Japan

Capitol Hill riot now likened to Kristallnacht & Pearl Harbor

What is it with polarized politics that causes people to make comparisons using yardsticks which are completely unfathomable? So much so that it ends up trivializing major tragedies in the process.

After the despicable, but clumsy Capitol Hill riot, Senator Chuck Schumer compared it to a “day in infamy,” the very words FDR pronounced at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Seriously? Are a bunch of unorganized mugs overestimating their agency in anyway on a par with Imperial Japanese Navy fighter pilots killing thousands?

Now Trump-hating Arnold Schwarzenegger has made a video comparing the events of Jan 6, 2021 to Kristallnacht in 1938. Are a bunch of unorganized mugs overestimating their agency in anyway on a par with the 4 million strong Sturm Arbeitlung of Nazi Germany? Seriously?

We are surprised that Schwarzenegger or Schumer didn’t make mention of the 20+ lives lost during the BLM/Antifa protests which were ideologically more disturbing for the aggressive manner in which history has been erased. A far better example of groups who don’t care about democracy.

We were surprised they didn’t speak of all the decent law enforcement officers who were maligned, beaten and in some cases murdered, like retired police chief David Dorn.

We are surprised that they didn’t mention the thugs waiting out the front of the White House who physically assaulted people, including senators who were leaving a Trump rally. Precious little display of democracy there.

We wonder why Arnie couldn’t see how the original cause of protesting the death of George Floyd morphed into something that extended to punish, destroy, assault, murder, loot, burn and crush those that didn’t conform to the Marxist manifesto of BLM or any other grievance du jour? Just bash innocent people.

How could he have missed so many leading Democrats pushing to defund the police and encourage rioters? Incoming VP Kamala Harris said, “protestors should not let up“. Don’t forget she was a big supporter of the Minnesota Freedom Fund which helped bail out alleged child sex offenders and other felons.

Speaker Pelosi said, “people will do what they will do.” Rep Ayanna Pressley proclaimed, “there needs to be unrest in the streets!”

Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger said that we need leaders who have a “servant’s heart.” Those that will put public interest above their own. Fat chance finding it in people like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who apart from being the third most powerful person in the country, represents a district that has some of the highest rates of poverty in America.

There is one area we agreed with Arnie – wishing Biden the best of success for his administration. That would be a welcome change to the last 4 years where the left leaning media and political machine of the Democrats have done their utmost to delegitimize Trump’s presidency.

We also don’t think Biden tweeting that the outcome on the Capitol would have been different if BLM were the perpetrators instead of Trump supporters is the stuff that builds unity. That type of race-baiting division suggests harmony is a long way off.

Schwarzenegger needs to go back and study history again. He might refresh his memory and consider Big Tech censorship as a modern day form of book burning where the removal of people’s rights to free speech undermines the very democracy he emphatically demands be protected.

Media worth consuming – a recap of December 2020

My good mate Jonathan Rochford of Narrow Road Capital has compiled a brilliant summary of the recent madness in markets, politics and economics. One could be forgiven for thinking it is a lot like satire. Link here.

Fukushima offshore wind farms to be dismantled

From The Japan Times:

The government said Thursday it will remove the two remaining wind power turbines it installed off Fukushima Prefecture citing lack of profit in the project, which cost ¥60 billion ($580 million).

The project was widely seen as a symbol of the reconstruction of the northeastern prefecture following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters.

The decision came despite Japan’s goal of raising its offshore wind power generation to up to 45 gigawatts in 2040 from a mere 20,000 kilowatts at present as part of efforts to fight climate change. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

At a meeting in Fukushima, industry ministry officials briefed fishermen and other participants about the plan, with local people saying the government had wasted taxpayers’ money and should conduct a thorough study of why the project had failed.

In June, the government removed one of the three turbines installed 20 kilometers off the town of Naraha. It has decided to remove the remaining two in the fiscal year starting April.

The three turbines were constructed in stages from 2012 to support the local economy by creating a new industry based on renewable energy.

To commercialize wind power generation, the operational rate of a turbine must remain at 30% to 35% or more, according to the ministry.

