Saturday, January 5, 2013

Zero Hedge: Two Spaniards Self-Immolate Due To Financial Problems

"Strong recovery" of the global stock markets in 2012 surely indicates a robust rebound of the global economy, in the minds of central bankers and politicians in the so-called developed nations, from Bernanke to Draghi to Shirakawa, from Rajoy to Obama to Abe.

But people on the street don't seem to buy into that idea, as their lot hasn't particularly improved. It has gotten decidedly worse, apparently, for the two Spaniards, as Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge writes (1/5/2012):

Two Spaniards Self-Immolate Due To Financial Problems

First it was a German, then an Italian, and now, two months, later, the European self-immolation wave has spread to the country that many expect will be the next one to follow Greece into effective debt default. El Pais reports that an impoverished 57-year-old man who set himself on fire in Málaga Thursday, and subsequently died of his injuries at Carlos Haya hospital. He had third-degree burns on 80 percent of his body and suffered a multi-organ failure. The victim, thought to be of Moroccan origin, had worked in construction for years but was out of a job now, said people who knew him. In the last few months he had been scraping a living with the small change he made guiding cars into parking spaces near the hospital, an illegal practice that is usually overlooked by authorities. The police, who have not yet located his relatives, are not ruling out the possibility of an accident just as the man was lighting up a cigarette. Just two minutes before the event, he bought a pack of cigarettes from a local newsstand whose owner asked him how he was doing.

“I don’t even have enough money for food,” he replied. The man is thought to have been homeless at the present time, and seemed even more depressed than on other occasions, said the stand owner.
Several taxi drivers came to the rescue with their vehicles’ fire extinguishers when they saw the man go up in flames on a side street from the hospital. A few hours after being admitted into the emergency room there, he was transferred to a specialized burn unit in Seville, where doctors were unable to save his life.
He was the unlucky one - as BBC follows, another Spaniard also lit himself on fire on Thursday night, in the same city, but lived.

Another man is being treated in the same hospital apparently after setting himself alight in Malaga on Thursday.

The 63-year-old was found with serious injuries beside his burning car under a road bridge, police said.

No other details were given of that man but, according to Spain's El Mundo newspaper, preliminary investigations indicated that the fire had been lit intentionally.
Spanish media have reported a number of cases in recent months of people facing poverty in the country's recession killing themselves.

Considering it was an identical act of self-immolation in Tunisia that set off the Arab Spring in the winter of 2011, Europe has for shown far more resiliency to socio-economic collapse than many had expected, although this is not unexpected: after all, Europeans, and especially Spaniards, still have more to lose than gain by rising up against a reverse Robin Hood globalist system bent on taking from what's left of the middle class and giving to the status quo banking oligarchy. Or so they think: the big strawman, is and for the past 150 years has been the welfare state myth.

Then again, now that Spain has almost drained its entire social security fund, and replaced it with worthless ECB repo material, i.e., Spanish bonds, will Spaniards finally wake up and realize that while they were snoozing, their government spent 90% of their pension and retirement money to prop up the Ponzi for one more year. And instead of committing suicide, or even patching up various symptomps, shouldn't the people of Spain, and all of Europe, finally address the real underlying cause of their misery: a dysfunctional government, which contrary to indication, is merely a puppet in a banker-led globalist system?
If not, how many more people have to burn themselves to death before it becomes clear?

Friday, January 4, 2013

#Radioactive Post-#Fukushima Japan: "Why Don't You Go to Fukushima I Nuke Plant? Lots of Jobs There...", Says City Official In Charge of Public Assistance for the Poor in Hokkaido

According to Hokkaido Shinbun, this is what a city bureaucrat said to a 27-year-old man who went to the counter at the City Hall to ask about public assistance after he lost his job and couldn't find a job for a year, being late on rent, subsisting on one piece of bread per day.

Public servants whose salary derives from taxpayers' money and/or money borrowed on the backs of taxpayers (municipal bonds for general expenses) told this young man that the assistance was not meant for people like him, and that he should go to Fukushima I Nuke Plant so that he didn't need to receive public money.

From Hokkaido Shinbun (1/3/2013; part) as copied by this blog:


Back then, in April last year. There was hardly any cash in the man's wallet. He used to be a seasonal worker at a construction company, but the company didn't hire him in the spring of 2011. He sent his resumes to dozens of local companies. He landed on three job interviews but he was not hired.


