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Monthly Archives: January 2014

News Round-up, Week Ending 1/11/14.

Updated below.

It was a tough week to suss out the news.  Not that there hasn’t been any; it’s just that the media is playing hard to get.  I even thought at one point that there was something wrong with my computer.  I kept seeing the same stories day after day, with only slight changes to the headlines – I thought the internet had entered some weird “Groundhog’s Day” where the same news items were being repeated over and over.  And the stories were remarkably devoid of details and full of half-witted statements left unexplained.  However, I tried to take what information was available and piece together some items of interest, mostly by reading dozens of articles on the same subjects – each article containing one little bit of a story  – and putting the pictures together myself.  Maybe that’s the best any of us can do any more – read an article and try to verify it elsewhere before assuming that it is true.  Look around with discernment to find the most truthful news outlets that you can and start there.  Believe me, those places are becoming scarce.  The state of the media is rapidly declining in this country.  One might think the media moguls who run the news operations in the US were deliberately trying to obfuscate things and hinder our ability to access any substantive news.  If you are interested in Kim Kardashian’s butt-cheeks or want to see the latest photos of Miley Cyrus trying to stretch her tongue out far enough to lick her own boobs, you can find any number of articles on that sort of useless nonsense; those articles will be amongst the top ten articles in any of the news compilers’ lists (when I say news compilers, think of yahoo news or google news as examples – each of them more interested in generating ad clicks than in distributing news – and see a link at the bottom of this post for an article regarding google’s ties to the NSA and as military contractors).   NPR (National Public Radio) has become a nationalistic, warrior-centric news forum largely drawing on human interest stories to keep its place in the media market.  Some of the websites I used to count on for actual news news have changed their editorial policies lately.  Each day, I get an e-mail from Alternet with their top stories of the day; for the past six months or so, this “top ten” list has invariably included a sex-tip article.  “How my husband and I revitalized our sex lives by inviting in the family pets.”  “The undervalued – and fun! – female orgasm as shared by lesbians.”  “Size matters: stories from small men and the small-minded women who love them.”  (Yes, I made those titles up; you needn’t bother goggling them.  They are fictitious approximations of how the actual headlines read.)  Really?  Seriously?  I expect this from the Huffington Post, an internet tabloid that has gone so far downhill into the muck at the bottom of the ravine that I haven’t bothered to even look at their front page in at least two years.  Part of the problem is that of revenue generation in the capitalist system under which we live; the media has to find ways to make money and support itself.  The idiotic celebrity coverage and sex stories lead to “ad clicks”, which these companies partially depend on for income.  I don’t know how you get beyond this basic issue of needing to generate financial support and still have truly independent journalism.  It’s always been an underlying conflict in the media – how beholden are the news outlets to their advertisers and sponsors and how does that affect the reporting?  Some internet news companies rely on paywalls (paid subscriptions) for funding, which effectively cuts off a sizable chunk of the population from access.  Some ask for periodic donations from readers – which, as long as the readers who donate aren’t allowed to dictate to the reporters about how to cover the news, may be the “cleanest” way to fund internet news.

The admittedly thorny problem of the relationship between money and news doesn’t account for all the really bad reporting going on now, but it certainly accounts for some of it.  We have fewer and fewer moguls/cartels owning the news and they have a gluttonous need for ever increasing personal income.  Journalistic integrity is being placed in a secondary position.  The fact that most Americans don’t seem to be capable of telling the difference is just a pathetic side note.

Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post [HuffPo] has famously found one way to keep expenses down and retain more money at the top: she just doesn’t pay a lot of the help.

[…] Despite its massive growth and sale to AOL for $315 million, the Huffington Post still relies heavily on the work on unpaid workers, and has refused to sign an agreement with the National Writers Union to pay all of its reporters who are assigned stories or report to editors. The Huffington Post currently has 50 paid reporters and more than 400 other staff employed as editors, photo editors, graphic designers, and business staffers on payroll, according to Huffington Post spokesman Rhoades Alderson. But the majority of its content is still generated by its network of more than 8,000 unpaid bloggers.[…]

However, at the RNC [Teri’s note: Republican National Convention; HuffPo sent several reporters, paid and unpaid, to cover the RNC in 2012], the Huffington Post has shown just how quickly paying people for exposure can spread to professions beyond reporting.

