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Thoughts on Japan From a Katrina Survivor
Part 1, The destruction.

As many of you know, after Katrina devastated New Orleans, I spent several months studying why it happened and the damage from the storm. I probably single-handedly made the price of crude oil move up a nicked I burned so much fuel driving through the city. The damage -it seemed- was infinite. When I took people from out of town, I'd make them use the restroom before we left because we'd be driving two or sometimes three hours and there would not be a working restroom. And we'd never see the same thing twice. Everything was destroyed.

If you've watched the videos of the tsunamis pouring over Japan and struggled to put it into perspective in your head, let me try to help. YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I never thought I'd live long enough to type these words.... Katrina was child's play.

Allow me to explain.

When most people think of Katrina, they think of people stranded at the Superdome for a few days or the pictures of people on their roofs, or maybe the whole city underwater at once. And all that was bad. But the real damage from Katrina was done not by rising water but by moving water. If water rises slowly, even if it sits in your house for a few weeks, the damage is not that bad. (well, in relative terms) Water moving quickly however is another ballgame. The areas of the city that were the most damaged were the ones closest to the where the water entered the city. -- In Lakeview where a negligently engineered flood wall collapsed even before the storm arrived, whole neighborhoods were destroyed by the force of the water rushing through the break and into the city. In the lower ninth ward we saw the same thing. The water rushing in leveled (I dunno) probably 4 square miles of buildings.

As I drove though town after the storm, I figured out something that probably few people know. It started when I was struck by how differently flooded cars looked in different neighborhoods. In some areas of town, the cars where up on roofs. In others they were turned on their backs or sides while other areas of town the cars the cars had floated several feet from their parking places but were on 4 wheels. -- Still other sections, the cars were flooded but were exactly where people left them. Why the difference?

After several weeks I solved the puzzle. You could tell the speed at which the water rose in that part of town by looking at the cars. The matrix looks something like this:

  • Cars on the roof or fence etc = Water rose so fast the car floated and the water rose high enough to float it over the house or fence. Big damage area.
  • Cars on their side or back but in the streets = Water rushed thru fast enough to tumble the cars but did not rise high enough to let them float up on anything.
  • Cars that floated some distance from there original parking space, but still on 4 wheels = medium speed water rise that floated the cars up and carried them away. These cars usually sank after the air bubble in the car was displaced by water.
If a car had clearly been underwater but was obviously in the driveway where someone parked it before the storm, it meant the water rose so slowly the car never floated at all. For a car to float, the water must rise faster than the air can escape the cabin area and that's pretty quick.

It was ASTONISHING how accurately the locations of the cars in an area could be used as a proxy for the damage in that area. I could look down a side street and know the extent of the damage to the buildings just by looking at the cars. Dramatic movement of cars = faster water movement = more damage.

After Katrina, much was made about the city having to be pumped out. But I'll take sitting water over moving water any day. In Katrina, the moving water damage was limited to certain areas, the bulk of the damage was caused by the flood water itself. In Japan the movement of the water was unimaginable...
I combed youtube and selected 4 videos to show the scope of tsunamis. The first is a helicopter shot of the tsunami offshore and rushing over a mostly rural area. This is the big picture so to speak.  We 'zoom in' with each video until the astonishing first person view on the last one.

Remember these walls of water can be 30 feet high:

The person taking this video is standing almost a mile (about 8/10th) from what used to be the shore.

Every river or bay or body of water that emptied into the sea, became a superhighway of water bringing the tsunami miles on shore.

This video is nothing short of amazing. It is taken a quarter mile on shore. At this exact location. The water shows no sign of slowing. To really put things into perspective, this is 60 miles up the coast from the airport. Think about that.

And this is video that we could get from areas where people survived to record it. Other areas nobody lived to upload video to youtube. -- Check out these two links to see the real destruction in the form of before and after pictures. ABC NYT And remember this is not including the damage from the 8.9 magnitude earthquake. Or the fires. As I said, this makes Katrina look like child's play.

In part two, I'll discuss some of the challenges Japan faces in making civilization where there is none.


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Comments (44)

BTW if you're still reading... (Below threshold)

BTW if you're still reading I have two more related snippet from the Katrina damage. (especially for you locals)

In Chalmette the water moved at a stunning rate too. This area got hit by something not completely dissimilar from a tsunami. This area was basically totally destroyed.

