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    The hardcore and the gentle

    Posted by Sean at 03:39, April 8th, 2006

    or “All the gay stuff I haven’t written about for the last two weeks”

    or “How to be gay and annoy me”

    Beautiful Atrocities had this column of advice for newly minted gay men linked under “Outside Reading” this past week. Most of it is pretty sound underneath the inevitable tone of snark (and be warned that some of it’s on the raunchy side). It’s also, unlike a lot of attempts to be funny, actually funny. Item #1 made me laugh out loud.

    However, item #14 nettled me. It’s not so much that it’s bad advice as that it scornfully hits an easy target but leaves out the flip side, which I think affects far more people:

    14. Beauty fades. Develop some inner resources, otherwise when it goes, those of us with less far to fall will laugh at you. To your aging face.

    Fine. Point taken. But newly out guys also need it drummed into their heads that…

    14.1. Don’t assume that someone you think is unusually hot must therefore be (1) a bitch, (2) a slut, (3) a moron, and (4) a shallow user.

    14.2. Plenty of men who will never be models or CEOs are in happy relationships. You can be one of them if you look for ways to be generous and stop expecting The Love You Deserve to ambush you while you lean expectantly against the bar.

    For every gorgeous, turned-out man who thinks he’s some kind of Gay Brahmin, there’s a fag who sabotages his own potential regular-guy attractiveness by constantly drawing attention to the fact that he’s not Jude Law. Humility can be sexy; self-humiliation is a turn-off.

    Not all stereotyping is quite so damaging. At least, I don’t think so, though people have too much time on their hands apparently disagree:

    Some gay rights advocates are raising questions about a new Chrysler commercial that features a fairy who uses her wand to turn a tough-looking guy with a big dog into a pastel-clad man walking four small dogs on pink leashes.

    DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group introduced the “Anything but Cute” ad campaign last month to promote the new Dodge Caliber compact car, aimed at young buyers.

    The Commercial Closet, which monitors marketing tactics that could be offensive to gays and lesbians, was more critical of the ad [than the mewling executive director of the Triangle Foundation, cited earlier].

    “It directly finds humor with the term fairy, referring not just to the type that flies around with a magic wand, but also the universally recognizable gay stereotype of an effeminate gay man,” it said in an online review of the ad.

    I’m afraid I’d make a very bad gay activist, because there is no way in hell I could make a public statement that solemnly and carefully differentiates between a fairy “that flies around with a magic wand” and a gay guy without dissolving into laughter.

    Of course, we want to get rid of the stereotype that gay guys are all girlie, emotionally fragile, flighty, and limp-wristed. Permit me to point out, though, that advertising spots are not the place to expect sophisticated commentary that challenges preconceptions. (There are plenty of ads that end in unexpected revelations as a way of providing a jolt that might make the product memorable, but they usually don’t constitute social science lessons.) Steve Miller at IGF posts a link to the ads.

    We’re supposed to bloviate over that? I was more offended by the guy’s post-spell walking-shorts-and-socks combo than anything else. That fairy needs to get herself a fag friend to teach her about style, cute or otherwise.

    And people need to learn how commercials work. Television is populated by dads who are amazed to find out that you can clean clothes with detergent, black women who have clearly been directed to turn the sassy-chick-erator all the way up, Italians who can’t say a word without windmilling their arms, and people whose persnicketiness is signaled by British accents. Sometimes these types are used skillfully, and sometimes they’re used poorly; but ads generally have to rely on stock characters because they have an extremely short amount of time to make an impression. It’s certainly possible to imagine an advertisement that implies something genuinely offensive, but I don’t see how showing some dumb jock type get turned into an dorky metrosexual necessarily does, even if he’s supposedly being punished for saying “Silly fairy!” to a fairy.

    Speaking of silly–or at least muddled–fairies: Last week, Rondi Adamson posted about the release of Canadian Christian peace activist James Loney, who had been abducted in Iraq. Loney’s family and friends scrupulously avoided mentioning his homosexuality while he was in the hands of his abductors:

    I remain puzzled that a gay man like James Loney would, de facto, have aligned himself with people who would see his sexual orientation as sufficient reason to kill him.