His savings were depleted, and his meal consisted of one piece of bread per day. He lost 10 kilograms in one year. He couldn't pay the rent for his apartment, and the landlord wanted to evict him. He thought he would die on the street. Without realizing it, he was walking toward the City Hall. The last resort.


But at the public assistance counter, an official, total stranger, shouted at him.


"This is not for young people like you."


He did not have friends or relatives he could rely on. With no other help available, he went back to the counter again the next day. A different official said to him,


"Why don't you go to Fukushima? There are lots of jobs as nuclear plant worker. You can make a living without public assistance."


Totally at a loss, the man asked a support group for the poor for help in filling out the application for public assistance. The application was finally accepted in May.


On the day of the first payment of assistance money, the official at the counter gave him a pen and a piece of paper. On the paper, he could see the words written in with a pencil. The official was silently telling him to trace the words.


- I thank you very much for kindly allowing me to receive public assistance. I will do my best to stop receiving the assistance as soon as possible. -


He felt humiliated.


He is looking for full-time employment at a public job agency, while he works as a day laborer.

In Japan, the public assistance involves a monthly monetary payment, paid medical, and rent subsidy.

The number of public assistance recipients peaked in 1951, and was declining steadily until mid 1990s. Since then, the number has been on the increase, and there are 2 million people (2% of population) receiving the assistance, costing 3 trillion yen per year.

Bluefin Tuna Off Aomori Prefecture Fetches 155 Million Yen in First Auction of the Year at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo

It is the highest ever price fetched. The bluefin tuna was caught off the coast of Ooma, Aomori Prefecture. A nuclear power plant is being constructed in Ooma.

The construction was halted after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, but Yukio Edano, then-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, allowed the restart of construction at Ooi in September last year.

The town of Ooma is very famous for its excellent tuna, and part of the opposition to the nuclear power plant there is because of potential danger the exhaust water from the plant may pose to marine life.

Oh well. Aomori Prefecture is solidly an LDP territory, with Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant and Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant already in place. They want more nuclear subsidies. So what the prized tuna fish goes bust?

From Nikkei Shinbun (1/5/2012):


The first auction of the year was held at Tsukiji Market in Tokyo on January 5. Fluefin tuna caught in Ooma, Aomori fetched 700,000 yen [US$8,000] per kilogram, or 155.4 million yen [US$1.78 million] for the whole fish, the highest ever in history. Before this year, 56.49 million yen per fish (210,000 yen per kilo) was the highest. The winning bidder was the same as the last year's winning bidder, sushi shop Kiyomura (Chuo-ku, Tokyo) with "Sushizanmai" sushi chain.

This is the photo of the 155 million yen tuna (from Nikkei article above):

#Radioactive Japan Under LDP: Government Set to Force Veteran Nuclear Engineers to Retire

Ostensible reasons given are:

  • To save money;

  • To appear in the eyes of Japanese citizens that the national government is serious in eliminating the waste in bureaucracy.

So, the expertise in dealing with matters nuclear is considered "waste" in the post-Fukushima Japan.

And how much money this administration says it could save by forcing these engineers to retire? There are 170 of them, with the average annual salary of 13 million yen (US$149,000) according to Sankei Shinbun article linked below (on page 2 which is not quoted).

Let's see, politicians elected to the National Diet receive 22 million yen per year. They also receive generous benefits like:

  • 12 million yen for transportation, communication;

  • 27 million yen for hiring 3 secretaries (excluding their benefits)

  • 7.8 million yen for maintaining the office

Many politicians say that's pittance, that without this kind of money people without resources cannot run for public office.

Personally, I'd rather have aging nuclear engineers than clueless politicians.

Anyway, here's from Sankei Shinbun (1/4/2013; part):


[Sankei Shinbun] talked to the government sources on January 3 and found out that the national government is set to demand about 170 nuclear engineers to retire all at once from the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization (JNES), an independent administrative corporation, when JNES gets absorbed into the Nuclear Regulatory Agency. Under the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, these engineers would have to be treated as national public servant. However, under the current Government Officials Act, there is no system to hire a large number of older [above 60] engineers. Without a new legal action, it could lead to the loss of knowledge and expertise, which in turn could interfere with decommissioning and assessment of nuclear power plants.


The Nuclear Regulatory Agency, created in September last year to act as the secretariat to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, lacks staff with the firsthand knowledge of nuclear power plants, and is scheduled to be combined with JNES which has staff with such knowledge. That should have happened when the Nuclear Regulatory Agency was set up, but it has been delayed as it supposedly runs counter to the government policy of reducing the number of national public servants.