The most interesting part of town (for me) was the Read Road area in the East. They had a stunning amount of damage, cars and boats flipped everywhere but they were miles from the breaks. (South of I-10 but North of Chef Hgwy for the locals)

This area broke the mold. The water rose slowly yet there was a ton of damage. Also at the break areas, all the stuff was pushed in one direction, in the East, stuff was pushed every which way....

After much investigation, I figured it out. The water came in early in the storm and the winds were strong enough to move the water.

The damage was not done by the water flowing in, the damage was caused by wave action in residential neighborhoods. Ouch.

There are disasters and the... (Below threshold)

There are disasters and there are disasters. Katrina was a disaster with the media reporting thousands killed. There was wide spread destruction but a good part of the “crisis” afterward was driven by emotion and not facts. Usually when a person is personally involved with no experience in crisis their emotions take over. The media overplay it when a town in Kansas was wiped out by a tornado to. Sensation sells.

Unfortunately the estimates of thousand dying in Japan will be a fact not instead of an emotional outburst estimate.

No slight to you or any one... (Below threshold)

No slight to you or any one else but if you look at pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after they were hit the scenes are eerily similar in that in Japan now there is nothing left standing intact where it came in contact with the tsunami.

Total devastation, utter destruction of any wooden structure and the landscape swept bare except for a few buildings that were constructed of stone.

In Japan the force and speed of the water and debris it pushed was so great that it scoured everything in its path. Nothing could escape the destructive forces unleashed by the tsunami miles inland or away from the epicenter of the earthquake.

The overall area of destruction is so large that it defies comprehension.

Yes and no Wayne... With (... (Below threshold)

Yes and no Wayne... With (IIRC) 1800ish people killed and (IIRC) $200 Billion in damage, it was hard to understate the scope of it.

The area of devastation was like the size of all of England....

But having said that, just when we think we have seen the worst this planet can throw at us, we're humbled again by something like Japan.

Gmac it's been a while but ... (Below threshold)

Gmac it's been a while but I did read up on Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the storm. At the time I remember being struck how small --the blast area-- was. (taking radiation off the table)

I admit it has been several years and my memory is getting faulty but I'd but 10 bucks the devastation from this will be 100X the atomic bombs.

One link could prove me wrong, but I'd throw 10 bucks at my being correct.

The amount of looting in Ne... (Below threshold)
Joel :

The amount of looting in New Orleans vs. NONE in Japan is amazing.

The media's reporting in New Orleans vs. Japan is amazing.

Tea Party Rallies vs. union members in Wisconsin is amazing.

I wonder what is the common denominator?

Here you go, Paul. Before a... (Below threshold)

Here you go, Paul. Before and after photos of the city of Hiroshima http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/08/hiroshima_64_years_ago.html

Yeah Stan that confirmed wh... (Below threshold)

Yeah Stan that confirmed what I remembered... The blast was about 1 mile in radius. Mammoth for the hand of man but nothing compared to Katrina or this.

in Japan not only did the w... (Below threshold)

in Japan not only did the water rush inland from the sea at highway speeds it then would have rushed back towards the ocean at a slower but still significant speed ... a water whiplash that could easily magnify the damage from the inbound rush ...

tack that on top of structures being rocked first by an earthquake that was one of the strongest (top 5) in recorded history ...

The Hiroshima blast caused ... (Below threshold)
Big Mo:

The Hiroshima blast caused more destruction, even though it was a smaller blast (in terms of est. kiloton yield) than the Nagasaki bomb, because the latter city sits essentially in a valley and Hiroshima is located in a flood plain of several connecting rivers.

And you're right, Paul, the devastation from last week is worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined & even throw in the firebombings of Tokyo. The reason is because there is so much more today that can be destroyed that affects the rest of the nation in terms of communications, energy production and distribution, food supply, transportation, the financial system, medical system, etc. The destruction of one city in 1945 could not affect the rest of the nation as much as this earthquake & tsunami have done. (Heck, even the Soviets' insane 50 megaton Tsar Bomba couldn't have done quite this much damage, I'd wager.)

Paul I stand somewhat corre... (Below threshold)

Paul I stand somewhat corrected as the numbers are debatable. Regardless IMO it was a major disaster just overstated, especially the Super Dome stories and reporters in canoes in less than knee deep of water.