    One of Loney’s CPT colleagues, Doug Pritchard, seems to have a case of both [mental-midgetitis and irony deficiency]:

    “It’s a sad fact that around the world gays and lesbians are more vulnerable to attack than straights,” Pritchard said.

    Hmm. Yeah. Particularly under Islamist fascist regimes, Doug.

    No kidding. I don’t think this is the first time Rondi has expressed (perfectly understandable) puzzlement about gays who give a free pass to the Palestinians and other aggrieved groups whose anti-homosexuality is so extreme as actually to warrant the overused word oppression. The article doesn’t mention whether Pritchard is gay, but his attitude is pretty representative of the basic problem. His statement isn’t inaccurate taken as a self-contained thought. But that “around the world,” which runs the entire world together into one, big vaguely threatening place, is bizarre given that the context for the remark is that contrast between Islamofascists in Iraq, among whom revealing your homosexuality could lead to mistreatment or worse, and Canada, where you can talk about it to the press. (One of Loney’s fellow abductees was murdered.)

    [Aside: Martha Stewart just explained to viewers that when the shrimp turn opaque that means they are “not transparent.” Has the educational system deteriorated that much?]

    Unlike a car commercial, the public spotlight that comes with having your gay colleague released by terrorist kidnappers seems to me like the perfect opportunity to make a social and political argument: Thank God he’s back here in the democratic West, where we value personal liberty and the ability to live peaceably with our differences. After all, these people are supposed to be looking for ways to espouse Christian Peace, are they not? Perhaps even the mention of bloodthirstiness, however germane to the situation at hand, would have seemed off message.

    The message from the director of a new movie out of the UK is that Chinese-British gay men exist (via Gay News):

    “It’s very frustrating. Chinese people don’t just run restaurants. Lots of them do great jobs like lawyers. It’s scarily backward in the UK. In the US, Lucy Liu was in Charlie’s Angels not because of her ‘Chinese-ness’ but because she was right for the role.”

    Tell that to the more oversensitive Asian-American activists, honey. Anyway, what I found interesting was this part:

    The filmmaker said Hong Kong is the most liberated Asian country, “Racism exists on the international gay scene. Chinese gay men have a low ranking in the gay hierarchy because they don’t fulfil the classical male beauty.”

    “I know some Asians who have switched to dating Asians.”

    Because there aren’t enough Western gay men who are looking for smooth little Asian hotties?! That’s a demographic development I hadn’t been aware of, though I admit to not being all that familiar with the scene in Hong Kong. The tendency for some Westerners to want their Asian boyfriends to act like man-geisha does strike me as a problem, but that doesn’t appear to be what Yeung is talking about. In any case, he seems to be able to point out what he thinks are problems without taking a whiny tone, which is always good to see. If his movie is the same, I hope it does well.


    特定していない

    Posted by Sean at 02:21, April 7th, 2006

    The government has denied that it has yet shared any DNA information about Megumi Yokota’s possible husband with the ROK:

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe made a statement the report in the South Korean press that the Japanese government has confirmed that the person reported to be DPRK abductee Megumi Yokota’s husband was also a man who was abducted from South Korea at a press conference following an April 7 cabinet meeting. He denied the reports, saying, “We are moving forward diligently with the DNA evaluation, but at this point in time, the results are not yet in, and in our capacity as the government, we have not specified anything about the person said to be Megumi Yokota’s husband.” Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Aso also stated emphatically, “It certainly isn’t yet the case that word has officially come from among the professionals–scholars and such–that this is the man, or this isn’t the man.”

    Unlike a lot of diplomatic issues, the abductee problem has an obvious human interest angle, and the Japanese public has responded. One wonders whether the government isn’t being so quick to deny that it’s helped the ROK because of the loud complaints here at home that it’s doing little to find out what happened to the Japanese abductees still not satisfactorily accounted for.


