Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Reaction to the Royal Weddings & Royal Condoms from Tokyo

A good friend, Marc Abela, commented about my posting of yesterday, Golden Week, the News and Nuclear Holocaust... Just a Regular Day Like any Other in Tokyo. Marc writes:

Hi Mike,
You're not covering the "royal wedding"...? :)

Thanks Marc. Nope. For your edification, here's three reasons why I do not "cover" important things like the "Royal Wedding." First off, fine publications like Yahoo have already asked the important questions in their online blog. They asked:

Why didn't Prince William watch his bride walk down the aisle? 
Who was that little girl covering her ears and frowning while the newlyweds kissed on the balcony? 

And, finally, Yahoo asked the question that we were all wondering;

Where can I get those gorgeous earrings Kate wore to her wedding? 

Oh, yes! Where can I get those gorgeous earrings Kate wore to her wedding? Last time I inquired at my local Walmart, they had nothing of the sort.

The second reason why I don't write about the Royal Wedding can be summed up in this short video (that was not funded by taxes):


May I quote?

"How'd you become king then?"

"The Lady of the Lake...Her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite...
held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water... signifying by Divine Providence...
that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.... That is why I am your king!"

"Listen, Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses not from some farcical aquatic ceremony...

You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you."

In a nutshell, that's why I can't even tell you the names of who is getting married and I don't care. 

The third, and final reason, why I don't cover, write about, nor even care about any Royal Wedding is due to pressing matters at home that must be attended to immediately; the weeds in the back garden.

Weeds versus Royal Wedding? Tough to decide which is more exciting.
Toss a can of beer in with pulling weeds and it's an easy call.

When you add up these three factors listed above, then, I'm sure you'll agree, that we all have much more important things to take care of than spending a day on front of the TV watching a wedding ceremony that is heavily funded by the local taxpayers. Why, it's even more boring than watching the local tax-funded funeral of some long dead king. 

I mean, really, why even care about the Royal Wedding? They are just going to wind up getting a tax-funded divorce in a few years anyway.

Don't they always?

BREAKING NEWS! IMPORTANT UPDATE!: With Royal Wedding Condoms, British Taxpayers Won't be the Only Ones Getting Screwed!

Royal wedding memorabilia has reached a new level of 
tastelessness: Crown Jewels Condoms of Distinction 
is selling Prince William and Kate Middleton-themed condoms! 

Instructing randy Brits to “lie back and think of England” 
because “like a royal wedding, intercourse with a loved 
one is an unforgettable occasion,” The condoms are 
sold in royal purple packages with a picture of the 
happy couple on the front. But some folks are not 
amused. “This is completely tasteless and rather 
hurtful,” Ingrid Deward, editor of Majesty magazine, 
told Orange News. 

I wonder if the Royal couple get paid "royalties" on each pack sold?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Golden Week, the News and Nuclear Holocaust... A Regular Day in Tokyo

Today is April 29, 2011. It is the first day of the annual "Golden Week" Holiday in Japan. From today, many Japanese business people will take an entire week off from work and travel with their families to visit their hometowns and their parent's homes. That's about it. That's the big news. Nothing much else happening... After I write this blog post, I'm going to take a nap.



My family will stick around Tokyo, as we always do, during Golden Week as, during this time, Tokyo is empty and an wonderful place to be.

It's now been about seven weeks since the Fukushima nuclear accident occurred. In spite of the scandalous panic and spittle coming from the main stream media about how Tokyo was going to be filled with deadly radiation, we're still here.

Inspite of the mass media pronouncements of disaster and impending nuclear doom, 130 million Japanese people are still unaffected.  

Yesterday, little children attended school, like they always do. The trains were crowded with business people going to and from work, like they always do and the department stores were packed with shoppers buying gifts, like they always do, to take as presents when visiting relatives.

All in all, it is the same as it's always been.

There are no power outages. The stores have no shortages. The restaurants are slowly becoming filled with customers. There is no invisible radioactive monster stalking the streets.

Despite all the fear mongering and outlandish claims of certain death, we're still here. Nothing has happened. Today's radiation level is basically in line with the radiation level in Tokyo on March 1, 2011;  ten days before the earthquake and tsunami which caused the nuclear accident.