Side note on WWI, conventional bombing caused much more damage to cities in Japan than the two atomic bombs did. It was the fact that one bomb could do that much damage plus all the other defeats that the Emperor surrender.

No matter the facts, as dis... (Below threshold)

No matter the facts, as disaster is a disaster. The Japanese people are a resilient bunch. They will attack the reparations with mythodical precision. ww

>Regardless IMO it was a ma... (Below threshold)

>Regardless IMO it was a major disaster just overstated, especially the Super Dome stories and reporters in canoes in less than knee deep of water.

Dude, you're only about 12 states and two years away. sigh

I assure you the water from Katrina was more than ankle deep. Go ahead and trust me on that one.

Oh. And we're talking WWII ... (Below threshold)

Oh. And we're talking WWII not WWI.

In the months before the at... (Below threshold)

In the months before the atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities, General Curtis LeMay launched an all out incendiary bombing attacks on all of the major cities. The reason for this is that the high explosive ordnance was not doing the damage that was expected. The reason Hiroshima and Nagasaki were spared from the incendiary attacks, was that the Joint Chiefs had these already targeted for the atomic bombs in the early part of 1945. They wanted to access the damage to the area, without trying to distinguish between the fire damage and the blast damage from the bomb.

#6 Joel has already address... (Below threshold)

#6 Joel has already addressed an observation that a lot of people are starting to make -- no looting at all in Japan, compared to complete anarchy in the streets of New Orleans following Katrina.

Anyone care to speculate why?

Paul,Interesting o... (Below threshold)


Interesting observations and analysis on this Katrina natural disaster... and linkage to what is now happening in Japan. What I am very concerned about now, is the man induced disaster component of this event, which is underway with the release of radioactive material from the reactors in Japan... oops, my bad, government organs didn't say released material, they said radiation (a euphemism for the effects of radiating or released material).

Notice how the Japanese government downplays the hazard... the reactor vessels haven't been breached, the evacuations are precautionary, blah,blah, blah. Same from our government, who now says our exposed service members (and helicopters) were washed down with soap and water, and the folks exposed had their clothing thrown away. And they only received a dose equal to about a months worth of naturally occurring background radiation. Yaddie,yaddie, ya-ya.

Next spin will likely be that Cesium 137 is safely used in the Food Preservation Industry and Medical Health Industry... which is all true... but its also totally irrelevant.

Sure, radioactive particles and their irradiation effects can be mitigated by washing them off (removing the source of future potential cellular damage). Even Cesium 137 ingestion doesn't last too long, due to the body's ability to excrete it (which is of course age and health dependent).

The real hideousness of Cesium 137 is in its inhaled airborne particle form. If Cesium 137 dust particles are inhaled, the results are deadly. How deadly? Much is unknown - no experiments of lethal dust inhalation on humans have been conducted, because on the face of it, such experiments would be unethical and immoral. There is a threshold though, which can be quantified, which will cause fatalities... its just coached in terms that most of us would not recognize the danger in.

Think about what an actively decaying radiological material would do if it was breathed in and imbedded in your lungs. Cesium 137 has a half life of 30 years. It would be like receiving chemotherapy all day long, every day, for the rest of your life. That is the reason you see all those photos of Japanese relief and decontamination workers wearing filtered gas masks, but the population they are screening generally does not... the screeners already know what Cesium 137 dust particles can do if inhaled.

The civilian population generally does not know these things, and the (Japanese) government also has limits on the radius of evacuation zones they can emplace. So for the bureaucracy, its all about risk management, and so they intentionally don't tell the whole truth. Who's lives are at risk that they are trying to manage? Why the lives of their general citizenry of course.

What happens if the wind direction suddenly changes? Folks who study dust particles generally know that they can travel thousands of miles through the atmosphere before adhering to something... rain, weather, temperature, solar heating... there are millions of variables... but what happens if it is you that breathes-in dust particles of Cesium 137?

Check out the internet if you need further reinforcement... and ignore those government sponsored websites that deftly dance around uncontrolled radioactive Cesium 137 dust inhalation effects (manly by not talking about it - or talking about everything else but).

My apologies if this makes folks scared or angry... but at least you are now orientated and pointed in the right direction... and thus advised, can arrive at your own informed decision about the risks.