    Japan and South Korea may cooperate on Yokota case

    Posted by Sean at 09:28, April 5th, 2006

    Apparently, Japan and the ROK are teaming up to try to find out the identity of Megumi Yokota’s husband:

    In February, the Japanese government took blood and other samples from the families of five South Korean abduction victims who were cited as possible husbands of Yokota, and had been testing the DNA of the samples.

    In response, South Korean officials said that if the possibility of Yokota’s husband being a South Korean abductee arose, it would ask Japan for DNA information from Yokota’s daughter, Kim Hye Gyong, and conduct its own verification of the identity of Yokota’s husband.

    Five South Koreans who disappeared in 1977 and 1978 have been citied as possible husbands of Yokota. South Korea has acknowledged that all five were abducted by North Korean agents.

    For Yokota’s husband’s sake, let’s hope his affairs are settled more easily than hers have been. The poor woman’s father has been on television so frequently over the last few years that a lot of us news watchers know him by sight now. The reason, of course, is that the DPRK keeps playing games about releasing her remains–who knows whether Pyongyang even knows where they are by this point? Some abductees have returned to more (Hitomi Soga, wife of US Army deserter Charles Jenkins) or less (several others who have returned to quiet lives in the provinces) publicity, but Yokota’s case has become a symbol of North Korea’s inability just to do something…anything…forthright.


    拉致問題

    Posted by Sean at 07:49, March 16th, 2006

    Thomas Schieffer, who appears to keep a low profile as US Ambassador to Japan, is in the news today for having visited the beach from which Megumi Yokota was abducted by DPRK agents in 1977:

    The ambassador was accompanied on the visit by Yokota’s 73-year-old father Shigeru and others, who explained the kidnapping to him. It was the first abduction scene visit by a high-ranking U.S. government official.

    In a news conference after the visit, Schieffer said he was moved by the experience, and that the injustice of the abductions should be solved no matter how many years it took. He added he intended to discuss the issue with U.S. President George W. Bush when he next met him.

    The visit is seen as lending support to Japan’s stance of seeking a solution to the abductions, following the failure of comprehensive talks between Japan and North Korea in February.

    The abductee issue is a big one for Japan (both the government and the public). When there are talks between the DPRK and the US in which Japan is involved, it tends to get backburnered in favor of more attention to, you know, nuclear development and stuff. And Japan and North Korea certainly haven’t solved it between themselves.

    Megumi Yokota, BTW, is the abductee whose unknown whereabouts have been reported on most frequently since the issue really gained steam several years ago. The DPRK gave Japan a pile of bones that turned out not to be hers.


    Seismic shifts (or not) in Japan

    Posted by Sean at 00:34, February 8th, 2006

    A case of earthquake resistance fakery not perpetrated by Aneha (story so far as I’ve kept track) has surfaced:

    The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport disclosed on 8 February that it had confirmed a case of fraud related to structural calculations for three apartment complexes in Fukuoka City; the calculations had been contracted out to a design firm that was not part of Aneha Architecture and Design. The firm in question is Something (Fukuoka Prefecture; closed for business in 2002), and the construction firm for all affected buildings was Kimura Construction (Yashiro City, Kumamoto Prefecture; now in bankruptcy proceedings). This is the first case of such fraud that has come to light that did not involve former first-class architect Hideji Aneha.

    *******

    Princess Kiko, the wife of the current Emperor and Empress’s second son Fumihito, is pregnant with her third child. The Nikkei seems to think it newsworthy that the British press is going bananas over the news–maybe there’s some sort of constitutional monarchy kinship thing going here? Anyway, the news feeds into the controversy over possible female succession that’s been percolating here:

    News of a new member of the imperial family comes as the government is moving to revise the Imperial House Law to allow females and their descendants to ascend the Chrysanthemum throne.

    However, conservative Diet members, especially those in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, oppose Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s stated intention to pass the revision during the current Diet session.

    No boy has been born in the imperial family since Fumihito in 1965.

    If the emperor’s next grandchild is a boy, he would be third in line to the throne under the current Imperial House Law.

