What on earth is he on about?

This month’s Just Be Cause is all rather complex and confusing, starting with the cartoon that seems to picture Uncle Sam giving Hans a hand job under the tablecloth. One thing I noted in particular was that this month he is not using “we Japanese” – I suspect it his rhetorical device when giving advice to Japanese; this time it features none.

For example, Japan’s pundits have already begun arguing that Japan’s disappointing performance in the World Cup in Brazil was partly down to the fallacy that Japanese bodies are smaller and weaker than those of foreigners.

Which pundits? Did the National Association of Pundits have a get-together and vote on this as this year’s excuse? Or was he just not following the football but wildly guessing that that would be a talking point? Although I didn’t follow the punditry in any depth, the only time I remember height being mentioned was regarding the 190+ cm Greek attacker. Most of the reasons I heard have been regarding a lack of finishers and a lack of pride in the uniform.

The West has largely moved on from this dangerous bunkum, thanks to the “master race” excesses of World War II and Nazi Germany’s Final Solution.

That sounds distinctly strange (and probably all wrong timeline-wise) to me!

[Regarding inferiority complexes] So instead you get isolation, loneliness, anxiety and scant sense of belonging. (I’m sure you long-termers who feel unrecognized for all your efforts to “fit in to Japan” can relate to this.)

Did he just say that Jim Di Griz and other (assuming there are any other) Japan-resident posters on Debito.org have inferiority complexes, and by implication most of the Japologists are probably free from any sense of inferiority? For once I can agree with him!

This “tradition” of ranking oneself in comparison with others, particularly in terms of degrees of civilization, has become ingrained as cultural habit and reflex.

Is this supposed to be a unique-to-Japan trait? Doesn’t much of the West see democracies as superior to the governments in many other parts of the world?

Rather, the default reflex is to see them in terms of comparative national development and civilization.

Really?

For if acceptance, recognition and superlative praise of Japan as a safe, peaceful, developed country are not forthcoming from the outsider, insult and anger almost inevitably ensue. 

I think Mr Arudou has been taken in by Jim Di Griz’ trolling.

Japan Times used to be Gaijin Dame

Oh, how the times have (and the Times has) changed!

The [Japan Times] newspaper deemed the word — the shortened version of gaikokujin (“foreign-country person”) — as “too derogatory,” he says,

Bleedin’ (nosed) straw men

Japan Focus never ceases to amaze me with the quality of their articles, with this one on the Oishinbo controversy being a non-stop parade of straw men. The executive summary is that we can’t be sure, so FOOKOOSHIMAR!

The controversy, centered on the issue of the main character suffering nose bleed after a visit to the plant, and another character modeled on the former Futaba Mayor, warning people against living in the prefecture.

Curiously, this most important point is not addressed; are we to take the author’s silence as agreement?

Essentially there are two views. One is “denial of the fact” that many people have experienced nose bleeding after the Fukushima incident, with the assertion that nose bleeding cannot be caused by the radiation emitted from Fukushima Dai-ichi. The other view is that it is reasonable that the nose bleeding observed among the people of Fukushima prefecture and surrounding areas including Tokyo could be caused by radiation, as suggested in the comic.

Just two views? It is reasonable that nosebleeds in Tokyo could be caused by radiation? Of course, they “could” be caused by a wide variety of things, but the point of science is to try to uncover the truth by examining whether observations fit a hypothesis, not spreading doubt for the sake of it.

The fact is that no scientifically definitive proof has been found for the cause-effect relationship in the case of nose bleeding.

Good, so that’s the article finished then?

No serious studies have been conducted on this issue.

Perhaps because there isn’t a serious hypothesis?

The question is then whether the scientific arguments “against” causality are more reasonable than the arguments “for” causality or the reverse.

Nope, it’s whichever is backed by more evidence.

If the former (against) is reasonable, and is very likely based on the best human knowledge available, it would suggest that it is not necessary to worry about the entire issue of radiation effects on living organisms at current levels.

Oh, for goodness sake! A towering giant of a straw man!

They deny categorically the facts depicted in the comic.

(My emphasis) No bias here from the author!

The incident suggests the desperation of the government and the industry to suppress the facts concerning the danger of radiation.

He’s still remaining quite neutral.

However, it is to be recognized that the damages caused by radiation are indeed more serious than rumors such as these.

By whom? Is he saying Fukushima radiation is even worse than nosebleeds?

Unfortunately, precise, accurate and detailed data are non-existent or have been hidden from public scrutiny.

