Recently by Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers: Earthquakes and the Nanny State Mentality
"…Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so…" — Bertrand Russell
Things have calmed down quite a bit concerning the nuclear accident at the Fukushima reactors. While it is going to take more time to completely control the situation, things are not getting worse, and they are much more stable than they were two weeks ago.
Maybe folks living in the West can be forgiven for thinking that the world is coming to an end, or that Japan has been destroyed completely, as the Western media is still having uncontrollable spasms that result in sensationalist and unfounded reporting. Just as it was with swine flu, bird flu, SARS, man-made global warming and Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" — there is a deadly crisis! Maybe not in the real world, but at least in the news room.
Think about it: One day you are told to fear for your very lives because of the nuclear melt-down. The next minute? Well, look at that! We’re bombing Libya! Looking at Yahoo News at the time of this writing, the nuclear accident at Fukushima is listed at #8 of the top nine news stories. For comparison, at #3 is the earth-shaking story that Cuba is giving the "okay" for farmers to have credit.
If the situation in Japan were so serious and so dangerous to you and your family's safety, and if our lives were coming to an end, do you actually believe that the mass media would be switching your attention so smoothly to bombing some lunatic in North Africa?
Of course, Western news media can get away with this. Attention spans in America are short.
Is this sudden switching of attention proof of ridiculous mass media induced tabloid sensationalism?
Some friends have started a Wiki Bad Journalism Wall of Shame in Japan, to take the ludicrous reports and reporters to task. I am proud to say that I volunteered to join their team. One of my favorite nods on the Wall of Shame goes to Germany's Bild Zeitung. One article was headlined “Atomic Horror!!!!” The picture on the front shows a person in a gas mask and protective suit. In the background, a devastated landscape. On first sight it looks like a nuclear desert, but it is a picture from the destruction caused by the Tsunami.
Incredibly, on the next page they ask: “And whats up with the sushi in the restaurants? Can we still eat it?" (emphasis mine)
Absurd. Readers of LRC should know already that everything the mainstream mass media says is to be taken with at least several large grains of salt. I've previously mentioned my Golden Rule about TV news: 80% of everything you see on TV is BS. The other 20% are commercials.
But this article is not about mass media sensationalism. This is about something that should make the American taxpayer extremely angry. I never thought I'd be using LRC as a sort of Wikileaks, but that's what this article is about.
I'd like to examine with you, dear reader, something concerning this mess that was completely due to US government officials' incompetence and dishonesty, that cost Japan a lot of money, and that contributed greatly to the panic. In addition, this example of US government criminal behavior cost you millions of dollars. It was all wasted due to American embassy officials in Japan making decisions in order to cover their butts.
This is a scandal. These supposedly responsible people need to be made accountable for their actions. Perhaps even lose their jobs.
How the Tokyo Panic Started Amongst US Citizens in Japan Despite the Evidence
An insider at the US Embassy in Tokyo wrote me the following comments about how the panic began in Tokyo for Americans. Since this person works there, on compound, it is understandable that he or she prefers not to be named. How does the old saying go? Something like: Hell hath no scorn like a politician who has been exposed as being a crook or incompetent.
"Mike, this might be old news to you, but some background you might be interested in. It concerns how and why these stupid voluntary evacuations got started amongst Americans in Japan.
"How some of the panic started despite the evidence. The US Ambassador to Japan chaired a Town Hall meeting on the 15th of March. It was poorly executed with little real information and uncomfortable disclosures such as weak contingency plans for evacuation (eg travel vouchers were indicated in the initial plan) and poor planning (eg they admitted a shortage of Potassium Iodate pills). People on The Compound (US embassy grounds) were nervous for good reason.
"The second Town Hall meeting on the 16th of March was much more successful. The Ambassador was able to confidently indicate there was no real danger for Tokyo residents even in a worst case scenario and this was backed with the qualified opinion of over 30 US nuclear disaster experts who had flown to Japan. Also, they announced installation of the Compound’s own radiation monitor which indicated levels were within very acceptable limits.