Radiation levels in Tokyo are roughly 3/100th 
Microgray highernow than they were ten days 
before the earthquake. And still at 1/4th the 

Of course, nothing has happened to us in Tokyo. We are hundreds of miles away from Fukushima. Ignorant pundits claimed that we were all going to get dangerous levels of radiation poisoning, but it didn't happen. Of course it didn't happen. It cannot happen. Radiation levels in Tokyo have been and are still today - and will be tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that - roughly 3/100th Microgray higher  than they were ten days before the earthquake. And still at 1/4th the daily levels seen in Rome, Italy.

It was predictable. I predicted it. It was an easy call. 

Why was it an easy call? Because I am an experienced news person with decades of experience in the mass media and now I am a blogger. 

Why do people like me want to write the truth? Because a blogger should be more interested in the truth than a fast buck. That is also why, in my case, there is no advertising on this blog whatsoever.

It is the nature of the beast.

Have a wonderful Golden Week.   

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Japan Economy in BIG Trouble

Mish Shedlock from the Global Economic Trend Analysis Blog has sent me a link to his latest post showing a shocking one-two double punch whammy of extremely bad news for the Japanese economy. If you are interested in money and the economy, the Mish's blog is a daily must-read.
Yo Yo Hashi - Yo Yo's Pad
In his most recent posting: Japan Retail Sales Plunge Most in 13 Years; S&P Cuts Japan Debt Outlook to "Negatibe"; 30,000 Dead or Missing, How You Can Help, Mish writes up, and links to, articles and data that point to a very bad future for Japan.

Immediately after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, foolish Japanese politicians told the Japanese public that we should not be trying to live our lives normally. Shintaro Ishihara, the mayor of Tokyo, even told people that the traditional "Hanami" celebrations should be cancelled this year. 

Hanami is an old tradition whereby the Japanese go to park and eat and drink with friends under the cherry blossoms. 

Due to these sorts of short-sighted pronouncements, many famous Japanese festivals were cancelled and the country went into a sort of mourning like that of a funeral. Things still haven't gotten 100% back to normal. Now, because of these ill considered pronouncements, the Japanese people, businesses and the economy are paying the price.

The best thing the people could do is try to get their lives back in order as soon as possible as get back to work and get the economy back on track. In that way, with a strong economy, can we help those poor people who suffered in Tohoku in this terrible tragedy. But, no! The government wonks made their dumb announcements and now we are paying the price.

Japan prime minister Naoto Kan has announced his idea for reconstruction but he's not said how he will pay for it. The idea to raise taxes was floated but that died a quick death - especially after Kan's party got trashed in local elections this last Sunday. Now, ratings agencies suspect what I fear; more Japanese government debt.

That's the last thing we need. Mish writes:

Japan’s sovereign-rating outlook was cut to “negative” by Standard & Poor’s as the nation’s reconstruction needs following last month’s earthquake will likely add to what’s already the world’s biggest debt load.

The outlook on Japan’s local-currency debt rating, at AA-, the fourth-highest grade, was lowered from “stable,” S&P said in a statement today. The company had reduced the rating by one step in January in the first cut since 2002. Moody’s Investors Service said last month the disaster may bring forward the “tipping point” for the country’s bond market.

Today’s decision adds to pressure on Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who has yet to detail how the rebuilding will be paid for and how he plans to rein in longer-term fiscal deficits. As public spending increases, revenue will likely decline because of the economic hit from the disaster, with a report today showing retail sales tumbled the most in 13 years last month.

Moody’s today reported no change to its negative outlook for Japan's Aa2 grade rating, the third highest, after a reduction from “stable” in February because of political gridlock. Japan’s public debt will probably increase 5.8 percent to 997.7 trillion yen ($12.2 trillion) in the year started April 1, from a projected 943.1 trillion yen last year, the Finance Ministry said in January.

As I predicted in December of 2010, Naoto Kan will be gone by summer. That's the good news. The bad news? That will do nothing for Japan's political stability and our credit rating and economic outlook.

The only thing we can say for certain is that it looks to be a long hot summer in 2011.