“As part of its presence in Tampa, the Huffington Post offers convention attendees Oasis, a candle lit retreat that’s ‘a reminder to find balance in the hustle and bustle of the conventions,’ ” notes the National Writers Union in a statement. “Among the offerings are yoga classes, massages, mini-facials, and meditation. Like its thousands of citizen journalists and bloggers, the massage professionals are unpaid and working for ‘exposure.’ ” […]

Earlier this summer, the Obama administration enshrined the Huffington Post doctrine of having people work for free in order to gain exposure as an official policy for the unemployed. A new Department of Labor “Bridge to Work” demonstration program would build on Huffington model of working for exposure by allowing up to 10 states to let companies employ workers receiving unemployment compensation without the employer necessarily having to pay those workers. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis wrote on Twitter when announcing the program, “As we explore every avenue to help our workforce recover, #volunteerism is a way job-seekers can do good and become more marketable.”… [Teri’s note: Obama also praised Amazon’s sweatshops as a model of corporate efficiency in one speech.  The problem inherent in using the unemployed as free labor, and this has been pointed out by many observers of the idea in action, is that companies tend to try to use it as a way to get rid of their paid employees and replace them with unpaid “volunteers” and “interns”, whom they not only don’t have to pay, they also have no requirements to provide any benefits.  This is known as “churning the work-force”.]

The reality is that unpaid work such that at the Huffington Post rarely leads to real jobs.

“Unpaid work and volunteerism should not be seen as ‘stepping stones’ to a regular job: after all, today there are more unpaid internships around than ever before, and yet youth unemployment is near its all-time high,” says Ross Perlin, author of the book Intern Nation (which In These Times excerpted). “Unpaid internships and ‘volunteer’ situations (in cases where the person is really anything but) in fact tend to destroy jobs rather than create them, because firms learn that they don’t have to pay for work, they don’t have to hire.” […]

http://shameproject.com/shame-blog/huffpo-america-arianna-huffingtons-unpaid-massage-therapists-obamas-bridge-work-program/

Which brings me to the first item in this week’s round-up.

It seems the billionaires running this country don’t control enough of the media outlets yet.  In some country, somewhere, having only a couple of rich people owning all the news is considered a normal thing.  We might call that country a banana republic or suggest it is run by a fascist elite bent on propaganda.  I’m not sure which of those is happening here, but truly independent reporting is dying out in the US. (Ironically, given that this is the “information age” of the “free internet”.)  If only a few people own all the media outlets, you may have news, and it may be “uncensored” in the respect that we know way more about everyone else’s private parts than any other society in the world, but you end up with news sources trending toward the direction we see more and more now: articles heavily edited to remove factual content, reporters who decline to completely toe the line and follow the owner’s personal political agenda being fired from their jobs, lackadaisical research, gross grammatical errors, and bald lies passed off as news items.

Arianna Huffington is teaming up with some of her rich buddies to start up a new website devoted to the news.  Run by and devoted to the wealthy class, the decisions they are making for the good of the rest of us, and all the news they want us to know.  It will be for-profit, naturally, because as Huffington says, “It has to be profitable to be sustainable.”  (By the way, I wish she would get voice lessons with some of her expendable income if she is going to insist on talking, like, in public and all.  Does she really have no idea how grating her speaking voice is?  She sounds like the whining squeal my screen door made right before it finally fell off the damn hinges altogether and ended up on the front lawn.)  Of course, Bill fucking Gates will be a contributor, because there is simply no end to the items on his bucket list.  (“Things I can meddle in and fuck up for the rest of the world before I shuffle off the mortal coil, assuming I can’t buy my way out of death, too.”)  On the editorial board is Pierre Omidyar, who just recently announced he was starting up a different internet news outlet – presumably for the less well-off than this Huffington do-wop – with Glenn Greenwald.  Guess Omidyar is just covering all the bases.  A rich guy can never have too many news conglomerates, and if some part of the internet gets shuttered with CISPA or through such similar provisions in the TPP, one would not want to be caught with only a single slice of the pie.  Omidyar is an interesting guy; he wants his new media company with Greenwald to be fiercely independent and “capable of challenging some of the most powerful people in the world”, one of whom is, well, himself.