Semper Fidelis-

Paul, in answer to #16, som... (Below threshold)
Big Mo:

Paul, in answer to #16, some thoughts:

Japanese have an immense respect for the rule of law, private and public property & spaces, and proper decorum. My dad lived in Tokyo for half a decade, and when we went there for a visit, the cleanliness and politeness was astounding (and not just in Tokyo). For example: no graffiti anywhere that I could see, nor any trash along the streets. At the risk of over-generalizing, Tokyo is essentially clean, and not just within the English-speaking bubble.

Repect and decorum can be seen in even the most mundane things. When trains stop at stations and the gates lower across the roads, men and women of all ages usually wait patiently for the train to pass and the gate to raise -- even if they waited 10 minutes or more. We saw schoolgirls of 5 and 6 riding the trains by themselves without fear, because the thought of kidnapping a young child is offensively unthinkable.

Looting and whining just isn't in their character, because they're not brought up with an entitlement mentality. They have pride in what they've achieved, and, more importantly, ownership in what they've achieved.

Last year the libs said tha... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Last year the libs said that it was a shame that Obama didnt have a Katrina to show his leadership. Now he has one and we are still waiting.

Re “Oh. And we're talking W... (Below threshold)

Re “Oh. And we're talking WWII not WWI.”

So was I. It called a typo in case you never heard of that. Of course you ignored the fact about what I said about the bombings of Japan in WWII. But why address relevant facts when you can ridicule typos?

Big Mo,A 50 Megato... (Below threshold)

Big Mo,

A 50 Megaton Thermonuclear Fusion Weapon set for surface burst - will make a crater in the ground roughly 1/2 mile deep and 12 miles in diameter (depends a lot on what the underlying earth structure consists of)... with an order of magnitude effects many times greater than what occurs with 10 -15 Kiloton Atomic Fission Weapon. It would be like comparing a wide ranging conflagration to a struck match. They are not even in the same destructive league. For example, just a couple of fusion warheads like this, would be enough to make an Island like Guam disappear beneath the waves... there is the reason nuclear deterrence is called MAD... and why I am an advocate for building a defensive American ABM system - like yesterday.

BTW, I spent a few years stationed in Iwakuni (outside of Hiroshima). Made friends with my neighbor Mr. Hiro, who at age 10, just so happened to have been at the train station right at ground zero in Hiroshima when the bomb went off. Why he wasn't vaporized and turned into a shadow (like you see in the Hiroshima museum today) he doesn't know. I did see the scars, where he had to have years of surgery to remove the plaques that formed on his skin. A most honorable and gracious fellow - Mr. Hiro.

For you history buffs, we talked a lot about what Japan was like during the war years and this is what he conveyed to me. Elementary School age boys were the last Imperial Japanese Government Reserves. They were not in class; Elementary education was suspended. Instead they were set to clearing firebreaks throughout the city (which back then was predominantly wood and paper) in order to counter the effects of the fire bombings, they also went out in the countryside to dig up roots (sorry, I can't remember the plant name) in which aviation kerosene was distilled... the rest of the time they drilled with bamboo sticks (in lieu of rifles) in order to be ready to repel the invasion of their homeland.

Also of note, he now detest the former Japanese militarist. In his eyes they were responsible for the destruction, and have forever been discredited and shamed in his eyes. Which I believe, is why Japan's post-war constitution, renounces war in such stark terms.

FWIW, Semper Fidelis-

As fro Katrina exaggeration... (Below threshold)
"I admit it has been severa... (Below threshold)

"I admit it has been several years and my memory is getting faulty but I'd but 10 bucks the devastation from this will be 100X the atomic bombs."

I totally agree, the blast radius of the nukes was limited to a very few square miles, the tsunami covered *hundreds* of square miles.

The comparison exists only in that both completely devastated what they touched.

Big Mo,I agree on ... (Below threshold)

Big Mo,

I agree on the social aspects of the Japanese character. A big reason for it that I see is because Japan is the most densely populated country in the world... and so they have developed a lot of social habits that enables so many people to live closely together (without loosing it and strangling the hell out of their badly behaved neighbor).

My wife, who was a Japanese Elementary School English teacher, taught 4th and 5th graders. The students, kids really, cleaned and swept their own school, cleaned the bathrooms, and the grounds too. Every day, one student would have to collect, collapse, stack, and tie with string the milk cartons after lunch. There is an important Japanese lesson about life in that.

The Japanese do most everything together, as a group... just ask those whom you are teaching to volunteer or participate... every hand eagerly goes up. Ever see such social responsibility taught like that to American kids, in American schools? Perish the thought.

