intolerance.

    Tafel, former head of Log Cabin Republicans and a knowing political operator (I don’t mean that as a dig in this case), doesn’t put it as bluntly as he might have–for instance, “Gay activists and journalists seem to be standing around and asking, ‘Why the hell didn’t you guys do what you were told?'”

    This is funny in light of an encounter I had the other night (in the same place, actually, where I was granted my first taste of this holiday turkey). I was sitting–one of the reasons I usually don’t post about these things is that it’s hard not to give away other people’s personal information, so I’ll limit it to this–between a Muslim who has US citizenship but was brought up in one of the more Westernized countries in the Middle East, on the one hand, and an East Asian guy who’s lived since childhood in various big cities in California’s San-San population belt, on the other. The Muslim man was in his late 40’s, at a guess, and the East Asian was maybe 21.

    The conversation was lively, and at some point, someone brought up the election. Each of us was pleasantly surprised to hear that the other two had voted for Bush, and we spent quite an interval talking about the arguments we’d had with friends and the campaign messages that had and hadn’t reached us. It was fascinating, because here you had a Muslim who divides his time between America and Asia–you know, very cosmopolitan and stuff–and a kid from coastal California who works in the entertainment industry, and both of them just seemed to want to know, What was it that Kerry planned to do? How was it going to be better than an imperfect but predictable Bush? And why was it assumed that they were going to be pulling the lever for the Democrat out of some sort of homo predisposition? Tafel nails the more specific issues, too:

    Gays who voted for President Bush had a simple logic. They recognized that both candidates opposed gay marriage for political purposes. Their primary concern was the war on terror. They believed that we are engaged in a war for the future of our country and our way of life. They believed that the rise of militant Islam is a real and deadly threat. They believed that our country, with all its faults, is a force for good in the world. They believed that our enemy cannot be reasoned with. They believed that we needed a leader who understood the world in terms of moral values, and they didn’t scoff when the president used the words “good” and “evil” to describe the battle against terror. They realized we’ve made mistakes, but also realized that the only thing worse than making mistakes is not even trying. Many gays understood all of this and voted for President Bush, showing that they are people as well as gay people and that they have concerns beside their group interests. They wanted someone who in the difficult months ahead would stand firm in his beliefs.

    I doubt every gay voter who went for Bush agreed with every single one of these, but the overall characterization strikes me as sound. The problem isn’t that reflexive-lefty gays haven’t brought their own beliefs in line with ours since the election. It’s that they still don’t seem to be able to fathom our reasoning at all.

    A decade ago, I was in college in the same city as Camille Paglia was teaching in, and her highly-publicized rants about loony-leftism really made me feel better about coming out. You know, the LGBA (which doubtless has a few more letters in its name by now) was full of JCrew types bleating about oppression. I went to one meeting and never went back, but it didn’t rattle me too much. Paglia and her media followers really looked as if they might generate enough force to break queer activists out of their calcified ways of thinking.

    It didn’t turn out that way. She certainly had her effect–along with others–but it was to peel off the closet moderates and make them more comfortable returning to the common-sense middle. The wacko leaders who are the real problem haven’t moved at all. It’s a shame.

    Some red with that blue

    Posted by Sean at 02:55, December 15th, 2004

    This is cool–a Black Republicans’ club has formed at Penn, reports Erin O’Connor. What is not cool is that the DP article misspells supersede, indicating that it hasn’t gotten much less retarded in the ten years since my graduation. I don’t know how the campus climate really is now, but when I was a student, it was not hard to have civilized conversations with a wide range of political viewpoints–informally. The university-supported campus culture was as PC-addled as you’d expect, however, so I hope Sean-Tamba Matthew eventually has enough of a membership to march on Houston Hall and seek funding.

    Let’s get the ingen to do it!