“Omidyar tells Rosen that the site will be a company rather than a nonprofit, but that ‘all proceeds… will be reinvested in the journalism.’  If that’s the case, it will be a sort of quasi-nonprofit: able to sell ads and otherwise act like a publishing company but paying little to no taxes.  Omidyar has made it clear that the organization isn’t a philanthropic hobby.”

http://cjr.org/the_audit/the_extraordinary_promise_of_t.php

Tax avoidance is huge incentive for the upper crust, but I am uncertain that “quasi-nonprofit” is a category recognized by the IRS.  Omidyar also founded (in 2010) and owns the Honolulu Civil Beat, an on-line paper which is decidedly for-profit.  Civil Beat does not take ads, but instead has corporate sponsors and charges a $10/month subscription fee.  The original fee was $20/month, but was later reduced without editorial comment.  Civil Beat took on HuffPo as a partner last year, so the new “elite” publication that Huffington is launching is not the first time Omidyar has joined up with her in a media project.  I will take the trouble here to point out that while I might be critical of Omidyar’s empire building in this arena, as I am of any industry being controlled by a small group of individuals, I have no objection to Civil Beat’s reporting itself; one is allowed to access a few articles a month there for free before hitting the paywall, and the articles I have been able to read in that way do not appear to have any particular hidden political agenda.  I do find Huffington’s business model repugnant and can only speculate as to why he would want her as a partner on any endeavor.  Finally, none of this has anything to do with any journalists, bloggers, or reporters who might work for Omidyar on any of these ventures.

The 1% are about to get their own publication. The digital media titan Arianna Huffington and the billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen on Wednesday announced the launch of World Post, a comment and news website that looks set to become a platform for some of the most powerful people on the planet.

Inevitably, the World Post will be launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this month. Many of its contributors including former British prime minister Tony Blair, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Google’s Eric Schmidt are regulars at the annual jamboree for the world’s most connected people. Many are also advisers to the Berggruen Institute, the billionaire investor’s nonpartisan policy think tank [….]

The publication’s initial editorial board has deep ties to media companies around the world. Alongside Huffington and Berggruen it includes Juan Luis Cebrian, founding editor of El Pais, Dileep Padgaonkar, consulting editor of the Times of India, Yoichi Funabashi, former editor-in-chief of Asahi Shimbun, and Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay and backer of a new investigative reporting organisation, First Look Media, set up with former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.[…]

The launch comes amid a wave of new money going into media ventures. Berggruen said it was clear that traditional news organisations were still struggling and that many more would fail. “I think there will be a few media voices that really have weight and will survive but fewer and fewer,” he said. […]

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jan/08/world-post-news-website-launches-huffington

The second bit of news this week was the contamination of the water supply of nine W Va. counties by a chemical spill from a coal-washing plant.  Roughly 300,000 people cannot use their water for an unknown length of time because to do so would make them sick.

It was only when people began to complain about a peculiar smell in their tap water that the leak of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (Crude MCHM) was discovered coming from Freedom Industry’s (a company which makes chemicals that are used to wash coal) storage tanks and leaking into the Elk River in Charleston.   Freedom Industry had not noticed the leak themselves and could not say how long it had been leaking.  The tank holding the chemical holds 40,000 gallons, although “officials” are sure that no more than 5,000 gallons ended up in the river.  Unfortunately, the W. Va. American Water plant, which treats and provides clean water for the area, is downriver from the leak, and has no means of removing the chemical.  Until the stuff washes through the system on its own (doing God only knows what to the wildlife and groundwater in the meantime), the tap water in these nine counties cannot be used – not even for bathing or washing dishes.  People are having to use bottled water, brought in in emergency vehicles, but are being told to bring their own containers to take that water home.

