You can’t really expect civil servants to respect ratepayers when the Mayor doesn’t.
David Seymour relates a discussion he recently held with an arrogant Auckland Transport official.
“Get a life” -Auckland Council to Mt Eden residents.
I had the most extraordinary conversation with a senior Auckland Transport staffer on Sunday afternoon. He introduced himself as a key part of the City Rail Link team and asked if I supported it (I’m very leery of it). I said:
“Well I think it’s fair to say that while everybody would love to have a train service like London or Tokyo, my constituents in Mt Eden, for example, don’t want to live in the kind of density required to support it.”
To which he replied: Â Â Read more »
Len Brown constantly tells us that he wants Auckland to be the most liveable city inÂ theÂ world.
He has failed.
Instead all he has achieved with his never ending rates increases is turning Auckland into one of the most expensive city in the world.
Auckland has overtaken Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide to become the 16th most expensive location in the Asia Pacific for expatriates, a survey by ICA International has found.
The City of Sails is ranked 36th most expensive globally, up from last year’s 54th spot.
The South Korean capital Seoul take the honours for being the most expensive in the region and 10th in the world, overtaking Tokyo.
“Cost in New Zealand for many international assignees have increased at a faster rate than in Australia, largely due to the strength of the dollar there,” authors of the report said.
It noted that locations in Australia had risen in the ranking, with Sydney up from last years 32nd position to 29th, and Canberra in 34th place globally – ahead of Auckland.
The survey is aimed at helping companies with the calculation of cost of living allowances for their employees stationed overseas by comparing a basket of common consumer goods and services in 440 locations worldwide. Â Â Read more »
Slate has an interesting post about the non-existance of looters in tsunami ravished Japan.
If your home was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, a tsunami, and radiation from a nuclear power plant, you’d be forgiven for not remaining calm. Yet that’s what many Japanese quake victims appear to be doing. People areforming lines outside supermarkets. Life is “particularly orderly,”Â according to PBS. “Japanese discipline rules despite disaster,” says aÂ columnistforÂ The Philippine Star.
Anyone who has seenBig Bird in Japan knows the shorthand for Japanese culture: They’re so honest and disciplined! They’re a collective society! They value the group over the individual! OfÂ course they’re not going to steal anything after the most devastating natural disaster of their lifetimesâunlikeÂ those undisciplined thieves in post-Katrina New Orleans and post-earthquake Haiti. Even if they’re desperate for food, the Japanese will still wait in line for groceries.
Or even the undisciplined thieves in Christchurch after their two earthquakes.
There’s a circularity to these cultural explanations, says Mark D. West, a professor at University of Michigan Law School: “Why don’t Japanese loot? Because it’s not in their culture. How is that culture defined? An absence of looting.” A better explanation may be structural factors: a robust system of laws that reinforce honesty, a strong police presence, and, ironically, active crime organizations.
Japanese people may well be more honest than most. But the Japanese legal structure rewards honesty more than most. In a 2003Â study on Japan’s famous policy for recovering lost property, West argues that the high rates of recovery have less to do with altruism than with the system of carrots and sticks that incentivizes people to return property they find rather than keep it. For example, if you find an umbrella and turn it in to the cops, you get a finder’s fee of 5 to 20 percent of its value if the owner picks it up. If they don’t pick it up within six months, the finder gets to keep the umbrella. Japanese learn about this system from a young age, and a child’s first trip to the nearest police station after finding a small coin, say, is a rite of passage that both children and police officers take seriously. At the same time, police enforce small crimes like petty theft, which contributes to an overall sense of security and order, along the lines of the “broken windows” policy implemented in New York City in the 1990s. Failure to return a found wallet can result in hours of interrogation at best, and up to 10 years in prison at worst.
There is something worth exploring. Perhaps Crusher can start on some of those reforms.
Japan has an active and visible police force of nearly 300,000 officers across the country. Cops walk their beats and chat up local residents and shopkeepers. Police are posted at ubiquitousÂ kobans, police boxes manned by one or two officers, and in cities there’s almost always a koban within walking distance of another koban. A survey in 1992 found that 95 percent of residents knew where the nearest koban was, and 14 percent knew the name of an officer who worked there. Cops are paid wellâthe force attracts many college graduatesâand can live in cheap government housing. They also care a lot about public relations: The Tokyo Metropolitan Police even has a mascot,Â Pipo-kun, whose name means “people + police.” They’re good at their jobs, too: The clearance rate for murder in 2010 was an unbelievable 98.2 percent, according to Westâso unbelievable that some attribute it to underreporting.
Still more good ideas. But now for the dark side…or is it just a shade of gray.