    Posted by Sean at 01:57, December 15th, 2004

    Far Outliers has a post up about one of the more perversely funny aspects of life as a foreigner in Japan: the Creole you end up cobbling together from Japanese and your native language. He The guy he quotes specifically remembers words used by Mormon missionaries, of which I thought these (the words–I haven’t seen the missionaries) were rather sweet:

  • golden kazoku Family interesting in joining the church

  • kanji bandit, kanji jock Missionary who can read and write Japanese characters

  • Added on 20 December: You would think that having been reared in a church that was so obscure I had to go around saying, “No, we’re not Seventh Day Adventists…no, we’re not Jews for Jesus, either. See, it’s like this…,” I’d be especially careful not to slush other people’s religions together. No such luck. Apologies to Joel for turning him into a different author and a Mormon.

    HIV in China

    Posted by Sean at 01:27, December 15th, 2004

    The failure of a lot of the larger Asian countries to do something about their emerging AIDS problem–while places such as Thailand, which as a sex trip destination got hit very soon after the US did, have gotten theirs more or less under control–is in the news very frequently here. The latest story is that the PRC is making gingerly moves toward dealing with what everyone acknowledges is an AIDS disaster waiting to happen:

    A study funded by the Chinese government shows few men who have sex with men have an understanding of how the disease is transmitted.

    At least 80 percent of the men surveyed believed they were not at risk the official People’s Daily reports.

    The survey, conducted by the center of AIDS control and prevention found that only about 20 percent of those questioned knew how HIV/AIDS is spread.

    The survey was conducted in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province. Information was largely collected from pubs, parks, public bathrooms, squares, cyber cafes and other public places.

    The survey method was obviously not very scientific, so who knows how reliable the numbers are? But it’s not unusual in Asia to believe that you’re only at risk for HIV infection if you have sex with Westerners–a pattern that goes triple for the Japanese, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, AIDS first gained publicity as the sort of disease you find in big, crime-ridden American and European cities, which gave it the image of something that safe and orderly Japan, which in addition has a world-renowned health care system and traditional cleanliness fetish that make it feel insulated, would not be vulnerable to. Men who bring the disease back from business trips to Southeast Asian countries in which prostitution is easily available are the most commonly discussed way the virus has entered Japan, and the fact that the Japanese blood supply was still tainted long after the West had cleaned its up was highly publicized for a while. But people get complacent, and in my experience, a lot of Japanese gay guys are pretty blasé about STD’s in general. No one is really sure what the infection rate is here, but it’s pretty much a given that it’s higher than the official figures.

    Another, not really related, article on 365Gay reports that Andy Bell of Erasure is HIV positive. I’m not a fan–his singing always sounds to me like Phil Collins trying to imitate Alison Moyet (who is a favorite of mine)–but he’s been one of the most out men in popular culture for years and years, and while I don’t think he and his partner had an obligation to make this particular revelation, it’s nice that they decided to.

    Mother love

    Posted by Sean at 12:00, December 14th, 2004

    Everyone is aware that Atsushi, always looking out for my well-being, has told me not to read the Asahi, yeah? And that the only reason I do is that I’m a disobedient boy? Okay. As long as we’re straight (so to speak) on that, one of today’s editorials is a model of weightless sentimentality, as you can see if I can just manage to pin the following citation down so it doesn’t float away:

    The most beautiful English word is “mother” to non-native speakers of the tongue worldwide, Britain’s organization for international exchanges found in a survey. The British Council polled 40,000 people.

    Other words that followed “mother” on the list included “passion,” “smile” and “love.” But “father” was not on the list, though I looked through it to the 70th place.

    The phrase “mother test” has several meanings in the United States. One of them is that the the U.S. president, as commander in chief of the armed forces, must be able to explain to the mother of a U.S. soldier why her son or daughter might die in some armed conflict.

    You can see where this is going, right? Actually, if you do, maybe you should tell me. I’ve read the whole thing, and I’m still not exactly sure what the big policy point is. The idea that adding a provision about withdrawing Japan’s SDF personnel if the on-the-ground situation in Iraq deteriorates seems odd at this juncture–that strikes me as warranting half a paragraph, not a whole op-ed, but otherwise, the author doesn’t, um, have, like, a whole lot to, y’know, say.