Once after the Iranian hostage crisis was over, I was headed to Pusan for some R&R. Got stuck in Fukuoka because the ferry was in dry-dock. Watched a protest - Japanese style - at a small police station from across the square.

The protesters, with their hammer and sickle flags and head-bands, moved and acted as one. The police suddenly disappeared from the station. The protesters proceeded to trash the station, throwing everything that wasn't tied down out into the street.

Then the armored cars showed up and the police formed a phalanx of riot gear. What did the protesters then do? The went up on the roof and barred the hatch.

The authorities then brought in a helicopter with a water cannon, which was used to push the protestors away from the door. The riot police stormed the building and at that point - the protesters submitted to authority - I mean they just gave up - in mass!

They got willingly led to the paddy wagons, still chanting in unison, and making razed fist, bouncing the vehicles up and down... but there was no blood, no injuries, no deaths, or any of that other mayhem one associates with riots in America.

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. What I figured out was, in Japan, its a face thing, protestors have a right to protest, and the police have the right to assert their authority. But only in good time. Both sides get their needs met, and both sides save face... Its a very Japanese characteristic... And a very collective self-regulated kabuki dance like behavior.

FWIW, Semper Fidelis-

Sigh... Wayne you're a nitw... (Below threshold)

Sigh... Wayne you're a nitwit.

YES (you nitwit) the Media DID exaggerate the rape and murder and mayhem after the storm. -- The media never misses a chance to make southerns look bad.

The media [b]DID NOT[/b] however (you nitwit)exaggerate the damage from the storm. In fact a major reason the federal response was delayed was because the media UNDER REPORTED the devastation to the city. (remember the "New Orleans dodged the bullet" stories for 24 hours after the storm? you nitwit.)

-While focused on the Superdome because it made Bush look bad- The media never fully covered the parts of the city with real damage like Lakeview and Chalmette. (where white people died in disproportionate numbers to blacks) And Lord knows the media never fully covered the real reason the city flooded. (That being the Corps of Engineers)

SO yes you nitwit the media did exaggerate the breakdown of civilization. But to make the comment that water in New Orleans was not even knee deep proves you to be a moron.

[b]THE WHOLE POINT[/b] of my taking the time to make this post was to put things in proper perspective for the readers of this blog. Your coming along and blabbering stupidity about water being ankle deep in New Orleans undoes that effort.

Now please.... GO AWAY. I have no patients for nitwits and will simply delete you and/or ban you. You have the right to be stupid. But I don't have the responsibility to allow your stupidity here.

Good Bye.

Gmac ... right.Bru... (Below threshold)

Gmac ... right.

Bruce, I wonder how long the social structure of the Japanese can hold? ... The lack of looting is admirable after 2-3 days but what happens in the next 3 days when the reality and the scarcity set in?

Perhaps I'm a pessimist but I think the folks jumping up and down bellowing about the lack of looting and that we should learn something from it will have egg in their face. -- I hope not of course but still, the immediate future over there looks bleak. BTW - Interesting comment.

Brucepall - thanks. I gues... (Below threshold)
Big Mo:

Brucepall - thanks. I guess I'm guilty of exaggerating the earthquake/tsunami comparison to the Tsar Bomba. Heck, Ivy Mike at a "mere" 10 megatons disintegrated the island that test device was detonated on.

And thanks for the story of Mr. Hiro. Sounds like a fascinating man to talk with.

Paul - I still think the Ja... (Below threshold)
Big Mo:

Paul - I still think the Japanese will hold it together, because they've lived through such ruin before, albeit man-made.

I'll have to check some resources to see what Japan was like in the immediate post-war months. What I've read previously, though, points to a hopeful recovery rather than a temporary descent into anarchy.

Plus - was there any widespread looting in, say, Biloxi Miss. after Katrina, or in Florida after the 2004 hurricanes? (I'm asking, not challenging.)

Wayne #11 - I think the inc... (Below threshold)
Big Mo:

Wayne #11 - I think the incident you're thinking of with a reporter in a canoe floating on ankle-deep water took place somewhere in the northeast -- Vermont, perhaps? -- The reporter was attempting to show how bad the flooding was but got totally owned when a couple of men walked by her canoe, with the water lower than their knees.

