We kid you not

March 5, 2010

Chile earthquake 'chilling' ... for capitalists

"The massive earthquake that hit Chile on Saturday, and put nearly a quarter of the world on tsunami alert, is a chilling reminder that investing in insurance companies is high risk."

— Adele Ferguson, writing in the March 1 Sydney Morning Herald points out the real tragedy from Chile's earthquake in which more than 200 people died: capitalist investors stand to lose large amounts of money because they invested in an industry, which sells its services on the basis of paying compensation in the event of disasters, that now has to provide compensation to its customers because there was a disaster.

Ferguson also revealed the sheer scale of the corporate tragedy of previous natural disasters: "Hurricane Katrina swept through Louisiana in August 2005, costing the industry an estimated $US45 billion. Hurricane Andrew in south-east Florida cost $US15.5 billion in 2002 and the Asian tsunami in 2004 cost an estimated $US4.5 billion."

Obama brings more 'change' to foreign policy

"As Barack Obama prepares to travel to Indonesia, his administration is seeking to reverse a 12-year-old ban on training an elite unit of the Indonesian military whose members have been convicted of beatings, kidnappings and other abuses.

"And in further evidence of a new US approach in South-East Asia, the administration has begun an aggressive campaign to try to persuade the Burmese junta to stop buying North Korean military technology ...

"In seeking to strengthen ties with Kopassus, the Obama administration is going further than its predecessor ... There is also unease about the administration's decision in October to end the Bush-era policy of isolating Burma's military junta."

— March 4 Sydney Morning Herald.

Obama cuts the ugly truth

"Like a scorekeeper for the world, a tiny unit within the [US] Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks globalization's winners and losers, and the results are not always pretty for the United States. Manufacturing jobs here, for example, have fallen faster since 1979 than in Canada, Germany or Japan. Compensation for those jobs dropped here in 2008 but jumped in South Korea and Australia.

"Soon, however, Americans may be spared the demoralization in these numbers: The White House wants to shutter the unit that produces them. President Obama's budget would eliminate the International Labor Comparisons office ...

"Skeptics of free-trade policies criticize the closure [as] the unit's data, they argue, show just how harsh globalization is for the American worker, a reality that may be inconvenient for an administration generally more trade-oriented than the populist rhetoric of Obama's campaign suggested. They question if the unit is being closed solely for the budget savings, noting that $2 million is a relative pittance, less than 1 percent of the BLS budget.
— March 3 Washington Post.

Cheese thief jailed for seven years in land of the free

"On Monday, more than a year after a man was arrested outside a market in California with a [US]$3.99 bag of Tillamook shredded cheese in his pants he had not paid for, a judge decided to go relatively easy on him, sentencing him to seven years and eight months in jail.

"Prosecutors in Yolo County, Calif., outside Sacramento, had originally asked for a life sentence under the state's 'three strikes' law, arguing that the man, Robert Preston Ferguson, was a menace to society because of prior burglary convictions ...

"The Orange County newspaper compared the case with that of Jerry Dewayne Williams, a man in Los Angeles who was sentenced in 1995
to 25 years to life for stealing a slice of pizza."

— March 3 New York Times.

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