Police aren’t the only ones on patrol since the earthquake hit. Members of theÂ Yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicate, have also been enforcing order. All three major crime groupsâthe Yamaguchi-gumi, the Sumiyoshi-kai, and the Inagawa-kaiâhave “compiled squads to patrol the streets of their turf and keep an eye out to make sure looting and robbery doesn’t occur,” writes Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, in an e-mail message. “The Sumiyoshi-kai claims to have shipped over 40 tons of [humanitarian aid] supplies nationwide and I believe that’s a conservative estimate.” One group has even opened its Tokyo offices to displaced Japanese and foreigners who were stranded after the first tremors disabled public transportation. “As one Sumiyoshi-kai boss put it to me over the phone,” says Adelstein, ” ‘In times of crisis, there are not Yakuza and civilians or foreigners. There are only human beings and we should help each other.’ ” Even during times of peace, the Yakuza enforce order, says Adelstein. They make their money off extortion, prostitution, and drug trafficking. But they consider theft grounds for expulsion.
Heh…Â organizedÂ crime with its promise of retribution may be a factor. But compared to the Mongrel mob, Black Power or the Head Hunters Japanese gangs or Yakuza act almostÂ gentlemanlyÂ when it comes to getting even.
That’s not to say that a culture of reciprocity and community doesn’t play a role in the relatively calm response to the quake. It’s just that these characteristics are reinforced by systems and institutions. Adelstein quotes an old Japanese saying that explains the reciprocal mindset: “Your kindness will be rewarded in the end. Charity is a good investment.” But there’s a flipside, too: Unkindness will be punished.
Yes…unkindness should beÂ punished.
Rob Fyfe is to be commended for taking a stand against the sensationalist media regarding the supposed threat to humanity from Fukushima power station.
Air New Zealand’s CEO Rob Fyfe has hit out at the news media in two messages to his staff, saying they are guilty of leading the world toward a ”humanitarian travesty” in coverage of the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
In his second message he described himself as ”a lone voice” trying to fight sensational media.
In the first message, written four days ago, he said there was no probability that Tokyo residents would be affected by radioactivity from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power station.
He blamed the media for the fears.
And in a new message out today, he said it was “clear the media are struggling between which disaster and human tragedy to give greatest prominence too”.
Fyfe’s first message on the disaster was highly critical of media.
“As a result of misleading media coverage in many countries around the world, some airlines have come under pressure to stop flying to Japan and some governments are coming under pressure to recall their search and rescue personnel,” Fyfe said in the message.
”If lives are lost and human suffering is exacerbated in those areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami because of exaggerated and inaccurate media coverage, it will be a humanitarian travesty.”
Air New Zealand, he said, would keep its staff in Tokyo.
He said he had been disappointed with New Zealand media coverage on Fukushima: ”Little of it is fact based, it is increasingly taking the form of a docu-drama with a mixture of fact, ill-informed non-expert opinion and a fair dose of fiction.”
He said expert advice showed that ”the situation is completely safe for our staff resident in Tokyo and our visiting crews who are more than 200km away from the nuclear power stations”.
Even if there was a meltdown at the plant, the exclusion zone would only need to be 50km.
”The bottom line is that these experts do not see there being a possibility of a health problem for residents in Tokyo,” Fyfe said.
About time someone called bullshit on the media and their repeating over Fukushima.
In actual fact there is a greater risk of radiation exposure flying anywhere, but just by way of example a flight from Los Angelas to New York will give you a dose of radiation far exceeding anything coming from Fukushima.
Good on Rob Fyfe for speaking out.
Fyfe said the situation was very different from Chernobyl, where the reactor went into meltdown and the encasement, which exploded, was left to burn for weeks without any control.”There have been no radiation levels reported in Tokyo above normal ambient levels. There is no panic in Tokyo and in fact life is very quickly returning to normal. There are the occasional aftershocks and a small percentage of shops are still closed, but the vast majority are open,” Fyfe wrote.
He was critical of TVNZ’s Close-Up programme which interviewed him, just after running a piece about Chernobyl.
”In my view it was a shameful piece of drama. The woman’s story was tragic, the piece was designed to instil fear in the minds of those who have loved ones in Japan such as search and rescue personnel, Air New Zealand flight crew plus the 6000 New Zealanders that may be in the country along with those who have Japanese friends.”
In his latest message, Fyfe said given the news agenda ”there was no shortage of drama, instability and human suffering to choose from”.
”Yet, as much as the media coverage is dominated by all this doom and gloom, it continues to be the resilience of the human spirit that stands out for me in all this coverage.”