    The English Asahi has another article specifically about the move to change the rules of successsion here. Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, his much put-upon wife, have managed to produce a daughter, but she’s ineligible to become empress.

    *******

    I was hoping there would be something deliciously inflammatory to report from the Japan-DPRK summit this week. (Well, stopping short of “We’re sending missiles to Tokyo, Insular Devils!”) No such luck. The talks ended today. The result? Negotiations must continue. Oh, okay:

    Japan and North Korea concluded their five-day schedule of talks on 8 February with a general meeting at a hotel in Beijing. Japan once again conveyed that its fundamental approach is that “until the issues of the 1970s abductions of Japanese citizens and of the DPRK’s nuclear program and long-range missiles are resolved, there will be no normalization of relations.” There was no progress in concrete terms. Both parties affirmed that parallel talks will continue on three major themes: normalization of relations, Japanese abductees, and North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

    Japan doubts the DPRK’s sincerity. The DPRK returns the compliment.

    *******

    As always, they may (or may not) be contemplating increasing the consumption tax (or at least changing it in what might possibly be deemed a non-negative, non-zero direction). Yeah, I know–blah, blah, blah. What’s semi-interesting is that the DPJ seems to have wheeled Katsuya Okada out of the morgue to comment:

    The Prime Minister indicated that he is of the opinion that continuing reforms will be necessary even after [current] goals will have been achieved, stating, “It cannot be said that once the primary balance is in the black, financial restructuring is finished.” Okada proposed corrections, stating, “We must [first] think about what our next goals will be,” and ending with, “Those in positions of authority at that point in time will have to think about them.”

    That part of the back-and-forth, while not very interesting in and of itself, is important because Koizumi has made it clear that he expects his followers (called the “Post-Koizumi” government, in what has become a tediously over-repeated locution) to continue his program of reforms, by implication, to his liking. No one, either within the ruling coalition or in the opposition, is certain right now how well Koizumi will actually be able to use his present power to exert influence on future administrations.


    Japan odds and ends

    Posted by Sean at 18:11, December 30th, 2005

    There have been some updates to ongoing stories here:

    *******

    The president of JR East has reportedly hinted that he will resign. It kind of seems a shame, because for once, we may be looking at a genuine freak accident:

    The sources said the Construction and Transport Ministry’s Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission believes a microburst may have caused the accident mainly because an anemometer placed near the accident site had recorded winds of only 72 kph at the time an express train on East Japan Railway Co.’s Uetsu Line derailed.

    A microburst produces winds of 252 kph or greater in small areas with a radius of only several hundred meters to two kilometers.

    According to investigations by the commission and other parties, a cold front was passing through the Shonaimachi area, generating thunderclouds at the time of the accident. Thunderclouds are thought to cause microbursts–a phenomenon in which cool air rushes to the surface in an intensely localized area, resulting in strong downdrafts.

    Aviation weather experts have paid more attention to the sudden gusts, as they have led to fatal airplane crashes during takeoff or landing. But because a microburst is locally formed and does not last long, they prove difficult to predict.

    There seems to be evidence that the bridge and artificial embankment were constructed in such a way as to force the air through in a sort of wind-tunnel effect; but at the same time, the driver was going well below the speed limit for that stretch of rail in those reported conditions. It’s good to see JR East talk about installing new meters in the area, but if we’re talking about something akin to wind shear in airline flights, perfect safety is going to be impossible to achieve.

    *******

    It’s a bit late in the game, but two DPRK agents with major involvement in the 1970s abductions of Japanese citizens from beaches have been identified:

    Two North Korean agents have been identified as the perpetrators responsible for abducting two couples who have since been repatriated to Japan, sources said Friday.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Il said some people in the intelligence agency “fell into blindly motivated patriotism and heroism,” when he admitted in September 2002 that North Korea was responsible for abducting Japanese.

    However, police authorities suspect that some of the abductors held important positions that could influence the agency’s decision-making, because Sin, who was arrested in South Korea in February 1985 and then transferred to Pyongyang in September 2000, has been treated as a hero at home.

