Lauren In Tokyo

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I'm so cultured

OMG! The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived! I can hardly keep the money in my wallet!

I really don't get the whole deal with BN here in Japan. It's not a good wine. It's not cheap wine. It's served like it was produced by Margaux here in Japan. Way too expensive for bad wine.

I hear this year's crop will be exceptionally tasty, though. But I hear that every year. BN is hardly the way to find out.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Two if by sea

The Chinese are coming! The Chinese are coming!

So what is it doing in Japanese waters? Well, lots of theories are tossed back and forth. Probably the most accurate is that Japan and China are disputing natural gas reserves in the East China Sea.

Still, why would China risk an international incident over that? Driving a sub into Japanese waters seems a little bit too forceful a message if they are trying to reach an accord on the gas reserves, though.

China says that Japan is saber rattling. Nary a mention of the submarine by the Chinese press. The last thing Japan wants is a war with China, defeat is guaranteed in such a confrontation.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Oh my Lo

Here in Japan, when you buy a book the person behind the counter always wraps it up in a standard brown paper book cover. This is to protect the book as well as the privacy of the reader, to some extent.

Not so back in the U.S. What you buy is what you get and if you want to wrap the book up to hide whatever filthy pulp you're reading, well you're going to have to do it yourself.

So I find myself lately getting strange stares from other passengers on the train. The reason? I'm reading Nabokov's Lolita which I purchased back in Seattle. No book cover to hide behind for me. The Japanese are familiar with the term Lolita, so a book with the word stamped across a picture of a schoolgirl's slightly parted legs raises some eyebrows. I'm apparently a dirty old man for enjoying this book.

That said, Humbert Humbert would have loved Japan. Everywhere one looks is another nymphet with her skirt riding high on her adolescent thighs. Maybe I am that dirty old man, after all.

Can I vote? Yes. Will I vote? No.

Like the presidential election, the blogosphere is filled with arm-chair pundits and their voice for or against the candidates. Any single voice is drowned out, though as a whole they represent large mass of opinion swaying this way and that. I've tried to keep out of that as much as possible in this blog because my single voice is comparatively small and insignificant in comparison to the great tide of opinions elsewhere.

But let me just explain why I'm not voting.

I am a dyed in the wool Republican. Old-school, country club Republican. The kind that loves money, big business, and tax writeoffs. I like people that work hard and I disdain those that are not civically-minded with their wealth. I think the government should be kept small, out of the private lives of citizens and out of the hair of business. I think America has a prominent role to play in world affairs as a leader of the free world and as a beacon of freedom and democracy.

I believe that internally, the federal government is responsible for the education of citizens, the protection of those citizens, and the governance and maintenance of public facilities and utilities.

I think that public schooling should be absolutely free from kindergarten through grade 12. I believe that every public school should be fully funded such that academic excellence is the norm rather than a statistical byproduct. I do not believe that private schooling should be federally funded. I think that the public schooling system should be federalized such that the curriculum throughout the country is similar and predictable and most of all not subject to local whims.

I think that the military must be kept strong, technologically advanced, battle-ready, and voluntary. Military personnel should be trained hard and paid well. The bulk of the military should be used to protect American interests; to this end a smart leader is necessary to intelligently articulate "American interests". Military justice, as seldom as it is needed, must be swift and have bared teeth. The military as a branch of American diplomacy does its country's reputation harm when it covers up and protects uniformed criminals.

Crime has been and pretty much always will be a state-level office. The two issues that the federal government faces here is 1) the death penalty and 2) police funding. The death penalty has not been shown to be a deterrent to crime by any reasonable study. It is, however, a means of salving the societal wounds inflicted by murderers, serial rapists, and of course terrorists. To that end, it is an effective punishment. That said, it must be used only in the most egregious of crimes and only when doubt about the perpetrator's identity does not exist. Mandatory DNA testing in cases where this is possible is absolutely fundamental to a pro-death penalty policy. The police should be funded to levels dictated by the local community environment. I think prisons should be considered reformatories rather than temporary cages for inmates. It does no one any good to have prisoners locked up only to be released at some date with no increase in societally-useful skills nor a positive future outlook.

I think that public utilities must be kept public. (Yes, this flies in the face of a lot of Republican thinking.) I think public utilities like water, power, telephone service, and garbage collection are the minimum requirements of any society and should be considered a right. They should be pay-as-you-go and the departments should be self-supporting with these user fees. Users unable to afford the most basic utilities should be able to apply for government assistance in this regard. Interstate roads and highways, as they are funded now are fine. So too are federal parklands.

To the extent that it seems like I'm either a Democrat by my above description of my political beliefs, I agree that there are many planks of the Democratic party that appeal to me. However, the deference to the poor and the hand-out takers, as well as the abundance of panderers to those who want to expand the social role of government turns me off from the Democratic party.

I am sorry to see how my Republican party has changed so much in the past 12 years, perhaps reaching back even 16 or more years. The party of Bush has sadly left behind the "thinking Right" and now panders to the xenophobic, anti-globalist, religious right. The plank against gay marriage on the Right, as if the government had any right to an opinion on the matter, is as repugnant to me as the use of racial divisions for political gain is on the Left.

The two parties this year have fielded losers. Bush (R) has systematically weakened our position as the world's beacon of hope, freedom, and prosperity. Kerry (D), judging by interviews and the debates, only positions himself as the anti-Bush without clearly articulating his plans for the future. If there were a third party that had a strong message as well as a charismatic leader (ala Perot without the nuttiness), someone who understood the fundamental correctness of the Libertarian party platform but also who was able to see that the government has a role to play in forming and upholding the social fabric of this country, I would think to vote for them.

As it stands, there is no one worth voting for, and my decision to not vote is my small voice saying "None of the Above".