The discussion will begin in earnest this year. The Office for Atomic Energy Regulation and Reorganization Promotion under the Cabinet Secretariat, which has been planning the consolidation of nuclear-related independent administrative corporations, recognizes [these older JNES engineers as] "Invaluable workforce who has experienced the peak construction period of nuclear power plants". However, according to the government sources, "As reduction of government personnel progresses, unless we totally streamline the bureaucracy the Japanese citizens won't be satisfied", and the government will demand that engineers 60 years old and above to retire all at once.

How much dumber these LDP politicians get? A whole lot, I'm afraid.

When the next big nuclear accident happens, whether it's Hamaoka or Monju or Rokkasho, guess who gets to be blamed? Japanese citizens, of course, for supposedly "demanding the cut in government spending on public servants".

One of These Things Is Not Like The Others: US Job Loss Since "Great Recession"

For those counting on the robust US economy (export-dependent countries like Japan and China, for example), good luck, unless you're selling goods to the Obama government.

From Business Insider (1/4/2013), showing the chart by Calculated Risk blog:

The "Great Recession", according to the economists in the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, started in December 2007 (huh?) and ended in June 2009 (huh?).

That's 42 months ago from the right edge of the chart above. Some recovery.

Post-"Fiscal Cliff" US: Blackrock Chairman "The Biggest Losers Are American People"

Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of Blackrock that manages $3.67 trillion assets, appears almost embarrassed at his colleagues on Bloomberg TV talking about "who won and who lost" in the "fiscal cliff" non-deal.

While his colleagues (Bloomberg columnists) yak-yak about Republicans as losers and Obama as winner getting "B" grade, Biden gaining more power etc., Mr. Fink says "Excuse me, but the biggest losers are American people."

1:40 into the clip, after a lively discussion of winners and losers on Capitol Hill and White House, Mr. Fink says:

I, I guess I wish we spent less time worrying about who's the winner and losers, because I think American population is the big loser in this... We have two more months of work in front of us to get something really sensible.... I am really afraid we're going to have the repeat of August 2011...

He doesn't manage the world-largest investment firm for nothing.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Post-"Fiscal Cliff" US: Al Gore Wanted to Sell His Cable Network in December So As To Avoid New Tax Rate Come January 1

I thought Mr. Al Gore is one of those rich people and Hollywood celebrities begging the Obama Administration to tax them more. No?

New York Times reports that Mr. Gore and his associates were all very eager to conclude the deal of selling their cable network to Al Jazeera by the end of December 2012 so that they would avoid added tax that kicked in on January 1, 2013.

Well, they couldn't, as the agreement wasn't signed until January 2, 2013.

From New York Times (1/2/2013 part):

Al Jazeera Seeks a U.S. Voice Where Gore Failed

... Al Jazeera on Wednesday announced a deal to take over Current TV, the low-rated cable channel that was founded by Al Gore, a former vice president, and his business partners seven years ago. Al Jazeera plans to shut Current and start an English-language channel, which will be available in more than 40 million homes, with newscasts emanating from both New York and Doha, Qatar.

For Al Jazeera, which is financed by the government of Qatar, the acquisition is a coming of age moment. A decade ago, Al Jazeera’s flagship Arabic-language channel was reviled by American politicians for showing videotapes from Al Qaeda members and sympathizers. Now the news operation is buying an American channel, having convinced Mr. Gore and the other owners of Current that it has the journalistic muscle and the money to compete head-to-head with CNN and other news channels in the United States.

Al Jazeera did not disclose the purchase price, but people with direct knowledge of the deal pegged it at around $500 million, indicating a $100 million payout for Mr. Gore, who owned 20 percent of Current. Mr. Gore and his partners were eager to complete the deal by Dec. 31, lest it be subject to higher tax rates that took effect on Jan. 1, according to several people who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But the deal was not signed until Wednesday.

A spokesman for Al Jazeera said that antitrust regulators had not expressed any objections to the deal.

(Full article at the link)

Antitrust regulators? Not a problem. They have just cleared Google with only a slap on the wrist, if any. As long as it involves supporters of the administration, all is good.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government to IOC: "There is Zero Risk" in Holding 2020 Olympic in Tokyo

As the national government plans to force retailers to sell Fukushima produce, the Tokyo Metropolitan government's Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee declares to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that "there is zero risk" in holding the 2020 Olympic in Tokyo.

No risk from an earthquake, no risk from a tsunami, no risk from a nuclear accident. Not a problem.