Fyfe said he spent most of the week ”as a lone voice in wanting people to take a fact-based, rational approach to the issues facing Japan, it is with some relief to see an increasing number of international agencies coming out with more realistic assessments of the nuclear situation and media coverage becoming less sensational and exaggerated”.
He told his staff that the International Atomic Energy Agency, World Health Organisation and the International Civil Aviation Organisation had declared that international flight and maritime operations could continue normally.
So far not a single person has died at or near the power station yet up to 20,000 have been killed as a result of the tsunami. Rob Fyfe is right in pointing out whereÂ theÂ real humanitarian catastrophe lies.
Since the awful earthquake and terrible tsunami the media haveÂ largelyÂ ignored the thousands of deaths insteadÂ focussingÂ on a small power plantÂ whereÂ not a single person has died, nor will a single person has died. Predictably too the green eco-fascists who foisted global warming upon us all and carbon taxes are now railing against the very technology that produces the least greenhouse gases, has killed far less than any otherÂ powerÂ generatingÂ technologyÂ and ironically is the greenest source of power there is by their rules.
While they posture against Nuclear power stations they forget that more people have died in Ted Kennedy’s car than in American nuclear accidents. We have also seen the more stupidÂ amongstÂ our MPs rail against nuclear power. i just hope they never get cancer and need a bit ofÂ nuclearÂ medicine to put them right. Funny thing is though they protest against nuclear power but not a single one of them has come outÂ againstÂ the building of new cyclotrons in New Zealand.
We need to get some perspective rather than rely on mis-informed headline writers of the mainstream media. The BBC fortunately has a great article about the imagined risks of Fukushima compared with real risks that exist already.
The apocalyptic visions of destruction brought by the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami have been largely replaced in the media this week by reports of the struggle to control radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.
This provides a gripping narrative – a brave team battling to contain the threat, warnings of catastrophe and claims of incompetence, families desperate to protect their children and leave the area.
But perhaps the media coverage tells us more about ourselves than it does about the threat of radiation.
Psychologists have spent years identifying the factors that lead to increased feelings of risk and vulnerability – and escaped radiation from nuclear plants ticks all the boxes.
It is an invisible hazard, mysterious and not understood, associated with dire consequences such as cancer and birth defects. It feels unnatural.
Ohhh scary…the MSM even used the word fallout multiple times in their scare-mongering stories.Meanwhile we all, well not all, remainÂ obliviousÂ to the risks of just living in our naturalÂ environmentÂ from radiation.Â RadiationÂ that doesn’t come from broken power stations. Radiation that seeps from the ground naturally.
In contrast, few in the west of England seem concerned at the natural radiation they are exposed to from the earth in the form of the gas radon, even though it is estimated to lead to more than 1,000 cancer deaths a year in this country.
But if radiation comes from an accident and has been imposed on us unwillingly, we feel we can’t control it or avoid it.
It is therefore not surprising that the psychological effects of man-made and unintended radiation exposure, or even its possibility, are strong.
So in the UK alone more than a 1000 people die of cancer from Radon. What about the deaths from 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl, Nagasaki and Hiroshima?
It has been estimated that 17 million were exposed to significant radiation after Chernobyl and nearly 2,000 people have since developed thyroid cancer having consumed contaminated food and milk as children.
This is very serious, but nothing like the impact that had been expected, and a UN reportÂ identified psychological problems as the major consequence for health.
The perception of the extreme risk of radiation exposure is also somewhat contradicted by the experience of 87,000 survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who have been followed up for their whole lives.
By 1992, over 40,000 had died, but it has been estimated that only 690 of those deaths were due to the radiation. Again, the psychological effects were major.
Riiiight….so we have zero deaths in 3 Mile Island, less than 50 deaths so far in Chernobyl but not likely to exceed 3000 and only 690 of the 87,000 survivors of Hirshima and Nagasaki have died due to radiation. Are we getting any perspective yet?
Radiation does, however, feel acceptable when used in benign circumstances such as medical imaging. You can pay ÂŁ100 ($160) and get a whole-body CT scan as part of a medical check-up, but it can deliver youÂ a dose equivalent to being 1.5 miles from the centre of the Hiroshima explosion.
Because more than 70 million CT scans are carried out each year, the US National Cancer Institute has estimated that 29,000 Americans will get cancer as a result of the CT scans they received in 2007 alone.
Oh dear. You have more chance of dying from radiation as a result of medical treatment than you do living next door to a nuclear power station. Great. Where areÂ theÂ politicians rushing to shut dow those killing CT scanners?
