A Message From A Japan

Tokyo neighborhoodHappy 4th of July!  I am going out to film my town’s parade.  First, I want to publish a series of emails I got from JM.  He wishes to remain anonymous.  He has many very interesting observations about  Japan and does a very good analysis about the differences between Japanese and American social and economic systems.  They are quite different and based on a different history.  As we salute our own revolution, we should learn from other people’s revolutions.  Both China and Japan have undergone a very intense series of revolutions since 1700 just like we have had several major revolutionary/reactionary cycles.

Tokyo neighborhood

JM’s neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan.  Here is JM’s email:

There are many things here that make life difficult, but on the other hand, make life much easier, some planned, some dictated by circumstances by accident. It seems very socialist to me.  Makes it very difficult to compare Japan and the US.


There is actually national health care here. What a concept. Due to focus on disease prevention (they have started to take waist measurements and warn you if your waist is say more than 34 inches), not eating too much meat, getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and getting a little exercise because you have to walk 10 minutes to the train station, you can expect, on average, to be fully functional until about 75 and live into your 80s.


Due to all this, Japan has one of the longest life durations per capita, on earth.  The US is behind a great number of nations, nearly all of whom have nationalized health insurance.  This sad fact is missed by many Americans who think, if they consume oodles of medical care thanks to having insurance, they will live long.  Since a huge, over 40 million+, number of Americans have NO health insurance, this makes our survival rates much lower.  And aside from that, it is amoral, it is a sin, to lock many, many millions out of the health care system just because they are unlucky.


Almost everyone is reimbursed for commute to work, by least expensive route, say bus and train, even if you work in a convenience store. Japanese people have told me that the idea is that everyone who wants to work should be able to work where they want without being deterred by the cost of the commute. At one firm I worked at, the limit for the reimbursement was 800 dollars per month, so a very few people commuted by bullet train from quite a distance away. More exactly, if you go to work 5 days a week, the company will reimburse you for the bus/train pass, which allows unlimited travel, so you can use the train pass to go shopping or do other things on weekends for free. My pass for a half hour commute each way, about 40 miles round trip, is 120 dollars per month.


This is why the public transportation systems work well and have continued to improve. All the trains are continuing in improve, and for example, the bullet train now uses one half the energy it did when it debuted 45 years ago. JR East, beginning with the Yamanote Line, is replacing all its trains with new regenerative braking trains that are lighter and roomier and use half the energy of the earlier models. Advertisements on the trains say it takes 1/10 the energy to go by train than by car.


This is a cultural subsidy of mass transit.  In the US, we give out tax subsidies so everyone is very alienated by mass transit and this hatred shines through, everywhere.  Our train service is as primitive as in many third world countries.  Even first class train service on the main commuter corridor in the Northeast is very stinky.  Our airports are mostly old fashioned and filled with intrusive searches conducted by often very angry people so flying stinks, too.  So people use private cars as much as humanly possible.  I love trains and it pisses me off, service is so lousy.  By the way, exit any train in any major hub like NYC and one has to first negotiate long, very black tunnels and stairs and escalators to reach the lobby.  In NYC, the lobby is intensely ugly.  In DC, it is airy and beautiful.  Guess where the funding comes from?  DC!


Which brings us to the biggest advantage: most people do not need a car here, and if they do need one, a household can get by with just one car.


Car sales in Japan have been fewer and fewer cars since 1990.  Today, fewer Japanese own or use cars than in 1984!  This statistic just floored me when I saw it at a Bank of Japan website.

I have long thought of cars as vampires sucking the economic life out of every household in the US. When I was living at home with my parents and brother, we had to have 4 cars to go to work because we were going to totally different places at completely different times… and this was in tiny Honolulu! I figured out that my entire salary was going just to maintaining the cars. So since I don’t have to have a car here, I look at it as my apartment is more or less free.


I didn’t have a car for many years in NYC.  I used my bike or public transportation.  Often, we walk very long distances.  This keeps one fit and trim, by the way.  On the subway, you get to observe all sorts of humans doing all sorts of things. I loved riding just so I could watch people.  All creative people like NYC for this reason: the streets are teeming with humanity and we are always really close, physically, to many people, all the time.

And the risk of death and serious injury from car accidents is about half what it is in the US (although the statistics may not be directly comparable). In 45 years, only one rider has been killed on the bullet train, and that was because he tried to stick his hand in the door too late and got the sleeve of his jacket caught in the door. While there are commuter train accidents from time to time, they are rare, and I think in Tokyo, the last passenger deaths were about a decade ago when a train derailed.