Paul, that's an interesting... (Below threshold)

Paul, that's an interesting question. I only know enough Nihon-go to make a fool of myself when I engage in it. My wife, who is fluent (written and spoken) has much better judgement than I in that regard (she grew up there). I will ask her.

She says that Japan has two kinds of government. A Formal one (which we all would recognize) and an Informal one, where the community Oba-san elders knows everything there is to know about you. Your name, your ancestor's history, where you work, if you are married to your live-in girlfriend - everything. The Japanese society is set up and geared this way to support each other and help everyone in the community out. Outsiders might not like this, as they might view it as intrusiveness - but this informal government is there and it rules the roost. Informal government has a great deal of pull with the Formal government in normal times, but it really kicks into over-drive during times of extreme stress.

Bottom line - she says the Japanese society will hold during duress - even if all that was left was just two of them.

PS - The first time I met one of these ladies was when I had just moved into the neighborhood. After two days of watching em work, she came over, handed me her broom, and told me it was my turn to sweep the street.

Semper Fidelis -

Mo I have no idea about loo... (Below threshold)

Mo I have no idea about looting in Florida. I don't recall. As far as looting in Biloxi the terrain would not lend itself to that... in other words, that area is much less sparsely populated so in that area 'looting' would really be more looked at as theft. (one guy one store) -- 'Looting' sorta connotes a mob.

But let me just say we didn't have to invent a new word for the actions in New Orleans... Lootings been with mankind for a long long time.

>She says that Japan has tw... (Below threshold)

>She says that Japan has two kinds of government. A Formal one (which we all would recognize) and an Informal one, where the community Oba-san elders knows everything there is to know about you. Your name, your ancestor's history, where you work, if you are married to your live-in girlfriend - everything.

Bruce, no doubt this is much different from modern America. We actually had this (or similar) many years ago but with the active attacks on the family structure as well as an active attack on shame over morally reprehensible behavior, it has all but evaporated from modern life.

Now we're taught from birth that we have a 'right' to everything.

BTW... no Wayne, I did not ... (Below threshold)

BTW... no Wayne, I did not delete you for calling me a name. I deleted you because I told you to stop posting incoherent crap. Something you're incapable of doing.

Promise you people were not lounging by the pool after Katrina. You're a loon, now go.

Paul, I just moved to the c... (Below threshold)

Paul, I just moved to the continental United States from Guam. There, by a landmark called Jeff's (a local eatery hangout on the island's west side), about a mile from where I lived, a Japanese Sergeant named Shoichi Yokoi was captured by local hunters in the jungle in 1973... 28 years after the war ended.

The Sergeant was the last Imperial Japanese Army soldier from WW II (his other two hold-out compatriots had died of disease and starvation a decade earlier) to surrender on Guam. A remarkable story of human persistence and endurance - irrespective of whatever else you might think of the war or events of those times.

An extreme example? Perhaps. But I'm not surprised - as it fits within my perception of the Japanese character. Postscript: Sergeant Yokoi passed away in his homeland in 1975.

FWIW, Semper Fidelis-

Neat story Bruce, I guess t... (Below threshold)

Neat story Bruce, I guess that was the guy that spawned all the legends/fables. (Even Gillian's Island had a riff on this)

I figured there was, but I never knew there was basis to those stories.

Katrina was child's play... (Below threshold)

Katrina was child's play.

Who the hell are you, and how did you hack into Paul's account?

Never mind, just read the comments. You're Paul, all right. No one could fake that voice.


Oh yeah it's me. I still ca... (Below threshold)

Oh yeah it's me. I still can't figure out why the word Katrina' brings out the lunatics though.

But I no longer debate lunatics, I just delete them. Should have done that from the start.

#6 Joel has already addr... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

#6 Joel has already addressed an observation that a lot of people are starting to make -- no looting at all in Japan, compared to complete anarchy in the streets of New Orleans following Katrina.

Anyone care to speculate why?

Kinda hard to loot a place when it's floated out to sea. Not to mention you'd have to swim in 6m debris-filled water to get there.

As a former Katrina contrac... (Below threshold)

As a former Katrina contractor cleanup worker who has seen the best and worse that NOLA can offer in my 9 months there. All I can say is the videos of this damage in Japan are worse than anything i can imagine short of a Hollywood production. Some of the footage is so intense that the people shooting it had to believe they weren't going to make it out alive.

