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    Another PRC plane crash

    Posted by Sean at 16:02, November 21st, 2004

    The PRC has had yet another commercial plane crash. This time, fortunately, it was a commuter plane with low capacity and only 53 people aboard. Except for flag carrier Air China, which had its first and only crash ever a few years ago in Korea, Chinese airlines are notoriously accident-prone. A friend who’s lived there and in Taiwan believes the big problem is twofold: using equipment (such as planes and diagnostic machines) until its useful age is long past, and a work ethic that credits showing up and doing what you’re told as much as it does good job performance. Safety standards have been tightened, and things are probably slowly changing for the better as carriers such as China Southern and China Eastern compete for international business travel. But we’re very fortunate that in the West, our chief worry when we board an airliner involves the quality of the food, service, and in-flight entertainment.

    22 November 02:03 EST

    Where in the world is Rick Santorum?

    Posted by Sean at 15:44, November 21st, 2004

    Via the Washington Blade, an interesting item about our junior senator here in PA (and for this week, at least, I do mean here in PA. BTW, Specter’s conservative primary challenger, Pat Toomey, apparently has an in-state address right here in the same village as my parents. It’s not a big village, trust me. Kind of weird). It’s from The Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh:

    Article I of the U.S. Constitution says, “No person shall be a Senator … who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.” Rick Santorum last won election in November 2000, when he owned the house at 111 Stephens Lane in Penn Hills plus a house in Virginia. Where he was an “inhabitant” at the time only he can say.

    He faces re-election in 2006, but if that election were held today, the two-term Republican would be hard-pressed to convince voters that he inhabits a house on Stephens Lane. Sure, he and his wife pay taxes on the house. They also use the address for voter registration, but so do two other people. When a Post-Gazette reporter visited the house last Friday, a young man came to the door and declined to comment. He wasn’t Rick Santorum.

    It gets worse. The two-bedroom house that the Santorum children called home for education purposes and that gives Mr. and Mrs. Santorum the right to vote in Pennsylvania lacks an occupancy permit. And the property tax break from the homestead exemption claimed by the Santorums on the Penn Hills house is allowed under law only if the dwelling is their “permanent home.”

    It’s a strange case of political turnabout. In his initial House race against Rep. Doug Walgren in 1990, challenger Santorum attacked the incumbent from Mt. Lebanon for buying a house and raising his children in McLean, Va. Now Rick Santorum of Leesburg, Va., is saying that he is and he isn’t a resident of Pennsylvania.

    It’s hard not to sympathize with elected officials who feel torn between being with their families and staying in Washington to do their jobs. Maybe Santorum has changed his mind and wouldn’t use the same tactics against someone like Walgren if he were elected today. But rules are rules, and it doesn’t seem unfair for Santorum’s family to be obligated actually to reside in the state he represents. And in practical terms, Pennsylvania is as close to DC as you can get without being in Maryland or Virginia; he’d be much easier to feel really sorry for if he were from Montana.

    22 November 01:47 EST


    Posted by Sean at 12:19, November 21st, 2004

    Arrived safely at my parents’ place yesterday, after a turbulence-free flight but slightly rocky communication about where to pick me up. (I’d planned to rent a car, but I was feeling the lag already when we landed and didn’t know whether I could trust myself on two hours of interstates right then.) Am drunk on the expansiveness of everything, from the roads to the cars to the food packages, as always when I first arrive. The cats, whose room I’m using, don’t quite remember me from last year, which has led to a lot of disdainfully curious Siamese staring in my direction.