SafeCast.

This indicates that nose bleeding incidence was significantly higher (by 3 to 4 times) in towns close to Fukushima Dai-ichi compared to that in a place far from it. Other symptoms including headache, dizziness, nausea and fatigue were also high among people living in Futaba-machi.

OK, so we have an observation – what scientific reason is there for it? “The radiations did it” is not one. If I were from any town along the Tohoku Pacific coast having had my home destroyed, perhaps some relatives died, and living in a Portacabin, I suspect I would have many of these symptoms. This has been well-documented, with alcohol abuse being a serious problem, as it was in Chernobyl. 

The government is of the opinion that these [thyroid] cancers have nothing to do with radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident.

The incidence of thyroid anomalies in Fukushima is a concern, and ongoing real science will uncover the reason, I hope. Furthermore, it is not just the government that is of that opinion, many of the doctors involved also believe that it is the Screening Effect they are witnessing.

How low is the radiation level in Fukushima? This question cannot be answered immediately.

Yes it can.

How is Sv defined? Exposure dose of who? How is Sv determined, and how meaningful is the Sv value thus determined?

I think the author is just spewing out questions. All these questions have quite simple answers, but a “Think of the children!” cry attracts more ears than cold scientific fact, sadly.

A number of organizations as well as individuals have measured radiation in various locations.

I thought he just said “precise, accurate and detailed data” was non-existent? I suspect his come-back might be “Not precise enough!”

It shows that more than 40 kBq/m2 has been deposited over the area about 300 km from Fukushima Dai-ichi; this includes Tokyo.

That sounds like a big number (which is probably why he used it), but converting to mSv, it comes to somewhere in the order of 0.5 mSv per year, and most of that decayed or was washed away pretty quickly.

Common sense indicates that “internal” exposure is more serious than “external exposure”

We’re talking science, not common sense.

“NO, it is Not Caused by Radiation” – Mistaken Reasoning

Now we will try to see how reasonable or unreasonable the “NO” answers are.

This is where it gets fun.

nose bleeding can only be induced by damage to platelets produced in bone marrow. Damage to platelets can be brought about only by severe destruction of the bone marrow. Destruction would occur only at a high exposure dose, something like more than 2 Sv. Therefore, the current level of exposure, i.e., less than 20 mSv, would definitely not cause nose bleeding

This argument comes from a K Noguchi, who was published in the Oishinbo manga magazine. I have no idea who he is.

Besides, this argument entirely ignores a possibility that a minute radioactive particle may get into the nose through breathing and stick to the surface of the capillary vessel in the nose. The radioactive particle emits a, b or g rays (depending on the radioactive isotopes contained therein) in the surroundings and may destroy the membrane of the blood vessel. In this situation, a and b as well as g can cause damage to the tissue. How large this damaging effect is on the capillary membrane is yet to be studied, but it is likely possible9. However, to prove it scientifically may not be easy.

I have no idea about the validity of this argument, but it seems wonky to me. Looking at the reference, the argument is proposed by a Ochiai, E., none other than the author of this article.

Another “NO” answer depends on the notion that the damage causing nose bleeding is due to active oxygen produced as a result of radiation from the radioactive particle stuck to the surface of the capillary [...] The argument includes certain quantitative calculations which themselves may be reasonable, though the assumptions are wrong.

They can be found on this random blog.

Anyway, the basis for the argument of denial is flawed, and hence its conclusion that the current low level would not cause nose bleeding is questionable.

Apparently the rebutter ignored hydroxyl free radical, thus s/he is wrong. However, the nasal demons theory is accepted as fact, but if it were true, wouldn’t there also be lots of cases of lung damage? Is there any evidence of this?

“Stress caused by fear of radiation effect rather than radiation itself is the cause.” This idea was first expressed by the Soviet government right after the Chernobyl incident.

It’s all a communist plot!

In order to absolve themselves of responsibility for the consequences of the disaster, particularly the ill health effects on people, they invented this excuse.

Err, nope, there’s studies from both Chernobyl and Fukushima on this.

This opinion is difficult to debunk but also difficult to prove. To prove it scientifically it would be necessary to start with defining “stress, what kind of stress, its causes, its seriousnes etc” and then see how it affects people’s health, and determine causality.

Unlike Mr Ochiai’s radical nasal demons, which are a scientific fact.

Yet, the so-called authorities are making many baseless arguments

Now, now, your biases are showing just a little too much!