Since the auto fatalities in Japan are about 7,000 per year, whereas in the US they are around 40,000 per year with about double the population, I guess that if the Japanese drove as much as people in the US, there would be about another 10,000 auto fatalities per year here, so over the 20 years I have lived here, there are say 200,000 people walking around who wouldn’t otherwise be here. That trumps absolutely all other considerations.  I think it is telling that during the oil price spike last year, the US cut its gasoline consumption by about 5%, whereas in Japan, gasoline consumption was cut by 14%. I said, the Japanese cut their gasoline consumption by 14%… BECAUSE THE CAN.


Actually, the government is very intent on cutting energy consumption by the populace.  I use a Japanese water heater only because they have VERY EFFICIENT heaters.  I wish I could buy American but cannot since we have those really bad hot water heaters.  On demand tanks are also used in Europe, a lot.  I used to have an European one but it was half as efficient as the Japanese one.  The Japanese one is computerized.  I can set the temperature so that I don’t have to mix it with cold water.  This is where the big, big savings lie.


Gasoline taxes in Europe and Japan are very high. In the US, we actually had serious discussion of eliminating the tax when oil prices shot up!  This is pure insanity.  We are major, the major oil importers on earth.  It is destroying our trade balance!  It is extremely dangerous for the US to be doing this.  It is bankrupting America.  But what do we want?


Cheap oil so we can continue this!  Like cheap debt, cheap oil is very destructive.


Broadband, subsidized and incentivized, has been here for a decade. Around 1999, I picked up a Yahoo Broadband modem, filled out a form, brought it home, and plugged it in. 6 M/sec, 15 dollars a month. Cisco set up a research office here because they just could not understand how Yahoo Japan was cramming that much information down a standard telephone line (the modems are now up to 50 M/sec with some line work). Although I didn’t understand it at the time, the modem was converting my telephone calls into internet telephony, so calls to the US that were a dollar a minute by NTT were suddenly a flat 3 cents a minute. Around new year, I made a lot of phone calls, and was bracing for a thousand dollar phone bill… and then I realized that I hadn’t gotten an NTT bill in months… it was instead a 20 dollar charge tacked on to my credit card.


The US is not the world leader on the internet.  Almost all of Asia is miles ahead of us in this regard.  This is a significant failing.  Many in the US have to have ‘cable’ because this is the old system set into motion back in the 1970’s.  I get my internet service from the telephone line and at a pretty good clip but I pay $100 a month for professional service.  I wish it was $20.


The Japanese government has been panicking about the oil running out for more than a decade. I noticed Koizumi saying “global warming, global warming” over and over again, and mention of peak oil was conspicuous by its absence. That’s when I realized that when he was addressing the captains of industry, what he was really saying was “You idiots, the oil is running out, but I can’t say that! Get the energy use of everything down!”

2009/07/03 22:57 – Utilities To Build Smart Grid With Eye Toward Solar Future

-The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan said Friday that it will begin full-on development of a smart power grid able to accommodate widespread solar power generation, aiming for completion by 2020.

Building this grid will entail R&D on systems to predict solar panel output, power storage devices, and other technologies. The federation’s 10 utilities will collaborate on the effort.

Power industry experts say the current grid is unable to handle solar power output of more than 10 million kilowatts. This spring, the government decided to double its target for solar power output in 2020 from 14 million kilowatts to 28 million kilowatts. Anticipating a rapid expansion of solar power generation, the federation determined that Japan’s power infrastructure needs to be rebuilt.


The Hubbert Oil Peak is hard for many, many people to understand.  Most people think, it comes when there is NO oil.  Gads.  It is when there is the MOST oil being pumped.  The problem is, we have to change gears and build a low oil consumption system BEFORE Peak Oil, not AFTER.

Because broadband is widely available, the Japanese government went from wanting 10% of workers to telecommute at least some of the time, to wanting 20% to telecommute by next year, as a means of reducing energy consumption.


HAHAHA.  Here in the US, they said, ‘Telecommute!’  We did and they moved all the office and computer services…TO ASIA!  Everyone in Asia learns English.  Virtually no one in the US learns any Asian language.  So we have ‘one way trade’ in this field.  Anyone’s job that can be telecommuted has moved to Asia.  Japanese is a difficult language to learn and so few learn it.  So the Japanese office workers have little to nothing to fear.


Mitsubishi is advertising a split system heat pump air conditioner/heater that runs at about 6 cents per hour (and the electricity rate here is high, about 20 cents a kilowatt hour). My Sharp heat pump is 16 years old and runs for about 10 cents an hour. My total heating/cooling expense for a year is about 300 dollars.


There are so many efficient energy systems out there.  Virtually none are produced in the US due to us sucking down immense amounts of imported energy which is barely taxed (tariffs!) so it floods into the US.  And gives us the illusion, we don’t need efficient systems.  Since we develop none, we make tons of junk like SUVs, heating systems, refrigerators, etc, that are utterly inefficient and incapable of being exported to countries that tax energy very heavily (Europe and Asia).


