White Smoke, Info Gap, Fukushima-Chernobyl, The Emperor’s Speech, Off the Hook, Inflation Fighting, Dilettante, St. Pat’s Day

There is a big disconnect between what every independent scientific observer of Fukushima’s smoking nuclear reactors is forecasting is the radiation risk outside of a 100 km radius – not much -- , and the general perception of what is and might happen in the event of a worse case outcome – forcing residents on the West Coast of North America to give up golf.

The combination of the Japanese cultural predisposition to dish out information like hen’s teeth, the obvious reliance of the Japanese government on information from the Tokyo Electric Company that has a reputation for lying, and, we think, a general mistrust of ‘experts’ particularly after the endless line of financial company executives and analysts who it turns out did not have a clue about the risks in their own industry partly explains this gap.

There are therefore, good reasons why the benefit of the doubt has been lost to leaders and experts in a crisis.

This may be the enduring consequence of google’s search engine, and the public’s impatience with know-it-all experts, as we are not looking at the real tragedy – the escalating humanitarian crisis in northern Japan with the displaced lacking food, water, and fuel -- , and we are panicking about nothing.

Articles mostly on the fallout from Fukushima, also Libya, inflation, global markets, President Obama's leadership style, and a St. Pat's note from Ireland.

Everything you wanted to know about the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis and couldn’t get good answers.

Macleans – Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Explained
Answers to frequently asked questions about the situation in Japan.

Openness and transparency has never been Japan’s strong suit, and Japanese citizens know it better than anyone. Thanks to Ken of Tokyo/Hong Kong for sending this in.

NYT – Flaws in Japan’s Leadership Deepen Sense of Crisis
With all the euphemistic language on display from officials handling Japan’s nuclear crisis, one commodity has been in short supply: information.

On the other hand. Thanks to Jeremy of Tokyo for sending this in.

NYT – Amid Shortages and Surplus of Hope
SET out from my home in the port city of Yokohama early in the afternoon last?I  Friday, and shortly before 3 p.m. I checked into my hotel in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo.

Quote worth quoting.

“And it was then that, without really thinking about it, I adopted my fundamental stance toward this disaster: For the present, at least, I would trust the words of people and organizations with better information and more knowledge of the situation than I. I decided to believe the building wouldn’t fall. And it didn’t.”

Still the Japanese government did the unthinkable, asking the Japanese Emperor to speak to the nation.

Independent -- Emperor's stunning intervention with only one precedent: the 1945 surrender
For the Japanese to wheel out their Emperor to make a televised address yesterday on the nuclear crisis is virtually unprecedented.


The Emperor’s Speech

The first Emperor’s speech.

Imperial Rescript on Surrender

Yesterday while pulling up into the parking lot at Carboro Bay to go shopping a local news reporter from the A channel was being filmed outside of our local pharmacy. What could possibly bring so much media attention to our nothing-ever-happens-here neck of the woods?

A rush on iodine, in Victoria, British Columbia. Yes, some local inhabitants have convinced themselves that imminent Japan’s nuclear meltdown will make life dangerous in Cadboro Bay.

It won’t.

Why Fukushima isn’t Chernobyl.

WSJ – Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl
Even while thousands of people are reported dead or missing, whole neighborhoods lie in ruins, and gas and oil fires rage out of control, press coverage of the Japanese earthquake has quickly settled on the troubles at two nuclear reactors as the center of the catastrophe.

Quote worth quoting.

“If a meltdown does occur in Japan, it will be a disaster for the Tokyo Electric Power Company but not for the general public. Whatever steam releases occur will have a negligible impact. Researchers have spent 30 years trying to find health effects from the steam releases at Three Mile Island and have come up with nothing. With all the death, devastation and disease now threatening tens of thousands in Japan, it is trivializing and almost obscene to spend so much time worrying about damage to a nuclear reactor.”

More science.

Economist – The Japan Syndrome
THE precise details of what has gone wrong at the nuclear power plants in north-eastern Japan following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck the area on March 11th remain hazy. But a picture is beginning to emerge as events unfold and information is made available by the plants' operators and the Japanese authorities.

The real tragedy has already happened, and now the real issue is getting food to populations cut off by the damage.

Economist – Watching the Smoke
A SURGE in the radiation levels surrounding the reactors at the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant at Fukushima on Wednesday morning forced authorities to withdraw workers from the site of Japan’s escalating nuclear catastrophe.


Iodine rush in China too.

NYT – In China, Concern Over Radiation Spreads
China urged Japan on Thursday to report any developments in its nuclear crisis quickly and accurately as concern spread over whether officials in Tokyo had downplayed the scope the radiation risk.

Scientific illiteracy will contribute to a nuclear freeze.