But the rates of the turbines off Fukushima had been around 4% to 36%, according to trading house Marubeni Corp., which participated in the project.”

Germany also gave us a wonderful case study on how its renewables based energy system has backfired spectacularly. 

In 2007, Germany forecasted that 2020 residential electricity prices would be approximately 16 Eurocents with the shift to renewables away from nuclear. Today they trade at c.31 Eurocents. Der Spiegel, a normally left-leaning journal wrote in a two-part series. 

Part 1 – Germany Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future

“But the sweeping idea has become bogged down in the details of German reality. The so-called Energiewende, the shift away from nuclear in favour of renewables, the greatest political project undertaken here since Germany’s reunification, is facing failure. In the eight years since Fukushima, none of Germany’s leaders in Berlin have fully thrown themselves into the project, not least the chancellor. Lawmakers have introduced laws, decrees and guidelines, but there is nobody to coordinate the Energiewende, much less speed it up. And all of them are terrified of resistance from the voters, whenever a wind turbine needs to be erected or a new high-voltage transmission line needs to be laid out.”

Germany’s Federal Court of Auditors is even more forthright about the failures. The shift to renewables, the federal auditors say, has cost at least 160 billion euros in the last five years. Meanwhile, the expenditures “are in extreme disproportion to the results, Federal Court of Auditors President Kay Scheller said last fall, although his assessment went largely unheard in the political arena. Scheller is even concerned that voters could soon lose all faith in the government because of this massive failure.

But never let that get in the way of feeling good about saving the planet.

Update on Japan’s geriatric crime wave

A little over 4 years ago we wrote a piece on the geriatric crimewave in Japan. Recidivist pensioners were committing petty crimes to break into prison to offset a life of poverty.

Our full report can be found here.

Here are some excerpts from Gendai Business magazine which updates the worsening crisis facing the elderly and prison:

The number of “elderly inmates”above the age of 70 was 1,884 (2.65% of the total number of inmates in 2007) but in 2017 that number had surged to 2,278 people (4.81% of the total)…

…Their crimes? 54.2% of those 70yo+ were jailed for theft, far higher than convictions for possession of methamphetamines (9.4%). 90% of those thefts involved shoplifting or stealing bicycles…

…a 2017 police white paper noted that those over 65yo are 3.45x more likely to steal than minors (14-19yo)...

…Considering that the number of elderly inmates continues to increase, it is not difficult to imagine that the number of inmates requiring nursing care for dementia is rising with it. It can be said that some prisons are already becoming “nursing homes” in effect. If left as it is, the prison will soon be unable to stand...

Behind this is the problem of poverty. The aging rate in 2019 is 28.4%, the poverty rate of elderly households is 27%, and there are old people everywhere who are in need of support…

The last resort to reach an elderly person who has no family or job and cannot rely on anyone, and who cannot live their lives, is a safe prison life that guarantees “food, medicine and shelter”. In recent years, the number of elderly people who are recidivists for the purpose of “going into jail” is increasing.

All of these problems we noted in our 2016 report. Our suggestion was to build huge retirement villages in remote areas in Japan where the elderly could elect to sacrifice a portion of their pension to live without the indignity of living behind bars. As it stands, prison guards will increasingly become nurses, including changing diapers for the elderly.

L’Oreal whitewashes 1,300 years of Japanese culture

L’Oreal is the latest company to fold to the cancel culture by removing removing the words white/whitening, fair/fairness, light/lightening from all its skin evening products. The cosmetics brand will still sell the creams which is basically as hypocritical as it gets.

If L’Oreal truly wanted to take a stand and put an end to systemic racism, it would dictate to its core customers that they need to check their bigotry and ban the creams as the tool to enforce correct behaviours.

The irony of skin whitening creams is that whites make up a tiny slice of users. Indeed Asian women make up the bulk of the buyers.

Did L’Oreal realize that during the Nara Period (710–94), Japanese women painted their face with a white powder called oshiroi? This was also documented in texts during the Heian Period (794–1185). White facial colour stood as a symbol of beauty then as it does today.