There is a huge panic going on in the US about how bad the electricity grid is. I think there are estimates that unreliable electricity is costing the US 100 billion per year. In Tokyo, there has been only one major blackout in 20 years, and that affected only about a quarter of the city for half a day due to a crane snagging high tension wires. The only outages I have seen myself were when a construction crew accidentally severed a line (one hour) and when a fighter jet crashed into high tension wires (two hours). Quakes do not normally affect electricity, water, or telephone. Gas meters have automatic sensors that turn off gas supply, and then if it seems all clear after an hour, automatically reset. We sometimes have fairly big quakes every day for weeks on end… I’m not joking.


Seismic Monitor – 30 Day Earthquake ListPicture 9

The Gulf of California had a series of quakes at the very bottom end of the San Andreas fault system.  These were all at the very dangerous 10 km level.  They were between the 5.4 and 6.0 levels.  Then, on the heels of these quakes was a deeper, 43 km 6.0 quake in Panama!


The San Andreas has a long, long section that hasn’t shifted in over a century.  It is due to blow any minute.  California has strengthened its ludicrous  and pitiful earthquake protection systems but it is a million miles behind Japan in this regard!


THIS CAN BE EXTREMELY FATAL.  First, if the San Andreas blows, it can stop energy and water transmission systems over a huge area and all of this will cease feeding that energy sink hole, LA.  Saving many millions of people from disaster, with only toilet bowl or swimming pool water for drinking, will be a nightmare.


When a quake is detected by sensors, the sensors send signals to a central computer. The computer has models of 100,000 quake scenarios, and it matches the data to a scenario, estimating the surface shaking for each small grid square of Japan. If surface shaking in a particular location is predicted to exceed a certain level, the bullet trains automatically engage emergency braking. All city halls have automatic announcement systems that estimate the shaking and count down to the arrival of the primary wave at their particular location. Some residential condos also have this. I suppose it will become standard soon.


All US places like the Mississippi Valley and the entire West Coast should host Japanese earthquake systems experts!  The US should spend $0 bailing out the banks and spend the many billions in money we want for ‘jobs’ on creating a Japanese-style system.  This means, paying the Japanese to come here and explain their system and teach us how to do this.


You can get warnings of a few seconds or minutes depending on how far away the quake is. (After seeing the Kobe quake first hand, my solution was 1) buy earthquake ground shaking estimate map of Tokyo, 2) see closest station to downtown where risk drops substantially due to granite outcrop getting you off the alluvial plain. Estimates of shaking in downtown Tokyo is 10 times the estimated shaking where I live.) This is why I think it is so difficult to compare the situations. You cannot walk away from the mortgage. On the other hand, your commute is subsidize and you do not need a car, so it is as if the condo were free? Even though you cannot walk away from the mortgage, I suppose one could still declare bankruptcy. I know of a few people who have done that for credit card debt here.


America has this thing about home ownership.  In Europe as well as Japan, they have much more renting than owning.  As a former landlady, I assure you all, it is hard work, keeping up properties.  People who bought all sorts of properties to flip, all over the place, destroyed our real estate system.  Running a property in another state has a high overhead since you have to hire someone to care for it.  Most people who jumped into the real estate game didn’t realize this sad fact of life.


I had to worry about the plumbing, the roof and all systems including taxes and fees.  My tenants had to worry only about paying the rent which was set by law and leases and was unchanging over 2 year periods.  While my bills could suddenly shoot through the roof.  If the heating system failed, for example, I had to pay out of pocket expenses that were quite high.  The tenant’s rent didn’t pay a penny.  So rents had to be high enough for me to have a ‘repair’ fund which was at least 15% of each month’s rent!


I think the reason that the condo prices in Japan, and as a knock on, the rents, have suddenly deflated is….Real estate prices in Japan have gradually declined since the peak around 1990 by 80% or so on average. The decline has been gradual and steady and not really noticeable in everyday life. As I mentioned before, my rent has not changed in 16 years. However, it seems to me that there has been a sudden drop of about 20% or 30% in condo prices over the last 8 months, and that this is spilling over into rents, which seem to also be dropping by 20% to 30% over the same period, at least in my neighborhood.


I think the reason is that Japan is having a kind of subprime problem of its own that is just showing up now. Over the last decade in particular, everyone was bombarded with ads for condos for about 300,000 dollars, say 30 minutes out from the center of Tokyo. This certainly seemed reasonable at the time. A salaried employee typically received a salary of say 3,000 dollars a month. Then, twice a year, in summer and in winter, the employee received a bonus of 4,000 to 8,000 dollars. Many loans were therefore structured with monthly payments of 800 dollars a month, with additional payments of say 4,000 dollars at the time of the summer and the winter bonuses.  Now, however, bonuses are being cut drastically, sometimes to nothing. And of course, people are losing jobs.  People who took out loans may not be able to pay the lump sums due in the summer and winter, or anticipate not being able to make payments. If they fall 6 months behind, they can be foreclosed upon.


