Saturday, January 12, 2013

Real Heroes

When Chilean miners were rescued after surviving trapped underground for 69 days in 2010 the world media oddly treated them as though they had done something heroic when in fact it was their rescuers who were the real heroes.

By contrast when hundreds of Japanese technicians chose to stay at the Fukushima nuclear plant after the 2011 tsunami they struggled at great risk to themselves to save a large portion of Japan from nuclear contamination. It was an act of genuine heroism and altruism, but these men live today in obscurity, stigmatized by their association with a company that many Japanese blame for the radiation hazard that befell them when the plant was damaged.

Even so, but for their selfless sacrifice the damage would have been far worse.

The Guardian UK has their story. Here's part of it:
Almost two years after the tsunami, the men who stayed behind at Fukushima Daiichi and spared Japan from an even worse fate occupy an uncomfortable place in the country's post-disaster psyche. While the Chilean miners who spent 69 days trapped deep underground in 2010 were feted as national heroes, most of the Fukushima workers continue to live unseen in the shadow of the disaster.

Tepco turns down most interview requests, and all but two of the handful of workers who have commented publicly did so on condition of anonymity. Most have chosen to remain silent, fearing they would be ostracised in the communities they tried, but failed, to prevent from turning into post-nuclear wastelands for years, perhaps decades.

Yoshizawa understands their anger. "Generally speaking, people in Japan believe we were the cause of the accident, and it's important to bear that in mind. As Tepco employees we have to take responsibility for the accident, and ensure that it never happens again. It's a matter of regaining people's trust, but it will take time. "Looking back, maybe there were things we could have done better to prepare, but at the time we did everything possible to respond to the accident."

The perception that the workers perpetrated the accident and then botched their response appeared to permeate every level of Japanese society. The Fukushima 50 waited 18 months before the then prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, publicly thanked them for "saving Japan", a gesture repeated this month by his successor, Shinzo Abe.
Some of the men in this story lost everything, including their loved ones, in the tsunami, but they nevertheless risked their lives to save others. It is indeed strange, perverse, even, that such men live in anonymity while the Chilean miners who had no choice but to just wait until they could be rescued were turned into celebrities.

$180 Billion Failure

One of the criticisms of liberal solutions to our nation's problems is that 1. They're usually expensive and 2. They rarely work. Welfare is a good example, subsidizing green energy is another. A recent article at by Lindsey Burke and David Muhlhausen tells us about yet another. They write about Head Start, a program initiated to prepare poor kids for school so that they don't fall behind in the early grades and condemn themselves to a lifetime of underachievement.

Since its inception in the 1960s we've spent over 180 billion dollars on the program and we're discovering now the disheartening news that the children we had hoped to help are doing no better than had there been no Head Start program in the first place.

The following excerpt is taken from the opening paragraphs of the article:
In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) completed data collection for its third-grade follow-up study of Head Start, a federal preschool program designed to improve the kindergarten readiness of low-income children. Four years later, just before Christmas, the agency finally published the results of the congressionally mandated evaluation.

The report’s publication date reads October 2012, meaning the final product sat at HHS for two months before being released.

Since 1965, taxpayers have spent more than $180 billion on Head Start. Yet, over the decades, this Great Society relic has failed to improve academic outcomes for the children it was designed to help. The third-grade follow-up evaluation is the latest in a growing body of evidence that should urge policymakers to seriously consider Head Start’s future.

The timing of the release raises questions about whether HHS was trying to bury the findings in the report, which shows, among other outcomes, that by third grade, the $8 billion Head Start program had little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of participants. On a few measures, access to Head Start had harmful effects on children.
The details are at the link, but here's one that's particularly worrisome given the ineffectiveness of the program:
Congress will soon vote on a supplemental aid package to Hurricane Sandy victims that includes $100 million in additional Head Start funding. The Senate Appropriations Committee notes that 265 Head Start centers will receive the funding, which equates to more than $377,000 per center.
Somebody's evidently benefiting from taxpayer contributions to the program, but it's not the children.