Freedom Industries not only did not notice the spill in the first place and had no containment measures in place as of Friday (the spill was found on Thursday), they have not been in contact with the water treatment facility.

Obama declared the area a federal disaster so as to provide some emergency relief from the federal government.  I guess Freedom Industries is hoping someone else will deal with the mess and that they won’t have to do more than pay some small fines in a year or two over this incident.  What we need, according to Congress, is fewer regulations on this sort of industry.  Oh, and clean coal.  Just the ticket.

See also:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/11/usa-westvirginia-spill-idUSL2N0KL04J20140111

http://news.yahoo.com/chemical-spill-brings-w-va-capital-standstill-215537896.html

http://www.alternet.org/water/6-most-terrifying-facts-about-chemical-spill-contaminating-west-virginias-drinking-water?akid=11396.201112.pWHJHo&rd=1&src=newsletter945919&t=12

http://www.nationofchange.org/west-virginia-declares-state-emergency-after-coal-chemical-contaminates-drinking-water-1389454225

I have seen some articles about how the Senate has had some Success! in its effort to extend unemployment benefits; i.e., they are somewhat more seriously considering a debate on the issue.  Which may or may not be followed by some sort of vote.  (I actually got an e-mail from some Democratic fundraising site mid-week claiming that the Senate had passed the extension already – an outright lie.  But this site was collecting money to “sway the House”, so I guess we are supposed to overlook this little mishap in their editorial processes.)  Assuming it passes in the Senate, it would then go to the House.  Where it would be killed outright, because ha, ha, ha, there is nothing more amusing to the fuckers in both houses of Congress than starving Americans, unless it is starving Americans freezing to death because they lost their heating aid in the last budget go-round. First of all, the thinking in Congress goes, the jobless – who lost their jobs because they are lazy and not because of trade agreements or corporate greed and down-sizing or because the big banks blew up the economy – have no right to expect handouts when there are wars to be planned and paid for, which is Job Number One for Congress and secondly, we aren’t talking about that many people in the grand scheme of things and thirdly, the Fed is printing money as fast as it can and if you aren’t standing close enough to Jamie Dimon’s urinal to get trickled on, that’s your own lack of foresight and not Congress’ problem, you loser.  The members of Congress have planned for their futures assiduously – they are all going to work for Monsanto or Wall Street or will be regulators in some federal agency after they finish collecting all the grift that’s available to them during their stint in the Hallowed Halls – you should have likewise partaken of the American Dream and thought ahead.  And your lack of humor about the situation has been noted.  Believe that.

The Senate is actually supposed to vote on the unemployment benefits issue today, Monday, if they can get their shit together.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of details involved in the “deal” being worked out that are not being widely reported.

“[…] The Democratic plan would extend the federal program until mid-November. It would also lower the benefits for the unemployed in the hardest-hit states from 47 to 31 weeks, on top of the usual 26 weeks that most states allow for jobless aid. Republicans are opposed to the proposal because they want to offset the cost of the unemployment benefits with other budget cuts. The program has been extended 13 times.[…]”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/economy-added-74000-jobs-in-weak-december-report-jobless-rate-down-to-67percent/2014/01/10/3b2b82c6-7960-11e3-8963-b4b654bcc9b2_story.html

When we see that business about lowering the benefits by numbers of weeks, what is meant is this: before Dec. 28, when the unemployment benefits extension expired, many states offered up to 63-73 weeks of unemployment aid because the federal government helped out with the “extended federal benefits” package which paid for additional weeks of benefits that the states themselves did not have to fund.  After Dec. 28, most states went back to offering the jobless only 26 weeks of benefits, the same amount allowed pre-recession.  The Senate Democrats’ plan for reinstating extended benefits does not suggest bringing the number of weeks of federal participation back up to the 47 weeks of federal aid to the jobless on top of the states’ 26 weeks that had been offered until the end of Dec., but cuts the federal aid down to 31 weeks.  This means that extending the federal aid would not allow the long-term jobless 63 to 73 weeks of benefits, but 57 weeks.  If the measure passes.