"However it did not help that during this time, the Political Minister Counselor Robert S. Luke made quiet arrangements for his family to be evacuated. Of course this leaked. His wife even posted it on her blog. Duh! Therefore many families felt that if the Lukes were evacuating, something must be up. And pressure on the Ambassador’s office increased accordingly. Hence, I believe, they caved with a voluntary evacuation plan for Embassy staff and dependents. And, since the Ambassador indicated a consistent policy for American citizens, this new offer.. needed to be extended to US civilians and military dependents…at cost (Embassy dependents fly free). What’s even more ridiculous was that the offer of voluntary evacuation was extended to employees at the US Consulate in Nagoya. Next on the list: Seoul, HK, Taipei, Canberra?
"Here is the official announcement from the US government. Please keep in mind my comments when reading this:"
US Embassy American Counselor Services (ACS).
From: American Embassy Tokyo [email@example.com] Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2011 3:02 PM To: Deleted Subject: Warden Message Japan
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo informs U.S. citizens in Japan who wish to depart that the Department of State is making arrangements to provide transportation to safehaven (sic) locations in Asia. This assistance will be provided on a reimbursable basis, as required by U.S. law. U.S. citizens who travel on US government-arranged transport will be expected to make their own onward travel plans from the safehaven (sic) location. Flights to evacuation points will begin departing Japan on Thursday, March 17. There will be a limited number of seats available on evacuation flights departing from Narita and Haneda airports on March 17. Priority will be given to persons with medical emergencies or severe medical conditions.
Persons interested in departing Japan via USG-chartered transportation should proceed to Narita and Haneda airports or contact the US Department of State and EmbassyJapan by sending an email to JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov or by calling 1-202-501-4444.
Please provide the following information:
Name, age, place of birth, U.S. passport number and any special medical needs.
Immediate family members (spouses and children) who are not U.S. citizens must be documented for entry into the safehaven (sic) country and/or U.S., if that is your final destination.
Frequently Asked Question (sic)
I'm ready to go. What do I do?
Documented U.S. citizens may proceed to Haneda or Narita airport as of Thursday, March 17 at 6:00 pm.
My child is a U.S. citizen. Can my whole family be evacuated?
A U.S. citizen child may be escorted by one adult, preferably a parent, who has appropriate travel documents. If a family has more than one U.S. citizen child, the one-adult rule still applies.
Do I need a U.S. passport?
All U.S. citizen travelers and their spouses and children, are required to have valid travel documents. The U.S. Embassy in Japan will assist U.S. citizens with travel documents. U.S. citizens who do not hold a valid U.S. passport or visa and are interested in departing Japan via USG-chartered transportation should contact the USDepartment of State and Embassy Japan by sending an email to JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov or by calling 1-202-501-4444.
What do I do if my child is a U.S. citizen, but hasn't yet been documented?
Contact the U.S. Embassy in Japan. U.S. citizens who do not hold a valid U.S. passport or visa interested in departing Japan via USG-chartered transportation should contact the U.S. Department of State and Embassy Japan by sending an email to JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov or by calling 1-202-501-4444.
My family members aren't U.S. citizens. Can they travel with me?
The scheduled evacuation flights will transport U.S. citizens and their immediate family members. Immediate family members — defined as spouses and children — who are not U.S. citizens will be required to have travel documentation that will permit their entry into the safe haven destinations. At this time, flights are expected to travel to Seoul, Republic of Korea and Taipei, Taiwan. Safe haven destinations may change. U.S. citizens requesting evacuation will not be able to select their safe haven destinations.
Will you fly me to the United States?
Our goal is to get people to a safe place, where they can make their own onward travel arrangements. Travelers will be responsible for their own onward travel arrangements and accommodations in the safe haven city. Consular officers will provide travelers with information on airlines and hotels.
What should I bring?
Travelers should bring valid travel documents and any necessary medications.
Each traveler may bring one suitcase and a small personal carry-on item.
U.S. citizens seeking evacuation should be prepared for a substantial wait at the airport. Travelers are advised to bring food, water, diapers and other necessary toiletries with them to the airport.
What about my pets?