So that is to say the Japanese self-determined their own views on beauty over 1,300 years ago, before the country ever encountered “gaijin”, a name that came 500 years later when Kublai Khan tried to invade in the 13th Century.

You can learn more about the skin whitening cream market here. Note it also includes the wonderful success story of a black woman, Rachel Roff, who filled a gap in the market by targeting people of colour with products the racist (?) product developers at J&J never bothered to cater to because they deemed it uncommercial.

Never mind, you’ve been told by L’Oreal.

#BlackSkinMatters. J&J caves to the cancel culture mob

Now J&J is dumping hand whitening cream after social pressure surrounding racial inequality.

Perhaps sunscreen and tanning lotions should be banned by the company too? After all, those who want a darker complexion must be just as guilty of dermatological appropriation.

Or is J&J’s move really just a cynical attempt by the legal and PR departments to appear as a good corporate citizen amidst a criminal probe into whether the pharma giant lied to the public about the possible cancer risks of its talcum powder?

Also, did J&J ever think of the demand from similar products for coloured women?

Urban Rx deliberately targeted this space because of an absence of products tailored to their needs. Perhaps J&J should self-flagellate for not catering this area and apologize for racially insensitive product developers. Publicly sack them to appease the mob. Black Skin Matters.

Forbes says sales for UrbanRx are booming.

Urban Rx Founder Rachel Roff opened a spa in Charlotte, North Carolina 12 years ago and found that although 50% of the women in the south are African-American, Roff could not find products that provided adequate skin care for women with darker skin. Over time she developed a skincare technology she calls Cleartone Advanced Technology…Although she still operates the spa, that business is dwarfed by the skincare business, which continues to grow very rapidly.

See a need. Fill a need. We hope Roff continues to do well. After all, if coloured women care about removing blemishes surely they have exactly the same requirements as women of other skin tones. It isn’t racist. It is a choice.

Skin whitening products are extremely popular in Asian and Middle Eastern markets. Perhaps J&J should launch a targeted ad campaign shaming c.70% of the world’s female population for their dermatological privilege.

According to Grandview Research , the global skin lightening products market size was valued at US$ 8.3 billion in 2018 and a CAGR of 7.8%pa.

Didn’t J&J’s PR department study what happened to P&G when it targeted ‘toxic masculinity’ via the Gillette brand which wiped $8 billion in value?

From our perspective, J&J products are off our list. We never ask anyone to boycott companies but we are sick of being lectured to by sanctimonious businesses who want to morally preen.

These brands are totally within their rights to make commercial decisions about product lines.

However they don’t have an obligation to tell customers that their personal preferences with respect to hygiene, skincare or anything else are not in step with the times, especially in cultures that hold different views about beauty which are often centuries old.

Japanese skin whitening giants Shiseido and KOSÉ will be loving such corporate harakiri by J&J. J&J shareholders won’t.

Get woke, go broke.

We pray the Gov’t makes more $60bn mistakes!

Can the media and shadow politicians get a grip? Since when should taxpayers complain when the government makes a huge error in our favour? We can pretty much stake our lives on the fact that 99% of government programs end up way more expensive than initially budgeted for. French Submarines anyone? NBN? We should be looking at the JobKeeper revision as a massive positive.

The federal government estimated that the JobKeeper program would initially cost $130 billion. Now it appears they overestimated it by $60 billion. That was driven by the idiosyncrasies of who would be eligible at the employer end – from the self-employed to big business and everything in between.

Given the limited time window, forgive the Treasury and Tax Office for not landing estimates on target. It is ridiculous to expect they could estimate such a fluid piece of legislation.

The unwelcome arrival of COVID19 and the sudden stay-at-home orders that ensued hardly gave a generous window of opportunity to apply Japanese level precision engineering to the process.

Our only criticism lies with the drip feed approach to restarting the hibernating economy. As we mentioned yesterday with respect to the 50 US states, so many appear to be copying each other rather than making bold data driven decisions based on facts not consensus.

The reality is that the Treasury will need to make many more multi billion dollar mistakes in the spirit of JobKeeper to help mitigate the damage caused by the looking trillion dollar deficits.