So based on evidence rather than emotion it would seem the headline writers have scared a good proportion of the population for something that they shouldn’t be scared of.
Michael Hanlon, the Science Editor of the Daily Mail goes even further. He suggests thatÂ “what has happened in Japan should in fact be seen as a massive endorsement of nuclear power“. He isn’t wrong either.
Anyone reading the oceans of coverage given to the Japanese catastrophe could be forgiven for thinking that the biggest story, among all the terrible, terrifying heart-rending stories that have emerged in the last week, is that of the impending nuclear apocalypse, invocations of Chernobyl; the ultimate atomic nightmare.
Radiation levels are said to be rising, a nervous Tokyo looks to the northern skies and waits.
There is frantic talk of melting fuel-rods, cooling tanks boiling dry, of American warships edging back from the coast fearful of a few stray Becquerels drifting their way, helicopters dousing the errant reactors with seawater in a last-ditch attempt to avert catastrophe.
Yes, anyone else noticed?
But this concentration on the nuclear angle is overstated, a peculiar misreading of the real situation. It illustrates a perverse desire to ignore what is by far and away the biggest real story here – the thousands, most probably tens of thousands, of Japanese people who have been drowned, crushed, entombed in mud, burned alive and swept away by that black tide of death that came sweeping through towns like Sendai and Minamisanriku last Friday afternoon.
The real story is of whole communities literally sluiced away, families shattered, economies ruined. This is, truly, a disaster on a biblical scale, a true apocalypse not the hysterical nuclear-version alluded to by, among others, Gunther Oetinger of the European Commission (who is talking of an âapocalypseâ), the French government (which has told its nationals to evacuate Tokyo), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (who has put Germanyâs nuclear programme on hold) and many other people who should know better.
Our own government is included in the worry-worts and panic artists and they should hang their heads in shame.
Because the other real story, which is a much happier – yes happier – one, is how the Japanese nuclear plants have performed magnificently in the past few days despite being hit by a disaster vastly greater than they were designed to withstand.
What has happened in Japan should in fact be seen as a massive endorsement of nuclear power. But of course, people being what they are, it will not be.
Think about it: despite being faced with a Magnitude 9 Great Earthquake which knocked the whole island of Honshu several feet to the west, a 35ft tsunami and the complete breakdown of the infrastructure, a handful of rather ancient atomic reactors have remained largely intact and have released only tiny amounts of radiation.
There have been some dramatic explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, but casualties have been light; maybe a dozen blast-injuries and a handful of cases of suspected radiation sickness. And remember: thousands were killed by the tsunami.
And how many by issues at the power station? So far none!
As the tsunami and its victims are pushed off the front pages to be replaced by telephoto shots of sinister white buildings, hovering Chinooks and evocative explosion clouds, you could be forgiven for thinking that we are staring into the atomic abyss.
At a press conference at the Royal Institution on Tuesday, nuclear scientists speculated that indeed it could, that if the reactor cores could not be cooled then we could be looking at a rerun of the Three Mile Island disaster. And that, surely, would be terrible?
Well, not really. The accident at the eponymous nuclear plant in Pennsylvania took place on 29 March 1978. That day, a partial core meltdown in Reactor Core No 2 led to local then national panic. There was talk of a China Syndrome, the title of a schlock disaster movie released coincidentally that year which dealt with a reactor meltdown leading to a blob of molten nuclear fuel burning its way through the Earth to emerge on the other side (i.e, from the US to China).
In the end the meltdown was contained, and there was no breach of the reactor containment vessel and certainly no China Syndrome (which turns out to be a myth in any case).
As with Japan today, a small amount of radioactivity was released but this resulted in zero deaths and no measureable increase in illness. In fact, one epidemiological study concluded that the net effect of the worldâs second-worst nuclear accident was to give everyone living within 15 miles of the plant a radiation dose equivalent to one chest x-ray.
All right, so the official worst-case-scenario is a disaster which kills zero people, but these nuclear boffins can get it wrong, right? What would happen if Fukushima does a Chernobyl?
Yes OMG what about if Fukushima turns into another Chernobyl?
The thing is, even Chernobyl did not do a Chernobyl. This was, by far, the worst nuclear accident in history (a Category 7) and yet the most astonishing thing about Chernobyl is just how uncatastrophic even this mega-disaster turned out to be.
After the explosion, the world waited. For the cancers, for the gruesome birth defects, terrible radiation burns. Up until the mid-1990s, the generally accepted death toll (including that quoted by the Ukrainian Health Ministry) was in the region or 125,000. As time wore on, these figures plummeted.