This is killing NYC real estate, too.  Many, many people in the finance business got bonuses.  These are smaller or gone or the jobs don’t exist anymore,  The real estate market in NYC has dropped by 50% compared to last year.  In California, it plunged to the basement.  This real estate contraction is GLOBAL.  No country can escape it.  This is because FINANCE IS GLOBAL.


By the way, the US laws are, if you are 1 month behind, you are screwed.  Two months, they begin eviction proceedings.  This is identical to lease laws!  This is why I say, if you owe to a bank here, you are really a tenant.


The only bonus you’ll get this summer is the sun | The Japan Times Online

“NHK illustrated this tendency on the program “Yudoki Network” with the story of a former taxi driver who received a notice from JHFA saying that since he was delinquent for six months he would have to pay the balance of his loan — more than ¥24 million for a ¥36 million condo he bought in 1998 — or the condo would be auctioned off. The man’s situation is worse than it sounds, because if his condo is repossessed, he still has to pay off his loan.”

“Japanese mortgages are recourse loans, meaning the borrower is still liable even after foreclosure. Depending on the state, most banks in America offer nonrecourse loans, which are secured by collateral, usually the property itself. Once they foreclose, the borrower’s debts are gone. If you default on a recourse loan, you’re messed up three times: you lose your home, you lose all the money you sunk into it, and you still have debt. Wait, make that four times — your credit rating is garbage.”


The US recently changed bankruptcy laws. So it is much harder to get rid of various debts.  Especially, school debts.

I do not agree with everything in the article. I think of course some of the construction is shoddy, but on the whole, the earthquake standards and hurricane standards are far higher than in the US. This is not necessarily visible to the untrained eye. When there is a typhoon, there may be flooding, but there is never whole splintered neighborhoods or trailer parks. I walked the length of Kobe three days after the big quake, and the damage ranged from total for old buildings to not a crack for newer buildings… not even the windows were cracked. The electricity, water, and telephone were working in much of the city.)


So I think what is happening is that a lot of used condos are coming on the market at cut-rate prices, builders of new condos are trying to sell off inventory in a panic in anticipation of a collapse in prices, renters are leaving rented apartments and buying cut-rate condos, driving rents down, and as the rents go down, there is less incentive to buy a condo or house. I think a lot of people who are renting are simply moving to comparable housing and getting a substantial reduction in rent by doing so.


In this way, all the rents can deflate quite quickly. In Japan, leases renew typically every 2 years, so I guess there will be a huge number of resets downward in rents over the next 2 years, if not sooner. Even though I just renewed, I am planning on asking for a rent reduction now, or am looking to move. The deflation is continuing, so it might actually be advantageous to wait a little while.


Many people I know, particularly westerners, have this fixed idea that paying rent is a waste of money. Clearly that is true in inflationary environments. In deflation, it is better to rent and ride the rent reductions down, especially if the deflation is sudden and extreme.  A week or so ago, it seems that a guy, around 45 years of age, threw himself out the window of an apartment building in the neighborhood. That is all I know.  If it had something to do with the economy… maybe he lost his job, maybe his company went bankrupt (many in this area have), maybe he could not pay his mortgage…


Japan has two related ills: lack of children, a tendency towards suicide.  This is a cultural problem that has been studiously ignored in Japan and only recently, addressed very much at all.  All governments have their weak spots.  This is Japan’s.  And it is literally life and death for the Japanese people to figure this out and stop it from getting worse.  They are a vanishing people.


What I would have said to him is this:  Money is just worthless pieces of paper. They print more and more when they feel the need, and they destroy them when they feel the need. In fact, they don’t even bother to do even that anymore… they just type a number into a computer and hit return… The only real thing is you. You are the only thing of value, the only thing of worth.  (If you insist on an actual reckoning, you were worth at least a million dollars in future productivity, if not much more. )


He must have been in a panic and depressed, but really, how have our values become so distorted that some of us forget how precious we are, and value objects, mere objects, above life itself? What we do in life echoes through Eternity, and I hope that in the time he was here he did good things.


Thank you for a wonderful, long commentary.  It was most enlightening.  We must learn from each other.  Each nation is different.  Each tries different solutions to problems that afflict us.  We can’t ignore problems unless we have a death wish.  All good people of all nations must band together so we can be happy, productive and learn from each other, how to arrange our private and public lives so we can do the best we can do.


This is a challenge!  We have to try our hardest to do whatever we can to prepare for a variety of futures.  This emphatically includes, doing the right thing for the children.  Our children are our future.  We can’t dump all our problems including a massive load of debt, on top of them and expect them to deal with it!  This really infuriates me.  We can’t cut taxes if we are spending more than we are taking in, just for one glaring example.