Kyodo News reports (1/4/2013):

五輪、地震や原発「ノーリスク」 招致委、IOCに強調

"No risk" from earthquake or nuclear plant accident, Tokyo Olympic Bid Committee emphasizes to IOC


Masato Mizuno, Vice President of Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee disclosed on January 4 that the Committee has declared "No safety risk" from a large earthquake, tsunami, or nuclear problem in the "Candidature File" to be submitted to International Olympic Committee (IOC) on January 7.


[The Candidature File] shows anti-seismic architecture of the Olympic venues; as to tsunami, the map of Tokyo Bay shows "there is sufficient breakwater even if the sea level rises", according to Mizuno.


IOC has pointed out that there are areas whose radiation levels are higher than the standard because of the nuclear accident. The Candidature File counters this by saying "[The radiation levels] are low and stable even in Tohoku. A vigorous test is performed on food items before they are sold in the market."

Oh really.

The Candidature File will be delivered to IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland on January 7 by the captain of Japan's medal-winning women's soccer team.

The choices will be either Tokyo, Japan, or Madrid, Spain, or Istanbul, Turkey.

My bet is on Turkey, but with enough creative marketing (wink wink) on IOC members, IOC may want to help Japan eradicate baseless rumors.

#Radioactive Japan under LDP: Law May Be Passed to Force Retailers to Carry Fukushima Produce

Speaking of population decrease, Japan has a ministerial post to deal with declining number of children in Japan. The new minister under the Abe pork-cutlet-curry administration is Ms. Masako Mori, who is also the minister in charge of consumer affairs.

In another WTF moment, Ms. Mori declares the new national government under LDP is considering passing the legislation to force retailers to sell Fukushima produce. It's not very clear from the article below by Fukushima Minpo whether this legislation is intended for retailers only in Fukushima, or any retailers anywhere. (The more I read it, it feels the legislation will be for the retailers everywhere in Japan, but not 100% sure.)

Fukushima Minpo also makes it obvious that Japan's Consumer Affairs Agency (whose head is the same Ms. Mori) is for helping producers, not consumers.

No wonder her party wants to ditch the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of commerce.

According to Japanese wiki, Ms. Mori was one of those "backbenchers" who heckled the DPJ politicians with vulgar words.

From Fukushima Minpo (1/3/2013):

県産品の販売促進へ法制化検討 森少子化相、扱い店舗優遇へ

Minister Mori says the government will consider legislation to promote produce and goods made in Fukushima, giving preferential treatment to retailers who sell Fukushima produce/goods.


Masako Mori, minister in charge of dealing with declining number of children (elected to the Upper House from District in Fukushima Prefecture), in a New Year interview with Fukushima Minpo, indicated that she is considering legislation to promote the sales of produce and goods made in Fukushima in order to eradicate baseless rumors resulting from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The legislation will prompt retailers to sell agricultural produce and manufactured products that are confirmed to be safe. It will include preferential treatment of retailers who display Fukushima produce and goods in their storefronts. Ms. Mori also emphasized the government's commitment to expand the budget for countering the damages from baseless rumors in the fiscal 2012 supplementary budget and to accelerate the measures to resolve problems.


Ms. Mori, also in charge of Consumer Affairs Agency which deals with countermeasures against baseless rumors, said, "Fukushima produce should be displayed in storefronts, and consumers who want to buy them should be able to buy them. Otherwise, the countermeasures [against baseless rumors] will not be effective", indicating she wants to work full-scale on the retailers.


[Mori said] the government will aim to pass the legislation to promote the sale of Fukushima produce and goods, in order to clearly show [to the public] how the national government stands on the issue of baseless rumor damages. It is considered that Mr. Mori's agency [Consumer Affairs Agency] and related agencies and ministries will decide on the details [of the legislation]. In summary, the legislation would "designate Fukushima Prefecture as the "special zone", and enable the national government to order retailers to sell locally-produced goods and to extend preferential treatment to retailers who sell such goods in the storefronts", Ms. Mori explained.


The Constitution guarantees "freedom of commerce". It remains to be seen whether the legislation can legally force retailers.


Ms. Mori also disclosed that she would ask for more money for countermeasures against baseless rumor damages in the fiscal 2012 [ending in March 2013] supplementary budget. Educational events would continue, and there would be more emphasis on face-to-face sales between producers and consumers to re-establish the trust in the Fukushima produce/goods. She said she recognized the need for carefully planned support for the producers, including the government paying for transportation costs for the producers to travel to consumption areas.