    Also, did you know you can get Atkins Diet-approved versions of everything? Last night, I was like, “Uh, is this Carb Count Dairy Beverage something I’m right in considering…milk?” But I’m adjusting. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

    21 November 10:18 EST

    (Not) taking care of our own

    Posted by Sean at 14:43, November 18th, 2004

    Michael Demmons gives the HRC’s Cheryl Jacques a well-earned pummeling for that organization’s endorsement of Arlen Specter’s opponent in our recent Pennsylvania senate race. The pretense that supporting Joseph Hoeffel represented advocacy of the best interests of gays rather than Democratic party hackery was always tissue-thin, and the HRC’s obstinate failure to recognize that it did something stupid is embarrassing. At least the Log Cabin Republicans appear to be engaging in better-late-than-never self-criticism. Something Michael points out that is obviously meaningful to him (as it is to me from the other direction): Specter could support the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, which I think is probably not politically viable at the moment but is a good idea to be circulating as part of the general gay marriage/civil unions discussion.

    Idle question

    Posted by Sean at 14:10, November 18th, 2004

    Where are all these people searching for “white peril” coming from? Did the History Channel run a special about colonialism in East Asia, or something? Did some OSU professor with an intro-level lecture class of 500 assign a paper about China’s and Japan’s encounters with Westernization? I’m not hubristical enough to think they’re all looking for this site.

    Okay, you caught me. I’m hubristical enough–but I’m not deluded. And in any case, you can’t complain when people are blundering into your site by putting its title into a search engine…especially when (as anyone else with a blog can tell you) some of the searches you find in your referral logs make you feel you need a shower followed by an alcohol bath followed by irradiation. I’m no prude, but I’m positively grateful to the sicko contingent for having, so far this month, limited itself to the relatively benign “chikan videos groping.”

    Japanese headlines

    Posted by Sean at 12:01, November 17th, 2004

    Some updates on news items I usually post about when there are new developments.

    First, yet another of the world’s inexhaustible supply of expert panels making contributions to the obvious has…well, made a contribution to the obvious: namely, if a major earthquake hit Tokyo, there could be catastrophic damage. This particular shocker was dispensed to us through an NHK special last night that was nowhere near as cool as the one they broadcast a few years ago. As always, the predictions are carefully qualified because the amount of damage would depend not just on the Richter scale magnitude (total energy release) but also on how deep underground the focus is, which affects how bad the shaking is at the surface. The special this time around featured man-on-the-street interviews of people explaining what most frightened them about a potential earthquake. Is it the possibility of being trapped on the subway? Being trampled by panicky mobs of citizens? Being tossed around like clothes in a Speed Queen if you’re on one of the upper floors of a skyscraper? It was, in a strange way, comfortingly ghoulish.


    The draft of the proposed constitutional amendment, designed to allow Japan to participate with allies in collective self-defense operations, has been completed by the ruling coalition’s committee. It explicitly renounces nuclear arming (not a few people think Japan has quietly developed nukes already). That’s actually not the only amendment up for debate. There’s to be change in the way the Emperor’s position is to be articulated, and there are a few individual rights made explicit. Japanese accounts don’t seem to have good quotations from the proposal, but FWIW, the Nikkei’s most recent report is here.

    And for those of us who came of age in the ’80’s, former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone has endorsed the idea of a revision–he was a friend of Reagan at the end of the Cold War, so this is not a surprise–and has his own, slightly different proposal from the committee’s.


    The Koizumi administration has gotten some hold-outs among the ministries on board for its subsidy-reduction plan. Education and welfare seem to be the remaining major points of contention.


    Oh, and I can’t believe I neglected to say anything about this Monday–Atsushi e-mailed me about it the moment he saw the news report: Japan’s ranking eligible bachelorette is engaged. Princess Sayako, daughter of the current emperor and empress, and sister of the crown prince, is 35. The media have been trying to put a polite mask over everyone’s complete and utter disbelief, but it’s not working too well.

    The circle will come around / You’re gonna put yourself / In my place

    Posted by Sean at 04:16, November 16th, 2004

    Mrs. du Toit asked a question in a comment the other day:

    [Jim McGreevey] cheated on his wife, committed fraud against the people he took an oath to protect and represent, lied about the lover because he was going to blow the whistle on him (making him the scapegoat for his fraud), and I’m supposed to be happy for the guy because he “came out”?