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P.O. BOX 483

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Make checks out to ‘Elaine Supkis’


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Filed under .money matters, Politics

41 responses to “A Message From A Japan

  1. CK

    Elaine benefits from free trade afterall!!!!! Japanese water heater indeed!!!! You should be subsidizing some merkin water heater maker with your hard earned dollars instead of rewarding a more efficient, lower cost, better engineered FOREIGNER’s product. Why if everyone in USA did that there would be no more domestic water heaters made ( and energy bills would be a whole lot lower for each of us ).

  2. emsnews

    The Japanese have laws outlawing inefficient heating units. We don’t have those laws so no one bothers making these water heaters. Alas.

  3. I think Japan should publically refute or not that those two individuals caught on the border with the bonds are citizens or not.

    If they are citizens, then I want to know who they are and who they are related to – in all ways.

    If they are not, I want proof.

    Plus, I want to know with whom the bonds are presently in hand. Who has the bonds now?

    I just bought a gas-powered water heater and it works fine. “State” was the name of the brand.

    Anyhow, the bonds….that story remains fresh….are we gonna all just agree that they were fakes?

    I want some PROOF.

    I think I can already prove that neutrons don’t exist, but who ever listens to what I have to say…….no matter.

    Biology – Kropotkin learned from Darwin and he knew better! Maybe Wallace did too. Probably. Darwin was anal!

  4. Furthermore and lastly – Eastern Women are the BEST!

    Just my opinion.

    California girls are near the bottom unless they start learning about what it means to be a Women.

    Dime a dozen.

  5. nah

    japan looks so modern oooooo… like NY or something… Happy 4th of July emsnews and the like… we need more mass transport investment cuz kizumi is rite peak oil cant be super far off 20yrs??? 50yrs??? and then what were going to drive transformers with wind power ‘thats a joke’… i like cars tho, but we cant wait for 0 point energy forever, the best of everything started as a plan
    2075 The US is a Giant Halfway house to the Future

  6. OK – being a halway house ain’t so bad.

    At least then you are halfway there.

    Oh crap, I said I wasn’t gonna post anymore.

    Guess time changes everything!


  7. halFway.

    OK – fingers slowinnngggggg down……

    fingers – go to sleep!


  8. Hi everyone! Happy Independence Day!

    And China is working its way toward independence from fossil fuels by construction wind and solar power stations out in the Gobi Desert. They have already nearly completely expolited their hyfro potential. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/03/business/energy-environment/03renew.html?hp

  9. “hyfro” = hydro :blush:

  10. CK

    Indeed Elaine, and what does some other nation’s laws have to do with your decision to support FREE TRADE when it benefits you?
    If we were to go by the suggestions you have made in other posts, the only logical thing to do would be to put import tariffs on those efficient Japanese heaters at such a level as to negate the savings one might accrue by purchasing one. Somewhere in the 100 to 300% range would probably do it.
    Thus the inefficient Merkin Water Heater Oligopoly would be “protected” from unfair competition by the wily orientals. The noive of dem rats using science and maths and intelligence to make a more efficient product than is made by Fine, Upstanding, Conservative, Kindly, Righteous Merkin Companies. I know; let’s blame the FarReaching Merkin Unions for the problem.
    Are there laws here in Merka prohibiting Merkin companies from making a better water heater?

  11. JSmith

    ” Since a huge, over 40 million+, number of Americans have NO health insurance, this makes our survival rates much lower.”

    That, and the lack of excercise, and the fast food.

    If you’ve sat on your ass in front of the TV scarfing Big Macs for the last 20 years… face it, there are things medical science can do for you but it’s hardly worth the cost.

  12. @Elaine: On a different subject: you may want to do an artivle on this development — US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner wants further internet restrictions under copyright laws. (Such as forbidding linking to a copyrighted source without its owner’s permission) This could literally KILL access to sites owned by the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, the Pentagon, the CIA, the IMF, the BIS, ect., etc., except to insiders and those who can pay onerous fees. UK Guardian article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/jul/01/richard-posner-copyright-linking-newspapers 😦

  13. “…when [Koiziumu] was addressing the captains of industry, what he was really saying was ‘You idiots, the oil is running out, but I can’t say that! Get the energy use of everything down!’ ”

    And the industry captains would get it! Here, we have absolutely no sense of the subtlety that gives Asians (among other peoples) such an advantage. Which is one reason why our business misleaders scream bloody murder whenever our DC politicians talk about global warming, they claim that the gooberment wants to put them out of business! And most of them in each group don’t believe in peak oil anyway — they probably think it’s some anti-Uhmurrican socialist plot. :-p

  14. payAttention

    ‘I get my internet service from the telephone line and at a pretty good clip but I pay $100 a month for professional service. I wish it was $20. ‘

    No doubt you enjoy Mother Goose rhymes, giving yourself the opportunity to showcase the ability to distill the deepest wisdom from the child and the folk. So in your honor..