FT – Nuclear Power: Too Hot To Handle
Ever since the earthquake and tsunami struck the eastern seaboard of Japan last Friday, the eyes of the world have been on the Fukushima Daiichi power station. For the nuclear industry, there are reasons to watch that go beyond simple human sympathy

Quote worth quoting.

“Unless the stricken reactors are brought quickly under control, the industry could enter another two-decade global freeze like the one that followed the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The consequences would include faster long-term growth in demand for fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, leading to tighter supplies and higher prices. It would also mean a further rise in the emissions of greenhouse gases created by burning those fuels – and further undermine climate policies around the world.”

Nuclear freeze.

China Digital – China Suspends New Nuclear Projects as Radiation Fears Spread

Despite assertions from officials that the situation in Japan would not derail the massive planned expansion of China’s own nuclear power capacity, the Wall Street Journal has reported a suspension of approvals for new nuclear projects:


And without a moment to spare.

Project Syndicate – The Dirt On Nuclear Power

Japan’s nuclear crisis is a nightmare, but it is not an anomaly. In fact, it is only the latest in a long line of nuclear accidents involving meltdowns, explosions, fires, and loss of coolant – accidents that have occurred during both normal operation and emergency conditions, such as droughts and earthquakes.

Quote worth quoting.

“Advocates of nuclear energy have made considerable political headway around the world in recent years, touting it as a safe, clean, and reliable alternative to fossil fuels. But the historical record clearly shows otherwise. Perhaps the unfolding tragedy in Japan will finally be enough to stop the nuclear renaissance from materializing.”

Stock markets 6 days after disasters.


At least three ways the Japan triple catastrophe can derail the global economy.

bloomberg.com – Japan’s Disasters Loom Over Global Economy
Count me among those who believe that the latest statement from the Federal Open Market Committee upgraded the outlook for both growth and inflation in the U.S. Yet, what may prove much more significant about the statement lies in what it didn’t cover: namely, Japan.

As Qaddafi’s army crushes rebel groups the Financial Times publishes an unusual attempt at satire to make a point about President Obama’s leadership style.

FT – Inside Obama’s Not-At-War Room
The leader of the free world is debating Libyan intervention with his closest advisers.


Dilettante or deliberate? Doesn’t matter, the spin's the thing.

TD Economics discusses the inflation risk in the global economy and how central banks are likely to react.

Pdf below -- Line in the Sand -- Distinguishing Between Good and Bad Inflation

Oh, happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Spectator – A Grim St. Patrick’s Day
St Patrick's Day is often pretty grim, not least on account of the American habit of suggesting the poor old boy is actually the patron saint of uncooked hamburgers. It is St Patrick's Day or Paddy's Day and "Patty's Day" is an abomination.

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Twin Virtues: Inequality of Outcomes & Equality of Opportunity©

Twin Virtues

Ultimately, the most successful societies find the balance between the twin virtues of inequality of outcomes and equality of opportunity.

The new politics must marry the twin virtues of unequal outcomes and equality of opportunity.

When too few get too much everybody loses.

Feminism is about women living their lives on their own terms, marshalling the resources of the society to make that possible, and men embracing this as vital to a successful society and their own liberation.

Can it be that striving for equality of opportunity however imperfect the process not only benefits the individual but also creates benefits for the society that are unintended but wonderful?

Economics must be a 'moral enterprise' as much as politics claims to be. Economic outcomes need to be framed in terms of right and wrong not just efficiency if only because these often align in surprising ways that are good for society and the economy.

My vision of Canada is that any Canadian child from a family of limited circumstance can expect to have a chance at lifetime of unlimited opportunities.

Free trade is a wonderful thing. Time and time again economists have proven that free trade creates enormous wealth for each country 'on the whole'. Historians have shown that free trade is usually associated with rising political, social and cultural liberty. The perennial problem is that free trade always creates tremendous disruption for thousands even millions of individuals often concentrated in one geography, and where the state is idle, not investing in best in class instruments of social justice, free trade can be a permanent ticket out of the middle class, down, not up.

Tax policy should be founded on the principle of generating steady tax revenues sufficient to maximise environmentally sustainable economic growth in order to fund fair government.

Public policy should be designed to decrease inequality before the law and increase equality of opportunity.

Capitalism is not the problem; the problem is what we do with capitalism.

Content is always more difficult to argue than conspiracy.

Let the state regulate and the market operate (most things).

Welfare strategies are best designed as a hand up, not as a hand out.

Political debate should not be fact free fighting.

Explanation lasts longer than eloquence.

Always favour empowerment over dependency.

The most enduring public figures are embraced for the causes they fought for and not the concept of themselves they hoped others would remember them by.

Find your voice and don't be the echo of somebody else.

It is possible to operate on two different levels: the practical, cautious and conservative; and the realm of ideas, open, free, and radical.