Perhaps the $60 billion saving can be redeployed to building a bullet train from Sydney to Melbourne. A 20-yr project that is just the type of infrastructure spending which ticks so many boxes – relieving pressure on the state capitol cities, housing, assist a growing population and provide lots of jobs.

China’s bullying is a blessing in disguise

We should view China’s recent bullying as a blessing in disguise. Our government should resist quickly bending to its will for we would only embolden Beijing by such a rapid display of weakness.

China’s true colours are on display. Barley tariffs, meat bans and now minerals are up for debate. All because we wish to have an inquiry into the beginnings of the virus.

We are not blameless. Our universities squeezed the Chinese student lemon until the pips squeaked. These educational institutions never built in contingencies. They are culpable for such pathetic risk management processes. Our property market has benefited from Chinese investment. Our primary industries rode the back of this panda and now fear they could end up inside.

However China is welcome to source its coal from Indonesia if it so chooses. We have globally competitive cost curves which would be welcomed in other nations.

Of course there will be short term disruptions but the entire global supply chain is being rewritten. That can only be in our favour. We aren’t playing aggressor while covering up a pandemic. This isn’t lost on most of the world, even if governments might tiptoe around the subject.

We should be revitalizing our relationship with Japan. At least we know when we sign a contract, the Japanese will stick to it rather than the Chinese style of starting negotiations after a deal is inked.

Why would we move away from our relationship with America? Much more opportunities in partnering with the US and India as well.

Chinese military aggression is self evident. Its investment in defence and space is exponential. While a fraction of US military spending the Chinese power projections in the South China Sea as well as the Paracels, Spratly and Senkaku Islands should raise concerns. Man made military island bases in the Pacific as well as ‘trading’ ports around the world which would welcome Chinese naval vessels.

Don’t take our word for it. Japan revealed in its 2019 Defense White Paper just how much China has been toying with it. Look at the trend of Japanese Air Self Defense Force jet scrambles to intercept Chinese military aircraft approaching its shores. Less than 100 a decade ago to over 600 in 2018.

The map at the top of this post shows how many times PLA Navy ships have sailed through Japanese territorial waters in what would be our equivalent of the Indonesian Navy sailing through the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania without warning.

China’s true colours should make the rest of the world sit up and take notice. While China has trapped many countries in debt turning them into financial colonies, this pandemic will create a world that wants to rely less on China. The Middle Kingdom might be a formidable trading bloc but its domestic economy is challenged and the louder the external rhetoric, the more we know how much it is hurting inside.

We needn’t fold at the prospect of threats. Best forge new all weather friendships. China will quickly learn how fast the world that is not in debt slavery to it will ignore the Forbidden City. We can forget pandering to the Paris Accord which China ignores while we are at it.

Osaka Mayor says men should food shop as women are too indecisive. We disagree

Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui said that men should do the food shopping during coronavirus as women are indecisive and take too long.

We would disagree with Mayor Matsui on the subject of food shopping.

There is literally nothing more terrifying for a husband than being sent into battle with a list from the wife, especially when the receipt will be scrutinized for the cost and quality of selected items. Hours can be lost in a supermarket trying to limit the number of offences that will come from the inquisition that will inevitably follow upon his return.

False advertising or medicinal chocolate?

Japanese confectioner Ezaki Glico has made a chocolate to assist with one’s sleep.

Now that millions of overworked salarymen and office ladies can no longer catch a nap on the subway, ‘GABA for Sleep‘ claims it can restore mental balance.

It seems like just a fancy marketing term for comfort food. Or is it? The science actually says,

GABA-enriched chocolate contains 28 milligrams of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in 10 grams of chocolate.

GABA is a neurotransmitter naturally in the human brain and plays a key role in reducing stress. It also has a tranquilizing effect that assists with sleeplessness and depression. A study has shown that 100 grams of cacao contain 52 mg of GABA.

Ahhh but there is a disclaimer! The scientists from Ezaki Glico revealed that the stress-reducing effect of GABA in chocolate may not always occur because there is less GABA in the product.

We are confident that beta testing will continue in any event.