    If wishes were horses, beggars would ride
    If turnips were swords, I’d wear one by my side
    If ifs and ands were pots and pans,
    There’d be no need for tinkers’ hands.

    ‘The Hubbert Oil Peak is hard for many, many people to understand.’

    It is a simple concept, however if you think you have special insight, then by all means.

    ‘This means, paying the Japanese to come here and explain their system and teach us how to do this. ‘

    Teach whom, the army of cubicle hero communication and marketing majors? The mba’s who did remedial calculus, if at all? The women’s studies and corporate anthropology progressives with a minor in the history of jazz and American culture? You wouldn’t stand for any rote learning, and neither should they.

    ‘As a former landlady..’ landlordess? Although since little land was involved, in contraindication to poverty, another characterization may be more accurate. Can you think of a synonym for landlord that would work better in underprivileged city environs?

    ‘They are a vanishing people.’ Really? There is 120 million Japanese and it is the most densely populated country in terms of population/arable land. Although you always prefer places where women are a uterus with a head attached for eating.

    If wishes were horses,
    Beggars would ride,
    If wishes were fishes,
    We’d all cast our lines.

  15. I see the WP is singing the the ‘rest of the world in worse shape than the US’ mantra.

    I would sure like to hear some reports of daily life conditions elsewhere such as Europe. i’ve seen no reports of tent cities outside the US.

  16. «Americans who think, if they consume oodles of medical care thanks to having insurance, they will live long. Since a huge, over 40 million+, number of Americans have NO health insurance, this makes our survival rates much lower. And aside from that, it is amoral, it is a sin, to lock many, many millions out of the health care system just because they are unlucky.»

    So you say, but probably a majority of Usians disagrees vehemently and reckons that LOSERS should be punished, instead of punishing WINNERS by confiscating their property for the healthcare of losers.

    Perhaps many Usians would accept the idea of healthcare for losers if this did not involve what they see as stealing their property; because their property rights to most Usians are more important than other people’s “right” to healthcare.

    To most Usians it is not just amoral but also criminal to steal property from winners to reward losers with free healthcare.

    While I find that despicably narrow minded, i am also disgusted by basing arguments for free healthcare in the USA on grounds of morality, because there is a lot of particularly squalid hypochrisy here:

    «it is amoral, it is a sin, to lock many, many millions out of the health care system just because they are unlucky.»

    But literally BILLIONS are locked out of the health care system “just because they are unlucky”. Afghan children have as much moral right to free healthcare are Texan children for example. Denying health care to an old sick Eritrean is as much of a sin as denying it to an old sick Oregonian.

    If the argument for taking the property of rich people to provide health care for the unlucky is a moral imperative, then that applies to the whole Earth, and given that the USA is the richest country on earth, all Usians should be taxed to provide free health care for the whole of the planet.

    The upper classes of the USA think that their right to their property is more important than a non existent “right” to free health care for either Afghan or Texan children, Eritrean or Oregonian elders. They also see advocates of confiscating their property for the benefit of Texan children or Oregonian seniors but not Aghan or Eritrean ones as proof that there is no morality involved, just a ravenous greed to “share the wealth” of producers and creators to the benefit of selfish moochers.

    I reckon that there are very good arguments for taxing the relatively richer people in the USA to provide health insurance for the relatively poorer people in the the USA, ignoring the far poorer and needier in the rest of the world, and these are not based on morality or sinfulness.

  17. payAttention

    Correct Blissex.. Dear Author inveighs mightily against the Hindus, the Israelis, the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka, the Tibetan Buddhists, the South American oligarchs for their colonization of the land of others. At the same time, Dear Author is ensconced on top of a mountain in an Eagle’s Eyrie on stolen land, while calling Native Americans ‘illegal aliens’. And this is all justified by some physical exertion and a nag against an arthritic shoulder, that may have been caused by said exertions. The immense sense of entitlement that Dear Author displays is a spit in the face to the uncountable millions who take hard toil as their daily bread, rather than a ticket to privilege and a license to nag.

  18. CK

    @Ed-M: So instead of linking to the pay for play WAPO or the corpse of the NYT, bloggers would link to news sources outside the legal boundries of the USA. Xinhua, Pravda, Trud, Al Jazeera, etc etc. No domestic linking is necessary today for one to obtain relevant news about the USA.
    Posner is not the sharpest fork in the legal drawer.