As to the problem of declining number of children and support for rearing children, she promised that she will examine what role the national government should play toward making the thyroid testing of children more meaningful and expediting the testing, and that the government would then work on a plan as soon as possible.

The last convoluted bit (which may make Sir Humphrey proud) means she won't do a thing either on the declining number of children or on the thyroid testing for children. This answer alone is enough to tell me she is a lawyer. (Sure enough, Japanese wiki says she was a classmate of Yukio "there is no immediate effect on health" Edano in Tohoku University Law School.)

About the possible unconstitutionality of Ms. Mori's legislation, Japanese Constitution Article 22 is generally interpreted to guarantee the freedom of commerce, as the freedom to choose occupation is meaningless unless the freedom of commerce is guaranteed:

Article 22. Every person shall have freedom to choose and change his residence and to choose his occupation to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare.
Freedom of all persons to move to a foreign country and to divest themselves of their nationality shall be inviolate.

I can perfectly see how Abe's LDP (which many say is not the LDP they've known) is going with this. They will limit the Article 22 by saying allowing this freedom of commerce interfere with the public welfare. See, how producers in Fukushima have suffered!

And the Abe government will strongly promote face-to-face sales by the Fukushima producers, knowing fully well that by nature most Japanese find it very hard to say no, face to face.

Where are Ishihara and Morita when we need them, to teach Japanese to say no? Well, Morita is long dead, and Ishiraha is playing politics with the boy-wonder. Neither of them would be likely to ever dream of saying no to their beloved government.

(UPDATED) Bloomberg: Japan's Population Drops by Record 212,000 Last Year as Births Decrease

As far as I've seen, it was only last year that many in Japan finally realized that their country's population was declining at a irreversible rate, and finally became agitated or distressed about it.

Well. 23 years too late, I'd say. They could have done something before 1990, before the epic burst of the epic real estate bubble that had grown thanks to the 1985 Plaza accord of forced appreciation of Japanese yen and to a lesser degree Deutsche Mark to help the then-struggling US dollar (which had appreciated significantly in the first half of 1980s).

They would have had the money to spend to reverse the trend that had already been in place. It was back when the ex-Governor of Tokyo and the Sony's co-founder and chairman wrote a book "Japan That Can Say No". Instead of wasting breath on looking down on the US and the rest of the world and bragging about its own achievement, Japan could have taken a good look at itself and think about where it would want to go from there.

Well, after 23 years, taking a hard look at facts and thinking deep are still alien ideas for most Japanese.

From Bloomberg News (12/31/2012):

Japan’s Population Falls by Record in 2012 as Births Decrease

Japan’s population last year declined by 212,000, the biggest drop on record, according to an estimate by the nation’s health ministry.

That’s the largest reduction since the ministry started recording the data in 1947 and a sixth straight year of declines. The number of births fell by 18,000 to a record low of 1.03 million last year, the ministry said.


(UPDATE 1/3/2013) A chart by the national government in fiscal 2010, by the very agency that Ms. Masako Mori is now in charge of. (See my next post about her and the policy of forcing retailers to carry Fukushima produce.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Peter Schiff: "Congress Sells America Down the River"

President Obama must be laughing all the way back to his Hawaiian vacation, as he vows more tax increase.

UK Telegraph: Top Secret "Project Seal" - US and New Zealand Tested "Tsunami Bomb" During World War II

It was deemed "feasible", as it would inundate and destroy a small coastal city with 33-foot tidal wave.

How they could have lined up the explosives 5 miles off the coast (of Japan, presumably) would be a separate issue. But I have a feeling that Japanese would have preferred this "tsunami bomb" over two atomic bombs it got, 3 days apart in August 1945.

From UK's Telegraph (1/1/2013):

'Tsunami bomb' tested off New Zealand coast

The United States and New Zealand conducted secret tests of a "tsunami bomb" designed to destroy coastal cities by using underwater blasts to trigger massive tidal waves.

The tests were carried out in waters around New Caledonia and Auckland during the Second World War and showed that the weapon was feasible and a series of 10 large offshore blasts could potentially create a 33-foot tsunami capable of inundating a small city.

The top secret operation, code-named "Project Seal", tested the doomsday device as a possible rival to the nuclear bomb. About 3,700 bombs were exploded during the tests, first in New Caledonia and later at Whangaparaoa Peninsula, near Auckland.