Read the rest of Mish's post here

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Organized" Charities

The title of this blog post is completely wrong. It should read "Unorganized and Completely Inept Charities." Included in that list would be the world famous ones too that every knows.


Probably top of the list would be the Red Cross. In an article entitled, Japan Red Cross? Too Slow to Help Out I castigated that organization for extremely slow reaction in helping those affected by the Great Tohoku earthquake in Tsunami in northern Japan on March 11, 2011. I wrote:

" the time of the writing of this article, more than one month after the crisis began, Japan Red Cross has not allocateda single yen to the disaster victims. On the web page of the Japan Red Cross, in a post dated April 15th, 2011, they had finally announced that they had decided how much money will be allocated to which areas - so that the monies can then be sent to committees in those areas to be decided how they should be allocated! Odd, but something here seems to reek of bureaucracy.
This is outrageous. 

I thought an organization like Japan Red Cross would be acting immediately to relieve those in desperate need rather than debating in long meetings what local chamber gets how much money or making sure their bookkeepers have their antiquated accounting in order by the end of each month. But, if this event and past scandals such as the poor handling of the relief efforts for the Katrina disaster or Haiti is any indicator, the glacial speed of reaction to crises by the Red Cross leaves much to be desired. 
When people and small children are suffering and starving in the freezing cold they need help right now, not after six to eight weeks. They certainly need help quicker than the former government bureaucrats at cushy positions at the Japan Red Cross seem to be capable of delivering."

Over these last twenty years, I've been helping out with many charities and organizations. I have seen just about every major charity in Japan running in some form or another. I must say that I thought "Rock Challenge Japan," "Hands on Tokyo" and "Children With Incurable Diseases" were the only ones that I felt satisfied the minimum level of professionalism I want in a charity.

A charity is a business, try to run it that way

Some of the others wouldn't even return my phones calls... And that was after calling several times. I won't name them.

From helping many of these charities I have come to recognize one things that runs through most of them and that is, while many people seems to be well-meaning, they are completely and totally incompetent, have zero business experience and do not understand even the most basic principles of the term: ROI when approaching sponsors and asking for donations or support.

ROI stands for "Return on Investment." It is so basic that I am astounded that, out of all these charities that I have cooperated with, I have only met a very few people who seem to grasp this idea.

ROI goes like this: I am a big corporate sponsor. You are a charity. You ask me to support you. Sounds like a good idea. OK, what do I get out of helping you?

And, no. Your "Thanks" just doesn't cut it anymore. When sponsors are few and far between we need a much better effort than the, frankly speaking, half-assed efforts we've been getting from most charities up until now.

Yesterday I had a guy ask me to try to arrange travel tickets for his charity that will be held in 7 weeks time. I was so surprised. There's just no way that can be done. Maybe Clark Kent could pull that one off, but Mike Rogers can't.

Recently, I arranged airfare for two to London on British Airways for a school charity at St. Mary's International School that will be held second week of May, but I started organizing that deal over three months ago. With that, I made a proper professional quality business presentation on Power Point along with several pages of documentation and presented that to the client along with several follow up phone calls and dozens of emails.

The guy who asked me to help yesterday? Nothing. No data, details, nothing. In fact, it was the first time I had heard of it.

Anyway, I can't help them. It's totally impossible as it is way too late. Talk about poor planning! (I've mentioned many times that 80% of success lies in good planning). I then asked my friend about what sort of metrics that the sponsor could be offered? Meaning, what sort of visibility on flyers, posters, etc. I was told that the flyers were already made and distributed that there would be no visibility for the sponsor at all.

Now, if there is no ROI benefit for the sponsor, why in the world does anyone think a sponsor is going to say "OK" to something like this? There's no way. 

I also refuse to look stupid in front of a client by even asking such a dumb and ridiculous question. Just because the charity is unorganized and fouled up, doesn't mean that I am willingly going to go there and look stupid too! 

ROI! ROI! ROI! What does the client get in return for their help investment? That's the only question that matters. This is not fun and it is not a game. It is a business decision!

There's many reasons why corporations have rules concerning charities and standards concerning ROI. The biggest one I can think of right off the top of my head is to prevent abuse. I mean, if there's no rules concerning these sorts of activities, then what's to stop a, country manager from giving away a thousand dollars of goods to, say, her best friend's ladies luncheon group or their son's kindergarten school function?