  19. CK

    About the health care debate, it strikes me that I have heard little regarding abortion. Will public pay include abortion on demand and other services of a sexual nature like birth control, condoms, impotency control, female abstinence education, etc?
    I also wonder what the new governmental standards for triage will be. Today triage is simply monetary. If you or your insurance company cannot or will not pay, you do not get. I assume that with governmental intervention, the standards will be more reasonable? Age, party membership, party donor status, mental infirmity, eye colour, mother’s last name. Certainly the USA would not ration health care on the basis of some “non-existent” construct like race.
    Of course with governmental control will come government mandates for improving life styles so as to reduce the demand for scarce medical resources, the easiest way to improve life styles is to guarantee that newborns are fit, hearty and suffer no genetic impediments. Did you know, that homosexuality has been associated with genetic markers? Now this poses a conundrum doesn’t it. In the USA, gays are more likely to be well to do, economically literate, and suffused with assets and resources, and by definition, they will not be contributing children to the population. The fantasy books the USA subscribes to are quite adamant about how to mistreat homosexuals; yet economically, homosexuals are good for business and very good for having assets that can be “acquired” to help pay for public option health insurance. Eugenics by government fiat, just like currency by fiat, both probably worse than Chryslers by Fiat.
    So to the various readers here, would you prefer it be a Bush family member or retainer or a Clinton family member or retainer deciding how health care resources are distributed and withheld?

  20. emsnews

    The philosophy of the upper classes of countries we call ‘third world’ is, no one has a right to live at all. Smart countries have various taxes, often on GASOLINE, to give all members of society simple health care. Usually, people can’t get rich if they are sickly. So the poor are very sickly and stay poor because of bad health while the rich get the best care on earth. So the poor die earlier and the rich get to have a much better life.

    And this causes a thing we call ‘social chaos.’ The rich have to then kill the poor in huge numbers in order to keep their ‘right’ to health care for only themselves while the poor try to kill the rich. See how wonderful this is.

  21. «The immense sense of entitlement that Dear Author displays is a spit in the face to the uncountable millions who take hard toil as their daily bread,»

    I don’t agree with that — the Dear Author seems animated by the best intentions towards the unlucky, just like many Usians she sometimes forgets that there is a whole world outside the USA, and that moral arguments apply to that as well.

    The same does not apply to many of the Usian winners that could not care less for losers either in the USA or anywhere, as their spite for the poor and unlucky knows no national boundaries.

    I prefer the Dear Author’s attitude to the latter, but I find it highly defective nonetheless. Because the argument for health care and subsidy for the poor and unlucky in the USA rests not so much on moral imperatives but on solid grounds of principle, pragmatism and even selfishness.

    The first principle is simple: no winner in the USA is or would be forced to have their property stolen for the sake of worthless losers. If a winner finds that bargain not of mutual advantage, he can choose to quit the country, freely, and take personal responsibility for finding a better bargain in another country.

  22. CK

    Evil Walmart has come out loudly in favour of public option health insurance. How delightfully droll is that? Largest employer of people who do not get health insurance is in favour. And the added mandate will of course fall proportionately harder on Walmart’s competitors than on Walmart. There is nothing so good as profitable morality.

  23. CK

    It’s going to take the creation of a few more doctors to supply health care and medical treatment to the 6 billion deserving souls.
    One might even wonder if the current policy of monopolistic supply restriction in regards to doctors is not part of the problem.
    It is all well and good to have a moral claim on health care, but if there is no one available to service the claim …
    Although sometimes I do wonder how someone elses existence is enough to impose an unearned moral claim on me. Their existence and superior fire power can allow their imposition on others.

  24. emsnews

    One very severe rule of thumb in life is very simple: we are competing with our competitors. The competitors who are eating us alive happen to have socialist systems. All already have or are striving to have socialist health care systems.

    Like our bloated military, our health care is hideously expensive and very inefficient and unfair. If someone gets sick and loses their job, are they supposed to DIE????

    Think of it! If anyone here imagines an employer will keep a sick person on the payroll, one who is costing them lots of money in rising health care overhead costs, they dump these people! And anyone can be ‘one of these people.’

    On top of it, insurance companies hate it if you have a sick child and will work hard to get rid of you as a customer, just for one glaring example.

    Survival of the fittest is fun until you become the prey being hunted down. The cruel thinking systems people devise to demand that the weak die was embodied by Herr Hitler. His very first victims were no Jews.

    They were the DISABLED and people in insane asylums.

  25. «Survival of the fittest is fun until you become the prey being hunted down.»

    But a lot of Usians are prepared to bet that they have enough money that they will never become prey. After all to be a good Usian you must think positively.
    I think that something like 60% of Usians think that they will become RICH (so called “aspirational” voters). For them social Darwinism means not wasting a cent on loser when they become winners. It is a very powerful vote driver.

    Of course then several thousand people recently discovered they were Madoff’s prey. Some of they have even had to find a job.