    But you know what? That doesn’t really matter. What really matters is that we’re all once again assured that President Bush is a very bad man:

    Was the addition of the provision a year later a ploy to soothe the stiff public sentiment against extending the term of the Iraqi mission? Couldn’t appropriate measures be taken if it were not for such a provision? How did the troops fare in the past year without it? [Just fine, dumbass, which explains the almost complete absence of casualty reports–SRK]

    This summer, I read the words of an American mother whose son had died as a soldier in Iraq. “It was the hollowest letter I have had in my life,” she said of the form condolence letter she received from President George W. Bush.


    Added (just barely) on 16 December: I’m not sorry I posted this one, but I do normally try to avoid just clipping the stupidest section of an article I don’t like, appending some smarty-pants comments, and then pushing “Publish.” I would, therefore, just like to repeat that I wasn’t aiming to produce the ultimate slap-down of the arguments against the Iraq War in general or the deployment of SDF personnel there specifically. I was just dumbfounded that someone working for the Asahi actually got paid to write an editorial that could have been scribbled on the back of a bar napkin after 13 rounds of shochu.

    Of course, I don’t think that the Koizumi administration is being out of line in extending the deployment. There was, after all, a Diet election a few months ago, which voters were incessantly admonished to treat as a referendum on Koizumi’s WOT and economic policies. Everyone who voted for an LDP or Shin-Komeito candidate knew that that meant formally supporting that coalition’s war policy and had the chance to send the opposite message. I’m sure a lot of people struck an uneasy balance between foreign and domestic issues, perhaps hoping that Bush would be voted out of office in November and the Japanese support for the Iraq occupation would become less intense. But those are the trade-offs you have to make as a voter, and you don’t get a do-over when external circumstances shift in ways you didn’t gamble on.

    There’s no rhyme or reason / That keeps me playin’ along

    Posted by Sean at 04:10, December 14th, 2004

    Oh, this is kind of along the lines of that last post, but not really: Yesterday, Amritas said, “If Sean can quote from songs, so can I.” He’s right, of course. What was funny was that he was the first to mention it. See, I’m sure this will strike people as weird, but post titles give me the darnedest amounts of trouble. I’m not a journalist, so I often feel as if Sam-the-Eagle-serious headlines are…maybe not misrepresentations, but a bit gussied up for what they’re being used to label. Occasionally, a stray line from a pop song would seem fitting, so I started using one when it came to me.

    Then I got into a serious Kylie Minogue jag, and before I knew it, it became like a game: If within 5 seconds, I could think of something from one of her songs that fit the post and would help me recognize it in a list if I needed to edit it later, I went with it. If not, I used something more ordinary. But it was off the cuff. I mean, at some point, I noticed I’d named a good five or six different entries for lines from “Spinning Around,” which is not exactly what you’d normally consider a model of quotability. It gave me a chuckle precisely because it was so random, and I figured few readers would have reason to pick up on it.

    Then I noticed that I was getting a decent number of hits from Australia, the UK, Canada, Israel, and other non-US sources. I think most Americans know this by now, but Kylie is a massive celebrity of the Madonna/Janet/Mariah order just about everywhere on Earth except the States. You start using lines from her most inescapable hits, and the chances are not slim that people will recognize them, so I kind of started to expect that sooner or later, I’d open my inbox and be confronted by a message that ran something like

    Dear YankeePoofterBitch,

    Not a bad blog, but the Kylie lyrics as post titles?


    Cheers, from the Commonwealth,


    This is not to be taken as an offer to change my MO, you understand. Life is too short to be sitting around ruminating over the perfect single-sentence title for a blog entry. I just found it funny that, of the things people comment on in correspondence, that one never came up. In fact, Amritas himself put it in a casual footnote to a post of his own, not anything directed at me. You just never know.