The plans came to light during research by a New Zealand author and film-maker, Ray Waru, who examined military files buried in the national archives.

"Presumably if the atomic bomb had not worked as well as it did, we might have been tsunami-ing people," said Mr Waru.

"It was absolutely astonishing. First that anyone would come up with the idea of developing a weapon of mass destruction based on a tsunami ... and also that New Zealand seems to have successfully developed it to the degree that it might have worked." The project was launched in June 1944 after a US naval officer, E A Gibson, noticed that blasting operations to clear coral reefs around Pacific islands sometimes produced a large wave, raising the possibility of creating a "tsunami bomb".

Mr Waru said the initial testing was positive but the project was eventually shelved in early 1945, though New Zealand authorities continued to produce reports on the experiments into the 1950s. Experts concluded that single explosions were not powerful enough and a successful tsunami bomb would require about 2 million kilograms of explosive arrayed in a line about five miles from shore.

"If you put it in a James Bond movie it would be viewed as fantasy but it was a real thing," he said.

"I only came across it because they were still vetting the report, so there it was sitting on somebody's desk [in the archives]."

Forty years after the joint testing, New Zealand faced a dramatic breakdown in its security ties with the US after it banned the entry of nuclear-armed ships from entering its territory during the 1980s. The dispute led to the US downgrading its relationship with New Zealand from an "ally" to a "friend".

(Full article at the link)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

US "Fiscal Cliff" Averted at the Expense of Taxpayers, Hollywood and Rum Producers Rejoice

House Speaker John Boehner voted Yes;
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor voted No;
former VP-candidate Paul Ryan voted Yes.

Paul Ryan is surprising. So is Eric Cantor. (Good for Cantor.)


House Republicans fold. What's next for them to cave on? (Zero Hedge's Tyler says spending, and just about everything else. I agree.)

The so-called "deal" will mean 77% of the US households will see tax increase, while the tax breaks will go to all sorts of places from Hollywood to Virgin Islands, to NASCAR to algae growers.

CBO says the "deal" will add further $4 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years.

From ABC News (1/1/2012):

‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal Also Doles Out Millions for Hollywood, Railroads, Rum Producers

The “fiscal cliff” compromise has been heralded as a saving grace for middle class taxpayers, their families and the unemployed.

But buried in the fine print of the 150-page deal are also some lesser-known New Year’s gifts to some of Washington’s favorite industries.

Under the plan, the federal government would eat nearly $100 billion in forgone tax revenue over the next two years by extending special tax credits for select businesses that had been set to expire.

While the provisions themselves are not new, and are often extended as part of major bills, their inclusion amidst a tumultuous year-end debate over deficits and debt  did raise a few eyebrows.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget listed the so-called “tax extenders” as a “bad” part of the fiscal cliff deal because their cost is not offset, “setting a bad precedent for future extensions.”

The mix of tax perks covering the next year, but with budget implications for the next two years includes everything from incentives for employers to hire veterans to incentives for employers to invest in mine safety. But it also includes these:

  • $430 million for Hollywood through “special expensing rules” to encourage TV and film production in the United States.  Producers can expense up to $15 million of costs for their projects.

  • $331 million for railroads by allowing short-line and regional operators to claim a tax credit up to 50 percent of the cost to maintain tracks that they own or lease.

  • $222 million for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands through returned excise taxes collected by the federal government on rum produced in the islands and imported to the mainland.

  • $70 million for NASCAR by extending a “7-year cost recovery period for certain motorsports racing track facilities.”

  • $59 million for algae growers through tax credits to encourage production of “cellulosic biofuel” at up to $1.01 per gallon.

  • $4 million for electric motorcycle makers by expanding an existing green-energy tax credit for buyers of plug-in vehicles to include electric motorbikes.

*Note the price tags above reflect estimated forgone tax revenue if current credits – which have been due to expire – are extended for one year as included in the Senate bill, per Joint Committee on Taxation.

What about cuts? What cuts? Oh cuts, yes of course. Obama and the Congress will cut $15 billion in spending, against the tax increase of $620 billion. Tax and spending, unprecedented, first-in-the-history-of-the-republic-in-modern-times ratio of 41:1.

Happy New Year 2013

Clean, crisp performance, fit for the first winter morning of the new year.

Brandenburgische Konzert No.3, G-Dur, Allegro, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Karl Richter, dirigent, mit Muenchner Bach Orchester

When I played this piece, I wondered how the middle development section would end and connect back to the theme in recapitulation. When that happened, it was by brute force, going from g-minor to the original G-Major without any preamble. The composer just did it, so to speak.