I don't write this blog post to blast some of these charities but I write this to help you folks out (I write it directly too as I haven't the time or patience to be giving out free advice all the time). Some basic common sense and a basic understanding of this simple concept of ROI - as well as some thought put into, "Gee, if the sponsor supports us, what kind of bang do they get for their buck?" Will help separate the charities that receive from the charities that don't.

The bottom line? What does the client company get out of sponsoring and helping your charity and how does the in-charge at that company justify to his boss and book-keeping manager the fact that he wants to approve giving you thousands of dollars worth of support in cash or in prizes? 

Sponsors need something to show for their efforts. You had better figure out how to give it to them too if you want their help. Trust that, as time goes by, the charities who do figure this out and take my advice to heart will be the ones who get. The others who fail to recognize this common sense fact of life might as well close their doors.

Here's one good idea: On a recent relief trip to the tsunami hit area, my partners who helped me organized, made sure we created a top-quality professional video of the effort and we placed sponsors and supporters names at the end of the video with company logos.

Now, when I want to arrange any sort of charity to help the earthquake and tsunami sufferers, all I need to do is direct people to that video on YouTube and they can see for themselves what their ROI is. See the video Ishinomaki - Black Water here.

Compare that with your charity that is asking for free airline tickets to support your event or festival, yet you can't even give me metrics on how many posters are to be printed or where my company logo will be placed.

In this day and age where corporate sponsorships are getting harder and harder to come by, a better understanding of their needs is critical. 

Everyone already knows what the charities need. That doesn't need explaining too much. Explain to me, the client, "What do I get?"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nuclear Opponents Need to Get Their Facts Straight and Prove Them with Data

As a king nerd and complete geek, somehow in 1975, at the urging of my high school biology teacher Mr. Howell, I found myself president of my high school science club. Actually, that was alright by me as then, as it is now, all the hot girls are intelligent anyway and they all wear glasses.
O'Jays - Back Stabbers
For my senior thesis, it wouldn't do for the president of that club to write any old dissertation about boring things like the life cycle of turtles or seagulls, I had to write about frightening and earth shattering events like the great coming crisis of that time: Global Climate Change. Namely, the coming of the next ice-age.

Oh, it wasn't just me who worried about such things, the next great ice age that was going to destroy the earth and ruin our food supply and displace tens of millions of people was big news. It was in all the current magazines and opinion leading publications of the day. The one magazine that really turned my opinion and convinced me, as well as a few million other Americans, that the ice age was real and it was coming was Time Magazine

I was so horrified of the coming ice age and how food and fuel prices were going to skyrocket that I was convinced that writing my senior thesis about this coming disaster would surely turn me into a genius student scholar recognized the world over. 

Well, that didn't happen. 

The ice age never came and I never became recognized as a genius scholar excepting upon a purview into a hand held mirror.

Lesson one learned about being skeptical about the news was well learned.

Incredibly, I was one of the few who survived

Time went by and I finally escaped university one day and found myself working - by some miracle and lots of skulduggery - at a broadcasting station. Over the years while working at broadcasting, I became to understand something about hype versus reality when it comes to broadcasting; hype sells. Reality can sell, if it is exciting. If reality isn't exciting, then make it that way. I found the only problem with that method is that the reality, when bent to become exciting, is no longer reality but becomes into the realm of hype.

Many of the episodes of dealing with this hype started for me, if I remember well, in at least 1982 when we were told that HIV/AIDS was going to kill half the population of the world and were also told that some scientists believed that AIDS was transmitted by dirty toilet door handles. 

Another early episode was with the first Gulf War and Saddam Hussein's 4th largest army in the world (which collapsed after a mere four days after the commencement of a land invasion); then there was the bombing of Serbia followed by a plethora of various killer diseases that were going to depopulate the earth (in no particular order: Ebola virus, Dengu fever, Swine flu, Bird flu, SARS, etc.) and, who could forget the next disastrous event that was going to radically change our earth: Man Made Global Warming (AGW).