Evacuation flights will not be able to accommodate pets.
Do I have to pay for the flight?
U.S. citizens requesting evacuation will be asked to sign paperwork promising to reimburse the U.S. Government for flight costs at a later date. Exact flight costs are not yet available, but should be comparable to a one-way commercial flight from Japan to the safehaven (sic) location.
How do I get to the airport?
Public transport to include taxis is still operating in Japan.
My inside source tells me that the evacuation was a flop and merely wound up costing the US taxpayer millions of dollars. An acquaintance who was once CEO of an international airline tells me that to fly a 747 from Japan to California costs an airline somewhere in the neighborhood of USD 500,000. My source continues:
"As I indicated, if you are rational, this offer is unnecessary. ETA as it turned out, on the second day of voluntary evacuations (free for Embassy staff and dependents in Tokyo and of all places… Nagoya; up to $3000 per person for civilians and military …can you guess who made the rules?) there were three Boeing 747s… one had only 8 passengers which outnumbered the crew. At least one flew empty. Your tax dollars at work.
"PS: Also as I indicated, the offer of Potassium Iodide pills to civilians … for US citizens ONLY. Not Japanese dependents or family (unlike the policy indicated by the British and the fleeing French). They are NOT posting in their ACS messages or on their website and the Embassy operator is discouraging people from taking up the offer if they call the mainline for more information (03) 3224 5000. The pick-up times are very convenient for US Embassy staffers — Mon–Friday 0900–1700 at the New Sanno Hotel. No weekends. And, they have indicated they might discontinue it Monday. My guess is that they do not have enough. On March 15th the Ambassador confessed there was not enough for Embassy staffers so not surprised. Another reason for keeping the publicity down on this … it directly contradicts John V Roos’ March 13th statement that there would be “no double standard” for Embassy staff and US citizens."
There seem to be many people on the US Embassy compound who are unhappy with the situation. Another insider confirms the story above:
"You can easily confirm the story on the Luke’s (secret evacuation plans) with nearly anyone on the Compound.
"The whole KI pill issue is being handled very poorly. Anyways, I don’t think it is necessary — and has the probability of doing more harm than good if a few people down them unnecessarily. Regardless if you consider that many long-term American expats who live in Japan are married to Japanese nationals, restricting distribution to US citizens to civilians who want these pills is an idiotic and discriminatory policy. Especially when dependents of Embassy employees — regardless of nationality — were provided with not just KI pills but also free voluntary — albeit crap — evacuation flights to Taipei/Seoul. They also charged US military which really makes you wonder. The US government is even charging evacuees from Northern Japan for the bus rides from Sendai. u2018No double standard'?"
My second informer ends his commentary with a statement along the lines of wanting the US Ambassador to Japan to smooch his derriere. It must be wonderful to be such a respected leader that your subordinates speak so highly of you behind your back. S/he precisely cuts to the chase as to why this behavior demands that America's representatives in Japan be disciplined, punished or fired.
"I have many friends and acquaintances in large corporations and government offices, and they all say that not one of their Japanese bosses fled in panic and left the rest to their fate. Do you know why?
One of the Japanese words for an executive, manager or other person in charge is ‘sekininsha’, which literally means ‘responsible person’. These people are not just responsible for their workplaces and the people below them during fair weather; when the sh*t hits the fan, they are also expected to step up and take responsibility. That is to say, "leaders" are expected to "lead". In contrast, the actions of (these) people are nothing short of disgraceful."
I will say that I agree with these remarks. US Embassy leadership panicked and committed crimes that cost the US taxpayer millions of dollars. Not to mention the damage that can't even be counted due to the panic they helped create.
I think that these people, specifically the US Ambassador to Japan John V Roos, and Political Minister Counselor Robert S. Luke, must take responsibility and pay the penalty for their actions.
What do you think?
This article was edited by Jeremy Irwin
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He is the president of an Internet & Cross Media advertising/marketing agency and a media production company named Universal Vision. He writes about marketing, the Internet and Social Media at the Modern Marketing Japan blog. His book, Schizophrenic in Japan, went on sale in 2005.