I remember chuckling, almost laughing, in admiration of the composer, as I was playing the particular passage. The conductor looked at me like I was crazy.

Monday, December 31, 2012

(OT) For the Quiet End of Another Tumultuous Year

Herbert von Karajan, Dirigent
Berliner Philharmoniker

Ludvig van Beethoven
Symphony No.7 Allegretto

Thank you again for your support this year.

(Now They Tell Us) US Nuclear Terrorism Specialists Were Sent to Japan Right After the Start of Fukushima Nuclear Accident to Measure Radiation

A short article by Kyodo News doesn't reveal much details, but it is clear, sort of, that the US was measuring radiation from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident from very early on.

Kyodo News writes as if everybody knew there was a team of US experts measuring radiation around Fukushima I Nuke Plant right after the accident. (Did we?)

Kyodo News (12/31/2012):

米、原発事故に核特殊チーム派遣 初展開、菅政権把握せず

US sent a nuclear special team to Japan, first [overseas] deployment of the team; Kan administration did not know about the deployment


It was revealed on December 31 that a team that the US government sent to Japan in order to measure radiation around Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant right after the start of the nuclear accident was a special team to counter nuclear terrorism. It was the first overseas deployment for this team, but the core officials in the Kan administration weren't aware of the deployment at that time. The actual measurement [as opposed to simulations like SPEEDI] by the team was therefore delayed, and it may have caused "unnecessary radiation exposure" for the residents (Namie Town Assembly chairman).


Multiple sources in the US government and the Japanese counterparts who were involved in the deployment disclosed the news to Kyodo Tsushin.


The team consisted of 33 people in "Damage Control and Response Team" [my translation, probably not the official name] in charge of measuring gamma radiation from the sky and analyzing the situation of contamination.

Could this team be from Nuclear Emergency Support Team? Kyodo article has a photograph provided by the US National Nuclear Security Administration, so it is likely it was this team.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

#Radioactive Japan: Former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko Visits Fukushima, Meets Evacuees

I haven't watched the entire program myself, but will do so tomorrow, before NHK finds the video and takes it down.

NHK BS-1 documentary "原発の“安全”を問い直す 米NRC前委員長 福島への旅 (NRC former chairman's trip to Fukushima - to re-examine the safety of nuclear power plants)", first aired on December 22, 2012. The program is in Japanese, but you can hear Jaczko's comments in English, and you can catch the interpreter.

Jaczko visited Japan in August this year, soon after he resigned from the NRC.

原発の“安全”を問い直す ~米NRC前委員長 福島... by tvpickup

While walking in Namie-machi with a former resident in Tyvek suits and mask, Jaczko says,

I see many different people with views about nuclear power. Some people try and say that really because no one was killed from radiation or appears to have received lethal doses of radiation that there's... such hype. But I think it is certainly very difficult to walk around here and see the livelihood that's just no longer there.

The town is frozen at March 11, 2011.

At the end of the program, Jaczko says,

"In the end, everyone has to keep in mind that the safety of the public is the number one responsibility, whether you are a power plant owner, whether you're a worker at the power plant, or a local or state or national government official, everyone has to recognize that safety of the people is the most important issue."

Well, it wasn't, in case of Japan. What came first and foremost was to tell people it was safe, and kept repeating it like a mantra.

Jaczko certainly does not come across as arrogant, bullying chairman that he was accused of being, by his colleagues.

Guess Who Has Made Out Like a Bandit in Japanese Stock Market: Goldman Sachs

The company that never, ever loses any opportunity, being prepared for every contingency. (Well, almost.)

Even when the nuclear reactor buildings in Fukushima started blowing up, Goldman Sachs flew in at least four senior exectives from the US, who told its expats in Tokyo to stay put, or they would not have jobs at Goldman. Probably because there were great trades to make, probably on TEPCO (stock and bonds).

It looks Goldman Sachs started buying even before then-Prime Minister Noda said on November 14 that he would call an election, and ridden the Nikkei all the way, 20% up from the recent bottom.

Goldman Sachs Tokyo says they are bullish on Japan in 2013. (That is likely to mean they are ready to sell what they have to retail investors.)

From Bloomberg News (12/28/2012; emphasis is mine):

Goldman Sachs Buying Japan’s Exporters on Abe Policy Bets

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) is buying shares of Japanese exporters and banks as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new government promises to do more to end deflation and weaken the yen.