At first, like everyone else, I believed the polemic about man-made global warming, but, after growing to become skeptical, and from several ridiculous experiences in the mass media, I had learned enough to do some background checking. What I found about AGW soon made me land firmly in the nonbeliever camp.

But saying that back in the early 2000's was pure unadulterated heresy and stupidity as, everyone would soon, and surely, remind you that the science was absolutely decided and 2,500 of the world tops scientists had already agreed. There was nothing more to be discussed.

I wonder where those 2,500 scientists are today?

Still, I didn't buy it. Too many things didn't make sense. 

First off, the absurd idea that the polar ice caps, that are floating on the ocean at the North Pole, upon melting, would cause the sea level to rise. Now that is a completely ridiculous notion. Thank god for my time as president of my high school science club. Any 7th grade student can tell you that ice in a cup of water will displace it's own weight so that when the ice melts, the level of water will not rise. It simply cannot. The weight of the ice has already displaced its own weight. Water is the same weight if it is frozen or if it is liquid, it cannot magically weigh more if it melts.


President of the high school Science Club (back row, fourth from the left) 

The second fact that made me a firm disbeliever in AGW theory was when I was shown data that proved that the surface temperatures on Venus and Mars had risen in conjunction with the rise in temperatures of the earth. Now that was a real head scratcher. Unless Martians and Venusians were driving SUVs on their planets then it doesn't seem possible that green house gases were causing their surface temperatures to rise in parallel with the earth's.

No, I had then become convinced that, as many scientists were beginning to state, that the activity of the sun was responsible for our temperature and climate changes. The case was closed for me when I read that a proponent of AGW had actually made the idiotic claim that the sun's activity had nothing to do with the temperature of the earth. What foolish poppycock. One only need to go outside at night and compare the temperature during the day under the hot sun to be witness as to how much the sun controls temperature on this planet.

AGW, it is usually accompanied by smirks and jokes.

I was absolutely right then and I am proven right now.

Which now brings me to the subject of the day: the nuclear accident at Fukushima and how much this incident is going to change our lives and livelihood. If you talk to one camp, the anti-nuclear crowd (who, incidentally, seems to be the very same crowd who claimed that AGW would destroy the climate and over 50 million of earth's inhabitants would be "Global Warming refugees" by 2010... Which, of course, never happened) you'll hear a shrill and growing shriller prophesy of doom, death and world destruction.

If you listen to what is increasingly being described as the pro-nuclear crowd, you seem to hear a much more level headed debate. At least, that's what it seems like to me.

Perhaps I think this way because I've heard this prophesy of doom are too often and, in too many cases, it seems illogical. contradictory and simply not practical.  

My good friend, Scott M, sends me a recent article from the Guardian UK written by George Monbiot that asks some of the same questions that I ask of the panic and doom crowd. It was the same questions I asked of that crowd concerning AGW, Swine flu, Bird flu and the others. Specifically, "Where is your proof? Show me some facts." 

Here are selected parts from that article entitled, "Nuclear Opponents Have a Moral Duty to Get Their Facts Straight." In this article, George Monbiot takes to task one of the most vocal anti-nuclear activists, Helen Caldicott for making a wide array of unsubstantiated claims:

As governments ponder a disastrous move away from nuclear power, it is vital campaigners don't spread misinformation – but Helen Caldicott fails to interrogate her own claims and sources.
My request to Helen Caldicott was a simple one: I asked her to give me sources for the claims she had made about the effects of radiation. Helen had made a number of startling statements during a television debate, and I wanted to know whether or not they were correct. Scientific claims are only as good as their sources.
Here are three examples of the questions I asked, and the answers she gave me.
At first I asked for general sources for her claims. She sent me nine documents: press releases, newspapers articles and an advertisement. Only one of them was linked to a scientific publication: the BEIR VII report published by the National Academy of Sciences. She urged me to read it. I did so and discovered that, far from supporting her claims, it starkly contradicts them. For example, it says:
• The risk of radiation-induced mutations in sperm and eggs, resulting in heritable disease "is sufficiently small that it has not been detected in humans, even in thoroughly studied irradiated populations such as those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki".
• Regarding transmissible genetic damage from the exposure of future parents, such as "spontaneous abortions, congenital malformations, neonatal mortality, still births and the sex ratio of offspring … there is no consistent evidence of an association of any such outcomes with exposure to environmental sources of radiation."
• "On balance, the existing evidence does not support the conclusion that rates of childhood leukaemia have increased as a result of radiation exposures from the Chernobyl accident".
I began to wonder whether Helen has actually read this report, or was hoping that, at 423 pages, it would scare me away. The PDF costs $46.
She claimed that isotopes of krypton, xenon and argon "can mutate the genes in the eggs and sperm and cause genetic disease". When I asked her for a source, she told me, "This is also described in my book." In fact her book says (p55): "There have never been any epidemiological studies performed on the effects of exposure to the noble gases xenon and krypton." This flatly contradicts her own claim.
When I pressed her for better sources, her publishers wrote to me and said she did not have time to find them. 
Then she appears to suggest that iodine-131 can "continuously irradiate small volumes of cells … over many years". As it has a half life of eight days, this seems unlikely. Again, a source would help to clear the matter up..
Then she makes a remarkable allegation: as a result of a conspiracy hatched with the International Atomic Energy Agency, since 1959 the World Health Organisation has "made no more statements on health and radioactivity". This is completely false, as even the quickest search would have shown her.
Helen has still not provided a shred of evidence for her claim that the recent report by another UN agency – the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation – into the Chernobyl disaster is "a total cover-up". Twice I have asked her to substantiate this allegation; twice she has replied with accusations about the WHO. Is she aware that these are different agencies?
Finally, George Monbiot comes to the crux of the problem and something that I have stated over and over in this very blog: When people are making wild statements using terms such as "if," "perhaps," "maybe" and "possibly" - as they have been doing lavishly when describing what could or might happen at Fukushima, the only thing intelligent and logical people can and should do is to examine only the facts. He continues:
I believe that journalists should not stand by while misinformation is spread. If there is any value in journalism, it lies in trying to winnow fact from fiction, and helping people to form a more accurate view of the world.
This is an especially difficult time to try to make the case for keeping the dangers of nuclear power in perspective. The frightening events at Fukushima are still unfolding, the disaster has been upgraded to category 7, making it one of the two worst such events on record. But it is just when the case is hardest that it most urgently needs to be made, however much anger this generates. If we don't stick to the facts, if we don't subject all claims to the same degree of scepticism, we could make a bad situation worse.

This is an excellent article and I highly recommend that you go to the source and read it in full here.

As for me, I am all too often placed in the pro-nuclear crowd. It is a title of which I would deny. I am firmly in the camp of the anti-government, anti-war and free market crowd. I am also in the camp of the crowd who wants the truth and not so-called "news" that is based upon conjecture, supposition, hypothesis, theory, thesis, speculation, hunches, or guesswork. Those all have their place but they do not have any place in the news; they do have a pace in talk shows or news stand tabloid sensationalism.

I also believe in the miracles of the free market and what it can do to better our lives through unfettered technology. I have seen facts as to what coal mining and burning coal does to our environment and our health. I know also of the well documented dangers to our health that burning oil causes along with the rape and pillage of the people upon whose land that oil rests.

It seems to me that the only safe and logical choice is to continue with nuclear power and to better our technology and create more of the extremely safe fast breeder types of reactors that have already been developed and tested... Why we are still using 40-year-old technology in our current nuclear reactors is a testament to government interference and the confused - and constantly evolving - stand of the environmentalist movement. First rate airlines have all stopped using 30-year-old aircraft, namely Boeing 747, in their fleets as they are aged and becoming increasingly unreliable. Why in the world do first rate economies still use 40-year-old nuclear reactors when third generation breeders which have been shown and tested as an extremely safe alternative is a mystery. 

So called Alternative energy sources such as solar power and wind turbines are fine for refrigerators, heating bathtubs, and running transistor radios and TV sets. But they could never generate enough power to run a steel mill or a mass transit subway line. Frankly speaking, until now, they are massive and expensive failures.

We need to continue to allow technology make our lives better, in spite of the risks, and until the risks are shown to outweigh the benefits. To this end, nuclear power is our only viable source for the near and foreseeable future. We must strive on to develop completely safe nuclear power for the good of our environment and the betterment of our children's and our children's children's future.