“Yes, it could be Caused by Radiation” – some Scientific Reasoning

The argument for the causal relationship between nose bleeding and low-level radiation is based on a reasonable assumption that minute floating radioactive particles might enter a nose and stick on the surface of the capillaries. [...] There is again not enough data to verify this hypothesis.

…but let us assume it is true. Scientific Reasoning indeed!

It has been argued, however, that the trade deficit has increased because Japan has to import more petroleum and natural gas, as a result of shutdown of nuclear powers. Yet the main reason for the trade deficit is not increased imports of energy sources, but lowering the exchange rate of Japanese “yen”. 

The reference for this is an anti-nuclear blog.

Moreover, nuclear power reactors are inefficient in using nuclear energy. They convert only about one third of the energy produced by the reactor into electricity, and the remaining two thirds of heat is released into the environment.

As does fossil fuels. Here the 10,000 figure represents about 30-40% efficiency, and the lower the more efficient. Furthermore, steam turbines, due to Carnot’s Efficiency Law, can never be more than 40% efficient!

More scientific errors from the Japan Times

In an article entitled “Food not checked for radiation poses risk in Fukushima: study“, we once again see a couple of errors in the Japan Times’ reporting.

Researchers followed nine people, who were the only ones out of 30,622 examinees from the city to have internal cesium-137 levels greater than 50 becquerels per kilogram in screenings between March 11, 2012, and March 10, 2013. That’s roughly equal to 0.1 to 0.2 millisieverts per year.

That’s pretty impressively reassuring figures – only 0.03% of the tested population coming up “hot”!

Cesium-137 levels among the nine participants ranged from 3,230 to 15,918 becquerels per body, which corresponds to between 0.07 to 0.53 millisieverts per year

I’m not quite sure why 50 becquerels per kilogram was 0.1 to 0.2 millisievers per year in the first quote, but now 0.07 in the second. Furthermore, the report says the figures were calculated as 0.14 to 0.97 mSv/year, although that figure combined both Cs-134 and Cs-137.

Finally, the introduction to the report itself says:

Accordingly, serious health threats have emerged in radiation-contaminated areas after nuclear accidents such as the Chernobyl accident [2], and similarly, cumulative radiation exposure is currently a serious public health concern in Fukushima [3].

Looking at the two references here, both are not, as the casual reader might suspect, related to contamination, but instead appear to focus on the mental health of people from the worry about radiation. They seem to be odd references to me.

Ugg, sore head

First, I wrote an article about Gregory Clark’s denial of the Nanking Tiananmen Square Massacre – it was all a British plot, and the protesters started it, and it wasn’t in Tiananmen Square anyway, but then my browser crashed and the article disappeared.

Next, Just Be Cause is out, but I’m baffled. Is 者 really an honorific? Why does only one gloss of 移民 have a (sensitive) tag in Jim Breen’s dictionary? This PDF says there were about 100,000 people on trainee visas in 2008. Dr Arudou states that there are “dozens of deaths per year” amongst trainees, but this table gives, if we assume the trainees are 50:50 male and female in their twenties, an annual death rate of 0.5 in 1,000, or about four dozen people. One could argue about them having harsher working conditions so an increased death rate versus having less opportunity to get in accidents due to drinking and/or driving, but I think we’d remain in the same order of magnitude for these figures.

Should I really give Vice a link to their stupid Fookooshimar nonsense

I’ll put a nofollow on this link where we see that an anti-nuclear activist (Ms Takenouchi) said a pro-nuclear (well, I’m not sure of their exact stance, but to most Fookooshimars, anything not death-filled is pro-) activist (Ms Ando) was “host[ing] human experiments in Fukushima“, so Ms Ando decided to talk to the police about the defamation. Cue much outrage about censorship, victimisation, etc, etc. I’m also reminded (but let’s not go there) that the writers credited for this article have been involved in a similar situation…

Anyway, Ms Ando represents an NPO that according to the article:

Fukushima Ethos encourages residents to continue living in contaminated areas as long as decontamination procedures and radiation measurements continue to be done.

No biases there from the journalist. If you’d rather read the NPO’s own statement of policies, it is here. Some legal expert or other said:

If all debates about nuclear energy in this country are going to become grounds for criminal investigations, freedom of speech will vanish.

Try not calling people human experimenters to avoid being grounds for investigation!

In Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom rankings for 2013, Japan fell to a new low of 59th place, due in part to the Special Secrets Act passed in the middle of the night in December, and “the ban imposed by the authorities on independent coverage of any topic related directly or indirectly to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.” 