    According to Hitomi Soga, 46, who was repatriated along with the couples, Sin served as a tutor for her and her fellow abductee Megumi Yokota. Soga and Yokota were forcibly taken to North Korea in August 1978 and November 1977, respectively.

    Hitomi Soga, of course, is the wife of US Army deserter Charles Jenkins.

    *******

    The man whose wife and two sons were killed by toxic hydrogen sulfide gas at an Akita Prefecture hot spring resort area has died. He never regained consciousness.

    *******

    Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned this yet, did I? The government is freaking because the population of Japan has begun to decline earlier than had been projected:

    The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on Tuesday confirmed what could be the start of a prolonged crisis for Japan: The nation’s population is already shrinking.

    The ministry released provisional figures that show the population on Oct. 1 was about 19,000 fewer than the estimated 127.776 million of October 2004.

    Populations in 32 of the 47 prefectures fell since the last official count. Nine prefectures–Nara, Fukui, Nagano, Ishikawa, Yamanashi, Ibaraki, Miyagi, Gifu and Gunma–recorded gains between 1995 and 2000, but this time around, all nine prefectures saw population decreases. Akita Prefecture had the biggest drop, at 3.7 percent from the level five years ago.

    The census results showed a trend toward population shifts to major metropolitan areas.

    Tokyo had the biggest population gain, at 510,000, a 4.2-percent rise over the last census. Kanagawa Prefecture recorded a gain of 300,000, or 3.5 percent more, and Aichi Prefecture an increase of 210,000, or 3 percent more people.

    Other prefectures boasting larger populations were Okinawa, with a 3.2-percent rise thanks mainly to a large number of births, and Shiga, with a 2.8-percent rise because of an increase in commuters to the Osaka and Kyoto areas.

    The country gained 2.47 million households in the period, or 5.2 percent, to reach a total 49.53 million.

    While there were more households in all 47 prefectures, the average number per household fell to 2.58, from 2.7 in the 2000 census.

    The increase in metro area populations is actually rather interesting; given the much-publicized J-turn phenomenon of the 90s, it likely means not that people are moving into urban cores but that they’re moving into bed towns that are part of contiguous areas of high population density.


    Rice and Machimura confab

    Posted by Sean at 04:18, October 29th, 2005

    Condoleezza Rice has explicitly declared that the US supports Japan in its efforts to resolve the abductee issue:

    On the evening of 28 October (29 October JST), Minister of Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura met with US Secretary of State [Condoleezza] Rice at the Ministry of Interior Affairs. They agreed in their perception that there must be a review of US and Japan’s contributions to the United Nations, which combined exceed 40% [of total member contributions]. They also reaffirmed that they would present a united front in working toward the denuclearization of North Korea. Machimura indicated that, regarding the Japan-DPRK summit to be opened on 3 November, it is Japan’s plan to make the Japanese abductee issue its highest priority in discussion; Rice stated [that Japan had America’s] “support on all fronts.”

    Rice also restated that the US supports Japan’s bid for permanent membership on the UN Security Council, though the Bush administration has been known to advise the Koizumi cabinet to throttle back at times. There seems to have been no mention of the beef import ban.


    Efficacy

    Posted by Sean at 22:51, September 27th, 2005

    Good news: Japan can stop worrying about the abductee issue, because the UN has totally told North Korea that it needs to cut it out with the human rights abuses and stuff:

    On 27 September, UN Secretary General Annan released a report on humanitarian issues in North Korea and indicated that, in addition to engaging in torture and forced labor, the country was also suffering serious food shortages. About the issue of abducted Japanese nationals, he declared that survivors “must be returned to Japan both swiftly and safely.”

    The report is 22 pages in all and contains 68 items. About the treatment meted out to citizens who are regarded as criminals by the state, it says, “forced labor is practiced on a large scale.” It went on to cite further examples [of problems]: “When a given person is punished for crimes related to politics or ideology, his or her family also becomes a target for punishment.”