While working in the Lower 9th I heard some wild stories and once talked to a lady who's house switched neighborhoods with her sisters. In two different neighborhoods there were cars inside peoples houses, right in the living rooms in plain view through the window. They came up through the floor when the water receded and the houses settled.

If you were driving around NO East (Read rd. vicinity) then you saw boats everywhere. Everywhere. That area had the largest concentration of boats I seen in the entire city. About 1 1/2 miles west of Read rd. and parallel with Almonaster there was a train washed off the tracks. I heard in Japan they can't find three trains.

I gotta say, I partially ag... (Below threshold)

I gotta say, I partially agree with Mr. Cloninger. There's got to be a hell of a big "what the hell is left worth stealing?" factor going on.


Paul,While I do th... (Below threshold)


While I do think Japan's society will hold in the face of adversity better than most, and there is much to be admired in their culture; that is not a complete picture of what I see.

Their population is aging rapidly. For example, in Okinawa, the people's longevity, as a demographic, is the highest in the entire world. When I left there in 2007, just about every village was building a local Community Center (AKA Old Folks Home)... Quite a trend, which I expect to see replicated in the future in America.

Financially, things are a different story. I've gone back and fourth in my outlook about it. During my last tour in Okinawa (2004-2007), BOJ interest rates were zero (yes, zero!). It caused distortions in the economy like you wouldn't believe. The effects were everywhere... and I just shook my head in disbelief and laughed some over the craziness of it all. Their long bond was yielding right at 1%... Imagine what savers made in interest with instruments less than 30 years, oh my. I can't laugh anymore, today our Federal Reserve has gone down the same path (0.25% interest rates at the discount window).

Japan is for the Japanese. Every aspect of their economy is controlled. Go into a hardware store, and every nut, bolt, washer, tool, broom, you name-it it is made in Japan. Japanese can't buy fancy bicycles, even though they are made in Japan - they are strictly for export. Each and every business has huge barriers for entry - from the local family taxi companies to the mega construction businesses.

IMHO, Japan is one of the most so socialist nations on the planet... and their citizenry pay a price for it. Home mortgages are generational, like 50 years, so your kids get to pay it off; and you wouldn't believe what they pay for a kilo of rice (10 times world market - easy). Their nation debt to GDP exceeds 200% and is headed towards breaching the G-20 historic world record (currently held by England, circa 1947).

Last week, at 1% interest on their National debt, Japan was barely able to make their payments (again held mostly, like 90%, by their citizenry). The scheme falls apart at 2%, and becomes catastrophic at 3% and higher. That's like bankruptcy, and I see a restructuring in their future (and America thinks its got budgetary problems?, We're not even in the same league as the Japanese). What will happen to interest rates, if Japan has to go beyond their already saturated home market, and has to sell, say 100 trillion yen in bonds, on the international market to rebuild from the Quake/Tsunami/Reactor disasters?

As I see it, financially, Japan is going to be between a rock and a very hard place.

FWIW, Semper Fidelis-

Ya know, I've been wonderin... (Below threshold)

Ya know, I've been wondering a lot about those same things. I also wonder (worry) about the global economy at this rate...

If I recall news from just last week correctly, Japan has the third (formerly second) largest economy on the globe. From my chair, I see their economy all but collapsing.

I REALLY REALLY hate doom and gloomers. And worst of all are the end timers.


I see 10 different ways this quake brings down the world economy and not many where it does not. I might be getting old or something but the present situation scares the hell out of me.

You're invited to tell me I'm wrong. :-\

Paul,Your not wron... (Below threshold)


Your not wrong, some are able to see what is coming - the world building up for the greatest transfer of wealth in its history. It will be trying times, and just when you think it can't get any worse, it does.

However, nothing last forever (my SWAG -Scientific Wild Ass Guess- is 3 to 5 years); history is replete with examples of such events.

So if you know whats coming - prepare to meet it on your own terms... dedicate a portion of your resources now to ensure your livelihood - kinda like insuring your home in the future in case it catches afire and burns to the ground.

Then stop worrying about it, and get on with your life - everybody is going to be in the same boat - most physical things will not be destroyed - its just that some will weather the storm better than others. Afterwards, when the economic sunshine comes back out (and it always does), you and yours will be able to tell your posterity how you survived the great calamity.

Semper Fidelis-

heh Words to live by now a ... (Below threshold)

heh Words to live by now a days.






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