I think we’ve previously criticised the RSF quotes here, and I don’t really see what the point in mentioning the middle of the night is, and if my memory serves me correctly, it was just after 9 pm. Can anyone else recall?

Today’s non-news: yet again, millions still not diagnosed as dead from Fukushima

A not-surprising article from Forbes on a UN report:

Increased rates of detection of [thyroid] nodules, cysts and cancers have been observed during the first round of screening; however, these are to be expected in view of the high detection efficiency [using modern high-efficiency ultrasonography]. Data from similar screening protocols in areas not affected by the accident imply that the apparent increased rates of detection among children in Fukushima Prefecture are unrelated to radiation exposure.

The comments, as ever, are :headdesk:

Why not solar “Top Sales” too?

One common argument against Shinzo Abe that I often hear is that he is off doing nuclear power station “top sales” all around the world, but instead should be selling renewables; even Friday’s News Station had the anchor making the same comment on his visit to Portugal.

Now, let’s not get bogged down on the “instead”, but ponder why he is not putting a similar effort into selling solar and wind technologies.

My opinion is that it is not really his responsibility; nuclear (like weapon sales, etc) is a government-level decision in the order of hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars that requires head-of-state level agreement, whereas solar is on the whole smaller-scale projects, even if the sum total might exceed nuclear for a given country. Therefore, it is METI-level (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) support that is needed for such sales, not Abe-level.

I’m sure I saw figures somewhere recently that said the growth of investment in solar was highest in Japan, but while searching I found Singapore investing $500 million, GE $100-200 million, and First Solar another $100 million, so now I am totally confused.

Can someone help me understand?

Woo-hoo, the apologists are doing rather well!

As pointed out by the too-difficult-to-spell-flower sniffer, Mr Arudou featured in a recent Asahi article. A few things caught my eye:

The owner, who received a phone call saying the sign was inappropriate, showed a new sign that will be displayed at the entrance. It says, “Japanese Language Only.”

Or indeed “In Appropriate”, and the casual reader might come to think that it was the person who did the phoning that was responsible for the changed sign, but Gimmieaflakeman knows better.

Arudou said he found more than 50 examples from around Japan of signs saying “Japanese Only” or “Foreigners are not allowed.”

[...]

 Half of the owners refused his request to take down their signs.

So, there are more than 25 “active” signs (that he is aware of), or on average less than one per prefecture, and this is what he is basing his dissertation on. On the other hand, 40 neo-Nazi scumbags from just the Kanto area (I presume) congregated in Ikebukuro to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Hitler’s birth and he laughed them off, basically. When’s the last time a “Japanese Only” sign threatened to kick your head in? Seems like mixed up priorities to me.

A bar in Kobe displayed a sign that said “Japanese People Only,” but removed it after receiving advice from a stranger.

“A very kind individual told me that the sign was not appropriate,” said the 51-year-old owner.

Chalk that one up to the apologists too, this time Sora.

I saved the most problematic point for last:

Arudou, who wrote his doctoral dissertation about discrimination in Japan at the University of Hawaii

As far as I am aware, he wrote it while attending the East-West Center which is indeed located at the University of Hawaii, but the casual reader would assume that he was actually enrolled at the University of Hawaii. I’m sure it is just the journalist being a bit confused, as Mr Arudou has previously taken Mike Guest to task for “misrepresent[ing] his own academic credentials”, so I eagerly await Mr Arudou publishing a correction on his own web site at the very least.

Oops, it seems I was wrong on the above point. Sorry about that, folks.

We’re all apologists now

Forbes today posted quite a rant by Eamonn Fingleton with the click-bait title of “What’s Japan’s Guiltiest Secret?: (Hint) It’s Not The Comfort Women” and contents that wouldn’t look out of place on Japan Focus, in which he says:

As a practical matter, Tokyo wields a panoply of carrots and sticks in controlling what Japan-based foreigners say to the outside world and most long-term foreign residents are overt or covert agents for Japan’s public relations agenda.

Where’s my carrot? If there’s money or privilege to be had, I’ll turn my Japologising up to eleven, no questions asked. Used notes in brown paper bags will suffice, thank you very much.

There’s also a line that cuts quite close to the bone:

What is clear is that as most American and British correspondents in Tokyo don’t read Japanese, the Japan Times is the unstated source of many of their reports.

Did he also get an article rejected by the paper? There must be a juicy back-story to this rant!