    North Korea’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs met with Annan last week, stressing that the food situation has improved; he sought a cessation of humanitarian aid and cooperation in development projects. However, the new UN report states that aid is [still] necessary, and says, regarding the way support is being used, that “effective monitoring that will increase transparency” is vitally important.

    Well, there you go. Problem solved. And some people complain that Japan gets no return on its hefty contributions to the UN!


    後回し

    Posted by Sean at 09:50, September 19th, 2005

    Japan isn’t entirely happy with the results of the 6-party talks, however. The abductee problem was basically tabled:

    On 19 September, the families of Japanese abducted by the DPRK held a Tokyo press conference in reaction to the joint statement adopted at the 6-party talks, voicing dissatisfaction: “The abduction issue was back-burnered.” “This is nothing more than a statement predicated on the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, which is already drained of content.”

    The only part of the joint declaration to touch on the abduction issue was this: “After dealing appropriately, in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, with various pending issues, we will implement a normalization of relations.” The vice-representative of the group of families, Shigeo Iizuka (67), made plain his dissatisfaction: “The word abduction doesn’t appear in the declaration, and the abduction issue was back-burnered.” He indicated further concerns: “If the debate over nuclear issues goes on and on, and and there is no progress seen, the resolution of the abduction issue could become a great deal more difficult.”

    If you’re not familiar with the issue: the DPRK sent agents to the Japanese coast in the 1970s to abduct about a dozen Japanese nationals in their late teens and early 20s. They were brought back to North Korea and forced to teach Japanese language and culture to DPRK spies. Of course, those who are alive are all middle-aged now. The most famous, because her husband happened to be US Army deserter Charles Jenkins, is Hitomi Soga. Their ending was happy: they’ve come back to Japan and been able to bring their college-age daughters. Other endings have not been happy. Megumi Yokota’s family has probably been treated the worst, with the DPRK dismissively shoving random piles of bones at the Japanese as her remains. Other stories are in between. Kaoru Hasuike, for instance, was snatched while on vacation in Hokkaido as a college junior. Having been repatriated at 46, he received permission from his university to complete his degree but was having difficulty deciding on how to proceed–and do you wonder? There are, I think, five of the fifteen abductees accounted for.

    For reference, the Ministry of Foreign affairs has the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, from almost exactly two years ago, posted in Japanese and English. The section pertinent to the abduction issue is rendered this way in English:

    With respect to the outstanding issues of concern related to the lives and security of Japanese nationals, the DPRK side confirmed that it would take appropriate measures so that these regrettable [遺憾な!–SRK] incidents, that took place under the abnormal bilateral relationship, would never happen in the future.

    Well, the DPRK doesn’t seem to have abducted anyone lately, but it certainly is maintaining an “abnormal” sense of cooperation. At the same time, it’s not hard to understand why the nuclear issue superseded the abductee issue at the 6-party talks. However much the Japanese citizenry feels for the families of the abductees, the fact is that the nuclear problem could directly affect millions of people. The abductee problem, while an outrage, does not. Bilateral negotiations between Japan and the DPRK don’t seem to fare much better much of the time, unfortunately, so Iizuka’s fears may not be unfounded.


    Party of five

    Posted by Sean at 21:56, August 18th, 2005

    Why is it that the names of new political parties always sound so hard-socialist? The party just formed by several key Japan Post opponents, dropped by the LDP for their rebelliousness, will be called the 国民新党 (kokumin shintô: “citizens’ new party”).

    On the bright side, with so few members, everyone gets an executive post:

    Former House of Representatives Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki, who heads the party, made the announcement at a press conference held late afternoon.

    The new party comprises five members, including Shizuka Kamei, former chairman of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, who spearheaded opposition to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s postal reform drive.

    Hisaoki Kamei, former National Land Agency director general, took the post of secretary general.

    House of Councillors member Kensei Hasegawa, another LDP member who defied party executives to vote against the postal bills, also joined the party.

    The four rebels left the LDP earlier in the day.

    Another upper house member, Hideaki Tamura, left the Democratic Party of Japan to join the new party.