    The question was rhetorical, but a friend (who has to remain nameless) obligingly sent a message that constitutes a reply, anyway:

    The McGreevey mess illustrates classic tribalism at work. He is GAY, so he must be GOOD. The fact that he offends people (not necessarily because he’s gay) gives him that kewl countercultural cachet that is a must for an icon.

    Well, that’s not the only issue, at least for the gay press. Coming out–being a private decision that, when added to those of others, can have a cumulative public effect–is an ethically thorny subject. The attempt to understand why other gays live differently is laudable, but it often devolves into the making of ethical allowances the same commentator wouldn’t under other circumstances.

    It’s all very well to point out that the social changes of the last three decades were not in effect when men and women who are now around 50 and over were coming of age. Anyone who remembers how to subtract is aware of that. But an important component of personal liberty is self-criticism and self-awareness. It would be nice to see it also pointed out, occasionally, that gay liberation did not happen on some planet that guys like McGreevey haven’t traveled to.

    I don’t fault people who believe their homosexuality is sinful, and try not to act on it, for keeping it hidden. Nor do I think there’s anything wrong with being gay but thinking your sexuality is your own private business and not something you discuss. It’s safe to say, however, that people who think in those ways are not the ones who end up coming out in front of a press conference and expecting everyone to read it as bravery.

    And while I’m on the subject of coming-out-related lameness: another group that routinely drives me around the bend is the “I would come out to my parents if only…” crowd. These are not people who are on the fence about their sexuality. These are not people who have fathers who threatened to get out the shotgun if one of their sons turned out to be a faggot. These are not people who have mothers who are dying of cancer and can’t take any shocks. These are people who know they’re gay, who never have any intention of being anything but gay, and who take advantage of all the conveniences of urban gay life.

    Trust me–it’s not as if I were the type to ask whether and why someone isn’t out to his parents. It’s not any of my business. But if you’re going to volunteer that you’re still closeted and justify it with some face-saving rationalization, try to choose one that actually saves face for you. Hint: “See, my parents still give me some of the money I live on, and I’m afraid they’ll cut me off if they find out I’m gay” does not save face for you. My primarily straight readership may be interested to know that I hear that one constantly, from people around or even over my age, in complete expectation that I’ll be all understanding.

    Well, sorry. Just as being perpetually broke and living on your friends’ couches makes you charmingly raffish at 20 and a loser at 50–even though there’s no single point on the gradient in between when you clearly stop being one and start being the other–not coming out is perfectly understandable when you’ve only known you’re gay for a few years and ridiculous when you’ve known you’re gay for a decade. Once again, I’m not talking about those who treat their sexuality, consistently in word and deed, as a private matter. I’m talking about the ones who bitch about how our activists are handling the marriage issue, who complain about places where domestic partner benefits are lacking, and who expect friends to recognize their relationships. These are people who clearly think they should be out but also want to wait until it’s risk-free.

    “But,” I’m sometimes told, “it’s easy for you, because your parents are understanding.” Uh, yeah, and do you know how I found out my parents are understanding? By coming out at 23 and dealing with the consequences. I was actually close to 100% convinced that they’d disown me–not because they’re nasty but because they’re strictly religious, and I assumed they’d feel obliged not to countenance a way of life they thought was a sin. No longer getting them to supplement my grad school stipend was not the thing I was most worried about, but it did cross my mind. My plan if they withdrew their support, which I persist in thinking was rather clever, was to spend less money.*

    Getting back to the McGreevey case, it’s possible that his wife decided that, while their daughter needs her father around, she herself doesn’t want to be married to a man who isn’t bonded to her as she thought he was. It doesn’t strike me as the most likely of the possible scenarios, but it’s not unlikely, either. In any case, people who are initially sorry only about getting caught often do, if they have a conscience, learn to be genuinely remorseful about what they’ve done to themselves and those around them. (Screwing over an entire state of 10 million people is, of course, in a very special class of doings.) Putting McGreevey in a position of giving other people guidance seems to me not to be getting the order quite right, though.