The investment bank’s asset management unit in Japan is buying shares of the nation’s machinery and electronics exporters, financial firms and electricity producers, according to Hiroyuki Ito, Tokyo-based head of equity investment at Goldman Sachs Asset Management Co., which oversees about $716 billion globally. Goldman Sachs started increasing its holdings in October in anticipation that elections would be called, he said. The Liberal Democratic Party took power in a Dec. 16 poll.

...“Japan finally has a catalyst for the stock market to rise,” Ito said in a Dec. 26 interview. “The new government have an understanding of the impending danger and a sense of urgency about boosting the Japanese economy. We’re finally going to see an end to Japan’s deflation and a strong yen.”

Ito declined to discuss individual stocks.

The Goldman Sachs Japan Equity Fund Auto Reinvest Ushiwakamaru fund, managed by Ito and one of firm’s biggest Japan-based equity funds, has returned 11 percent in the past month, beating 86 percent of its peers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The fund’s biggest holdings are banks, carmakers, wholesalers and trading companies, the data show.

...“We’re bullish on Japanese stocks next year and the basis for that is the currency,” said Ito. “The yen’s strength has really hurt Japanese industry, but that trend has ended. The government has made its message very clear: they will be rigorous in boosting the economy.”

...Ito is also positive on Japan’s financial sector. Shares of banks and brokerages have surged in the past month on optimism reflation will boost the value of assets, increase loan demand and appetite for risk as people become more confident.

(Full article at the link)

Problem is that what Ito describes - BOJ reflates under Abe's command, assets value rises, people become more confident and want to take on more debt and more risk - hasn't happened in the US. 4 years after the financial collapse in 2008, people are still busy deleveraging, and banks are busy bidding up the stock market instead of making loans. Maybe Japan is unique and different, and may react to the money printing differently. (Never mind that it didn't react in the 1990s and most of the first decade of the 21st century.)

In contrast, Morgan Stanley Asia's chairman and chief economist Stephen Roach calls the so-called "Abenomics" delusional (emphasis is mine):

...Unfortunately, it appears that Japan has forgotten many of its own lessons – especially the BOJ’s disappointing experience with zero interest rates and QE in the early 2000’s. But it has also lost sight of the 1990’s – the first of its so-called lost decades – when the authorities did all they could to prolong the life of insolvent banks and many nonfinancial corporations. Zombie-like companies were kept on artificial life-support in the false hope that time alone would revive them. It was not until late in the decade, when the banking sector was reorganized and corporate restructuring was encouraged, that Japan made progress on the long, arduous road of balance-sheet repair and structural transformation.

US authorities have succumbed to the same Japanese-like temptations. From quantitative easing to record-high federal budget deficits to unprecedented bailouts, they have done everything in their power to mask the pain of balance-sheet repair and structural adjustment. As a result, America has created its own generation of zombies – in this case, zombie consumers.

Like Japan, America’s post-bubble healing has been limited – even in the face of the Fed’s outsize liquidity injections. Household debt stood at 112% of income in the third quarter of 2012 – down from record highs in 2006, but still nearly 40 percentage points above the 75% norm of the last three decades of the twentieth century. Similarly, the personal-saving rate, at just 3.5% in the four months ending in November 2012, was less than half the 7.9% average of 1970-99.

The same is true of Europe. The ECB’s über-aggressive actions have achieved little in the way of bringing about long-awaited structural transformation in the region. Crisis-torn peripheral European economies still suffer from unsustainable debt loads and serious productivity and competitiveness problems. And a fragmented European banking system remains one of the weakest links in the regional daisy chain.

Is this the “cure” that Abe really wants for Japan? The last thing that the Japanese economy needs at this point is backsliding on structural reforms. Yet, by forcing the BOJ to follow in the misdirected footsteps of the Fed and the ECB, that is precisely the risk that Abe and Japan are facing.

Massive liquidity injections carried out by the world’s major central banks – the Fed, the ECB, and the BOJ – are neither achieving traction in their respective real economies, nor facilitating balance-sheet repair and structural change. That leaves a huge sum of excess liquidity sloshing around in global asset markets. Where it goes, the next crisis is inevitably doomed to follow.

Let's see, strictly on past performance, I would bet with Goldman Sachs over Morgan Stanley, even though I agree with Mr. Roach.

My guess is that most Japanese would understand Goldman Sachs' view (or want to understand), and would not have a clue what Morgan Stanley's Roach is talking about (or do not want to know).