In fact, 31 people were killed when the reactor blew – 28 from radiation exposure and three scalded to death by escaping steam. In addition, 134 people received high radiation doses and several dozen of these have subsequently died, although several of unrelated causes. A few hundred people, maybe a few thousand, may die prematurely in years to come, mostly from untreated thyroid cancers, but it is becoming clear that the original assessment was wildly pessimistic.
Yes, wildly pessimistic and horribly inaccurate. An awful like the repeating coming out of Fukushima.
As is the news coming from Japan.Â The cooling-system failures that have seen the Fukushima reactors go into near-meltdown are being addressed by the engineers on site. Seawater is being pumped in to dissipate the residual heat, helicopters are dousing the reactors from the air, and water is being blasted onto them from the ground.Â But if this does not work there is a risk that one or more of the cores will melt, possibly even escaping their concrete containers.
But, but the media says it is an apocalypse! What should we do? Well perhaps we should listen to the British Government experts rather than our silly government.
What then? How bad could it get? Well, Britainâs excellent Chief Scientist, Sir John Beddington, couldnât have explained it more clearly. This is what he said in a transcribed conversation with the British Embassy in Tokyo.
Iâll quote him in full because it summarises perfectly what is really going on in Japan:
‘If the Japanese fail to keep the reactors cool and fail to keep the pressure in the containment vessels at an appropriate level, you can get the dramatic word ‘meltdown’. But what does that actually mean?Â What a meltdown involves is [that] the basic reactor core melts, and as it melts, nuclear material will fall through to the floor of the container. There it will react with concrete and other materials. That is likelyâŠ remember this is the reasonable worst case, we donât think anything worse is going to happen.
‘In this reasonable worst case you get an explosion. You get some radioactive material going up to about 500 metres up into the air.Â Now, thatâs really serious, but itâs serious again for the local area.Â Itâs not serious for elsewhere âŠ if you then couple that with the worst possible weather situation i.e. prevailing weather taking radioactive material in the direction of Greater Tokyo and you had maybe rainfall which would bring the radioactive material down – do we have a problem?
‘The answer is unequivocally no. Absolutely no issue. The problems are within 30 km of the reactor.Â And to give you a flavour for that, when Chernobyl had a massive fire at the graphite core, material was going up not just 500 metres but to 30,000 feet.Â It was lasting not for the odd hour or so but lasted months, and that was putting nuclear radioactive material up into the upper atmosphere for a very long period of time.Â But even in the case of Chernobyl, the exclusion zone that they had was about 30 kilometres.
‘And in that exclusion zone, outside that, there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate people had problems from the radiation. The problems with Chernobyl were people were continuing to drink the water, continuing to eat vegetables and so on and that was where the problems came from. Thatâs not going to be the case here. So what I would really re-emphasise is that this is very problematic for the area and the immediate vicinity and one has to have concerns for the people working there. Beyond that 20 or 30 kilometres, itâs really not an issue for health.’
There you have it:Â the voice of reason. But this is not what you have been reading, and this is not what the politicians are saying. To reiterate: if you say at least 20 miles from the Fukushima Complex, even if all the reactors blow up, you will be fine.
Yes there you have it. But the Greenie wankers will have none of this. They want all nuclear power stations turned off because they are “unsafe”.
None of this will matter of course to a resurgent anti-nuclear movement. After Three Mile Island which killed â remember â no one at all, Americaâs nuclear industry was paralysed. This is set to happen again, on a larger scale, just when the world has woken up to the fact that to combat the twin evils of climate change and an impending energy crisis we are going to need a massive revival of fission power.
In a way, the speed with which the nuclear angle has come to dominate coverage of the Japanese catastrophe is understandable. The earthquake and tsunami could not be comprehended. Tales of survival will emerge but, in essence, the story of the great Black Wave is over. The towns are gone, the people are dead. We need to âmove the story onâ, to use the mediaâs dread parlance.
But the nuclear crisis is all too comprehensible, and on-going. Our fear of the rogue, effervescent atom, the invisible, DNA-mutating ultra-poison appears to be primordial. By concentrating on the atomic plants we make this story about the works of Man, not of Nature, and thus write ourselves back into the centre of a narrative in which we, in truth, have played merely the role of hapless and helpless bystanders and victims.Â Scaremongering and hubris; an unhappy combination.
The luddites can’t have it both ways. They can’t demand that we shut down Nuclear power plants without suggesting real alternatives, not ones that damage the environment more than nuclear power does, or ones that kill more people like the coal powered stations. If they want to tax us for emissions then they have to let us buildÂ emissionÂ free stations and so far the cleanest and safest of those is nuclear. Nothing else comes even close.