    * I suppose a truly honest account here would include the information that I didn’t manage my credit cards so hot while I was in my mid-20’s, but I paid everything off in a few years and don’t carry any debt now besides a little left on my student loans.

    Will a little more love make *you* start depending?

    Posted by Sean at 20:01, November 12th, 2004

    Darn. Two interesting comments (one about the remilitarization of Japan, and the other, by e-mail, about how tribalism makes gay public figures close ranks to help out scumbags) in a single day, and I can’t respond. I mean, I have the time, but all my mental energy is absorbed by work. I’ve been listening to Olivia’s Greatest Hits, Volume 2 for what must be…jeez…a week and a half? And that’s it. Olivia on Repeat All, because I’m in a groove that has to keep running for a few days. I’ve hardly been hearing what’s playing into my ears, anyway. (Well, I did catch myself squaring my shoulders and giving the come-hither smirk at my monitor while mouthing along to “Make a Move on Me” once.) In fact, I haven’t even remembered to press Skip when “Xanadu” comes on. And I always remember to skip “Xanadu” because I HATE THAT SONG.

    Anyway, I’ll be back to normal in a few days. Isn’t it great that Arafat’s still dead?

    SDF deployment to be extended

    Posted by Sean at 03:26, November 11th, 2004

    The deployment of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in a non-combat capacity in Iraq will be extended. The New Komei Party, which is the LDP’s partner in the ruling coalition, is pacifist and balked for a while at approving the extension; things haven’t gotten any easier since the hostage was beheaded. Things were resolved earlier this week, but the posting of the English summary at the Yomiuri is nice to see on Veteran’s Day.

    I’m through with the past / Ain’t no point in looking back

    Posted by Sean at 02:47, November 11th, 2004

    Fan-fricking-tastic. Jim McGreevey, no longer governor of New Jersey, is being courted by gay advocacy groups. And why not? All that alleged bad behavior was months ago:

    Michael Adams, spokesman for the gay civil rights group Lambda Legal, said McGreevey’s tarnished 35-month tenure would not taint his star power within the gay populace or among other special interest groups. “The reality is, we’re a country that believes in rebirth and people moving beyond prior mistakes,” Adams said. “Any community would look to ‘What kind of contribution are you willing and able to make moving forward?’ not ‘What have you done previously?'”

    The writer of the Advocate piece is only too happy to let bygones be bygones, too:

    Some personal concerns are on McGreevey’s upcoming short list: tending to his ill parents, helping his wife and daughter move into their new house in Springfield while he takes up residence in Rahway, and taking a little time off. “A lot of healing has to go on in that family,” said Lesniak. “They want to use this to get closer as a family, not farther apart. There was a barrier before because of the governor’s denial of his sexuality.”

    As a Georgetown-educated lawyer with a master’s in education from Harvard, McGreevey has an enviable educational pedigree. But he also comes from a modest background–his father was a Marine drill sergeant, and his mother a nurse–so whatever he winds up doing, “he has to earn a living,” said Lesniak. “The governor has never thought much of his economic welfare and he’s not a flashy guy, so it’s not high on his priority list. But it has to be a consideration.”

    Mom was in one of the caring professions! Dad was a man in uniform! Jim and Dina are moving into separate houses to draw closer as a family! And Sean is about to ram chopsticks into his ears and swirl them around to take the edge off the pain of reading this crap.

    I mean, am I just imagining this, or is McGreevey accused of corruption? Did he or did he not have some guy he thought was a hottie in charge of anti-terrorist policy for a state with a population of 10 million, when the man wasn’t a citizen and didn’t have any security clearance? I’m glad McGreevey’s finally being honest with himself, and if his family’s willing to stick by him and make an arrangement that accommodates everyone as much as is possible, I think that’s great. But gay advocacy is a public responsibility. Not as weighty as a governorship, no, but a duty to serve the interests of others nonetheless. It does not need another self-serving blame-shifter.

    BTW, every link to “First Person” commentary on the front page of the Advocate site goes to some wanker piece about post-election depression. Has to be seen to be believed, but you can be excused for not bothering.