    “We considered it inappropriate that the prime minister submitted the bills in a hasty and high-handed manner,” Watanuki said at the press conference.

    “We’re strongly resentful that LDP executives decided not to support the 37 party members who voted against the bills in the lower house, and to field rival candidates against the opponents,” he added.

    “I stood up [to form a new party] since I can’t just sit still and watch” the LDP executives’ strategy to field alternative candidates, Watanuki said. “We’d like to become the vanguards of preventing such backroom politics.”

    Backroom politics? There’s always some of that, of course. If anything, though, I think that most people’s perception was that Koizumi and his fellow travelers were so upfront about demanding loyalty without necessarily making it clear what Japan Post privatization was concretely going to accomplish.

    Prime Minister Koizumi, kami love him, did not mince words over the news:

    “I think it’s good for them to set up a new party to disseminate their policy, because unlike LDP members [Cold, man!–SRK], they’re against postal privatization,” Koizumi said at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo.

    But when asked about the possibility of postelection cooperation with the new party, he said, “As the LDP and New Komeito will win a majority, we can’t cooperate with people who are opposed to postal privatization.”

    The Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition party, has now posted its election platform. Japan Post is the issue that’s getting all the attention, but it shouldn’t be. There’s always a real possibility that the LDP coalition could lose. If so, here’s what we’re in for (drastically summarized and leaving out some bullet points entirely):

    Japan-US relations: The platform emphasizes that Japan’s important strategic relationship with the US does not make it a vassal state and that it retains its autonomy. It also asserts that based on changes in the Asian “strategic environment,” US military presence now in Okinawa should be first redistributed within and then moved out of Japan. It also wants Japanese law to be in effect at US military facilities and crime suspects to be turned over to the Japanese courts before being charged.

    The SDF: The platform states that the SDF should be restructured within two years to be able to cope with new threats such as cyberwarfare, ballistic missiles, and terrorism. It also goes out of its way to mention defense of various disputed island chains.

    The SDF deployment in Iraq: The DPJ proposes to bring back the non-combat SDF forces now in Iraq by December. The Japanese contribution to the reconstruction would take the form of ODA activity.

    The building of a relationship of mutual trust with the PRC: After this is achieved (I’d love to see the DPJ describe how), Japan and China can start to systematize their cooperation on things like energy consumption, currency valuation, maritime territory, and security.

    Relationships between Japan and the ROK or other Asian states: The platform proposes mostly free trade agreements, though it also mentions Japan’s role as a consultant on democratization, conservation, crime reduction, education, and energy policy.

    The DPRK: There’s no pretense to building a relationship of mutual trust here. The DPJ supports attempts to denuclearize North Korea through the ongoing 6-party talks. Regarding the issue of Japanese abductees, it proposes possible measures such as the blocking of entry into Japanese ports for DPRK-registered vessels. Also, with the number of refugees from the DPRK showing no sign of dropping off, the DPJ proposes increased maritime security.

    A global warming tax: ¥3000 per ton of CO2 emitted

    Social insurance: The operative slogan is “fair, transparent, and sustainable.” There’s quite a bit of detail here–it’s a big issue in Japan–but there are a few major proposals. The DPJ wants to consolidate the various pension systems to eliminate inequities, such as by eliminating the special pension system for Diet members and making them pay into the same black hole reservoir as the rest of us. Married couples would be regarded as paying into the same pension account and each be considered entitled to half. The national health service would be reformed to facilitate such exotica as seeking a second opinion. The unemployment system would make it easier for younger workers to get career counseling and assistance, and the labor laws would be brought more in line with international standards. This includes–you have to love Japan–compulsory interviews by physicians for workers with long shifts. This is presumably to make sure they don’t drop dead from overwork, which is no longer seen as a contribution to company and family honor.

    On farm, trade, and public works policy, the DPJ is generally opposed to privatization and the abolishment of subsidies; however, it does propose a decrease in the number of boondoggles (who doesn’t?) and support the spinning off of authority for the disbursement of funds to local governments.