“[…] Right now, as a result of the downturn, the average job-hunter takes about 35 weeks to find a new job. So that means many jobless workers will see their benefits cut off before they find work again. All told, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities expects some 4.9 million people to get kicked out of the program before they find a job in the coming year […]”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/01/07/the-senate-is-debating-unemployment-benefits-here-are-seven-things-they-should-know/

The long-term unemployed are dropped, not only from receiving benefits, but from the numbers used to figure overall unemployment.  (Once a person is not eligible for benefits any longer, they “disappear” and are not used in the “official unemployment rate”, currently given as 6.7%.  Well, hell, if everyone dropped out of the “labor force”, the unemployment rate would be 0, now, wouldn’t it?)  One should also bear in mind that even a temporary job lasting a mere three weeks is counted as “employment” by the government and serves to lower the unemployment rate.  Of the 74,000 jobs added in Dec., 40,000 were temp jobs.  Temporary jobs work well for employers, as they don’t have to offer paid vacations or health insurance coverage.

Furthermore, the Democrats propose cutting payments to the jobless who receive disability benefits as well as unemployment benefits.  They are offering to offset the projected $18 bb cost of extended unemployment benefits by keeping the sequester cuts going for an additional year; i.e., until the end of 2024.  They have also reportedly agreed to cut $9 bb of food stamp benefits – this is on top of the $5 bb cut to that program that occurred in Nov.

We have a problem with long-term unemployment which is not being very well addressed.  We are told the recession is over.  However, let’s look at some facts.  Christmas sales this past season were among the lowest they’ve been in decades.  People simply don’t have money.  Macy’s just announced it is cutting 2500 jobs and closing 5 stores to help its profitability – in other words, sales are really down.  Here in Md., an ice cream plant had 1600 people lined up to apply for a couple of dozen job openings.  The six largest banks reduced their workforce by 29,000 people in the first nine months of 2013.  In every sector, there are at least 3 applicants for each job.

“[…] According to the official wage statistics for 2012 http://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2012 , forty percent of the US work force earned less than $20,000, fifty-three percent earned less than $30,000, and seventy-three percent earned less than $50,000. The median wage or salary was $27,519. The amounts are in current dollars and they are compensation amounts subject to state and federal income taxes and to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. In other words, the take home pay is less.[…]”

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/01/03/case-missing-recovery-paul-craig-roberts/

“[…] According to a survey by the Economic Policy Institute, 5.99 million ‘missing workers’ have dropped out of the labor force over the past five years for economic, not demographic, reasons. If these missing workers were counted as unemployed, the unemployment rate would be 10.2 percent.  The labor force participation rate fell to 62.8 percent in December from 63.0 percent the month before, hitting the lowest level since 1978. Over the past year, the labor force participation rate has dropped by 0.8 percentage points…

“In another sign of economic weakness, the average private-sector work week fell by a tenth of an hour, to 34.4 hours. […]”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/01/11/jobs-j11.html

“Combined profit at the six largest U.S. banks jumped last year to the highest level since 2006, even as the firms allocated more than $18 billion to deal with claims they broke laws or cheated investors.  A stock-market rally, cost cuts and a decline in bad loans boosted the group’s net income 21 percent to $74.1 billion, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That’s second only to 2006, when the firms reaped $84.6 billion at the peak of the U.S. housing bubble. The record would have been topped were it not for litigation and other legal expenses. […]”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-09/big-six-u-s-banks-2013-profit-thwarted-by-legal-costs.html

“Almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, according to a report due out Wednesday.