  26. Simon

    Europe and Japan have those extremely stringent energy efficiency standards because they have burnt most of their coal reserves
    It should not be seen as a strength but a weakness to be exploited

  27. @Simon–

    “[Coal depletion in Europe and Japan] should not be seen as a strength but a weakness to be exploited”

    Except here in the USofA, our coal resources are depleted as well and what has heretofore been viewed as a 400-years supply, isn’t. Most coal mining underground used to exploit 20-feet-thick coal seams. Now, 2-feet thick. And miners have to slither on their bellies to get the coal out. Hence, mountaintop removal. And the coal out in Montana and Wyoming? Well, it ain’t good quality anthracite, most of it is subbituminous and lignite. Both the latter two do not have the energy content per ton that anthracite does.

    If you want more ifo, google “peak coal” over at http://theoildrum.com/

  28. Simon

    Even taking into account of what you said we have an order of magnitude more than the Japanese and Europe combined

  29. emsnews

    We consume a tremendous amount more energy per capita and less of this is used for industrial production.

  30. Pingback: “Carta Estratégica de Lisboa”, um simulacro? « o Grande Estuário

  31. Simon

    It is quite plausible for us to develop more energy efficient homes
    Cars no, buildings, yes
    I see no way of Europe getting its energy for free, it has to come from the bear
    Similarly, Japan need these plutonium for heating
    Oh yes.

  32. Frozentundra

    For some time, I’ve believed that when a politician talks about the need to reduce carbon emissions and the threat of global warming, it’s code for “peak oil”; the threat that dare not speak it’s name.

    My other working theory is that the Japanese elite are secretly happy to have a shrinking population. It will make the post peak oil adjustment easier if the population diminishes naturally in line with energy resources.

  33. emsnews

    You could be right, Frozen Tundra.

  34. populations generally don’t appreciate diminishing……


    Come on.

    Are we talking about human beings here or what?

  35. on another message at another forum that I just read someone posultated that you could fit the entire world’s population in Rhode Island and I think I agree……but this is way off in the future.


  36. sorry – postulated.


    total off-topic aside: Did you know that if you want to know if a whole number is divisible by three all you need to do is add up the intergers. If the intergers are divisible by three then so is the number – I learned this at St. John Neuman elementary school in Buffalo, NY. I appreciate all the teachers that I learned from at that school….



  37. Frozentundra

    Dear Buffalo Ken,

    Over in the UK we’re told the whole population can fit onto the Isle of Wight; same difference.

    Populations may not appreciate diminishing if they’re told about it. Post shrinkage, life is good for the survivors; same resources, fewer mouths.

    It worked for Europe after the Black Death.

    Q Why is humanity more intelligent than yeast?

    A If dropped into a petri dish containing a limited food supply, the yeast population will expand exponentially until the last food is gone. Then suddenly they’ll notice and all die.

    Humanity wouldn’t be that stupid.

    The Chinese have worked this out with the one child policy; perhaps Japan is just being quieter. As for the rest of us, it’s growth without constraint, for ever.

  38. Frozentundra – indeed.

    The question I have asked “myself” regarding yeast is: are we smarter than yeast or not? I think we are going to find out soon because all signs suggest we are literally at the precipice. Hopefully, calmer minds prevail and true leadership emerges. Its not hard if “we” can throw off the shackles of demented already half-dead souls (zombie-minds) filled with hate for their brothers and sisters as well as for their own selves. Military wars create and foster such hate. I’m glad I have never had to fight is such a war because suppose it becomes so hard to hold onto your humanity.

    Anyhow, (and I suspect you already know this) “growth without contraint, for ever” is impossible. Limits are in place and always will be. Yeast might just eat up the food until it is gone and then go “dormant”, but I sure hope that is not our fate. Yeast is so variable and able to survive in so many environments that if a small batch of yeast has a growing frenzy (such as when one ferments a batch of wort to make beer), there remains other yeast all over the place after the carbohydrates are consumed.

    You could even say “humanity” has shown its ability to succeed by virtue of our dispersion throughout the globe. That is success up to a point. True success thereafter is sustaining the population – not diminishing it. Once sustainability is achieved, growth becomes feasible.

    In my opinion if we transition from “plundering and profiteering” to “taking care of our own environment for our own sakes”, then wonderful opportunities will manifest.

    I hope we are not nothing more than a “killer species” whose function is to trigger massive change for the sake of elevation. In the end, “killer species” go away, because life favor cooperation. Just an opinion……

    I will say this though I get very tired of listening to those who have convinced themselves that we are destined for exctinction because such thinking is self-fulfilling and shows incredible lack of creativity.


    * my wife is calling and I need to go on a walk so sorry for any typos inadvance…

  39. ha, ha, ….sorry.

    Two corrections:

    “I suppose…..” and

    “for the sake of EVOLUTION”

    gotta go…

  40. BigBen

    Elaine, can you give any names/data/sources for the Japanese water heaters you use? I havn’t seen anything like you describe here in Florida. Thanks

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