“Researchers say taxpayers are doling out nearly $900 million a year to supplement the wages of bank tellers, which amounts to a public subsidy for multibillion-dollar banks.[…]”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/low-bank-wages-costing-the-public-millions-report-says/2013/12/03/21a932ee-5bb0-11e3-bf7e-f567ee61ae21_story.html

How much money does the Pentagon spend in one month, thanks to the lavish budget Congress allocates to the “war effort”?  Somewhere north of seventy billion?  But what’s the real number we spend on war?  We don’t know because the Pentagon has never been audited, and other military spending is hidden elsewhere, e.g., DHS, State Dept., etc., or carried out by agencies with no “official” budget at all, e.g., CIA.  The total military/mercenary/materiel expenditures probably dwarf that “official” $70 bb/month number.  How much money is printed up by the Fed and handed to the big banks each month?  Why, I think it is around $80 bb.  Wait, but is that the real number?  No, that’s only the official “on balance sheet” quantitative easing number, and, like the Pentagon, the Fed has never been audited.  The routine (off balance sheet) Fed loan facilities to these banks are estimated to be in the tens of trillions of dollars currently, most definitely dwarfing the “official” $80 bb per month.  That’s some serious jack.  You get the idea.

See also:

http://qz.com/165820/more-than-half-of-the-us-jobs-added-in-december-were-temporary/

http://www.foxbusiness.com/economy-policy/2014/01/09/just-74000-new-jobs-created-in-december/

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/01/caused-crash-labor-participation-rate.html

Obama has announced five areas around the country to be included in his “Promise Zones”.  These are going to be cradle to grave experiments in running every aspect of the lives of the people in the Zones, with corporate investment being the main supplier of funding.  I’m just going to give you Michael Hudson on these Zones, as he seems to have the best understanding of what is going on here.

Deregulation, Privatization, and Cheap Labor

Obama’s Corporate Plantations

by MIKE WHITNEY

The man who promised to restore hope and bring change to America, has announced a plan to open five corporate plantations in the United States. On Thursday, President Barack Obama, whose policies have resulted in the greatest number of public sector job losses in US History (Public sector jobs have declined by 718,000 jobs since Obama took office.) announced the opening of five “Promise Zones” located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. According to an article in USA Today:

“Under the proposed Promise Zones, the federal government plans to partner with local governments and businesses to provide tax incentives and grants to help combat poverty.” (“Obama to name 5 ‘Promise Zones’ for assistance“, USA Today)

‘Combatting poverty’ has nothing to do with it. Obama plans to shower the nation’s biggest corporations–which recorded record profits in the last year and are presently sitting on more than $1.3 trillion in cash–with more lavish subsidies and tax breaks while providing an endless source of cheap slave labor to boost future earnings. The president believes that the wealth generated in these profit zones, er, promise zones will trickle down to the area’s residents, even though–as the Christian Science Monitor notes–”it can be hard to tell whether a program’s benefits reach the poorest people, rather than flowing largely into the hands of the business owners who get the tax credits.”

Here’s more from USA Today:

“Obama said his administration plans “to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, and education, and housing.” (USA Today)

Translation: The Obama administration is committed to assisting the corporate oligarchy whenever possible even if it means further eviscerating the rapidly-diminishing US middle class and reducing millions of hard-working Americans to grinding third world poverty. Deregulation will allow corporations to privatize policing, education and any other lucrative public resource or service. According to the New York Times: “White House officials said the Promise Zones initiative would not provide new money, rather it would be aimed at providing the local governments and agencies “aid in cutting through red tape to get access to existing resources.”

No new money??

How do you like that? So, the man that helped push through the multi-trillion dollar Wall Street bailouts is not going to give one red cent to the nation’s poorest and most needy people. Instead, he is going to do whatever he can to eliminate the rules that keep voracious corporations from feeding at the public trough.

Conservative Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — “praised the proposed Promise Zone for Eastern Kentucky saying:

“I wrote a letter last year supporting this designation because this region has suffered enormous economic hardship over the last several years,” McConnell said in a statement.”

Mitch McConnell likes Obama’s plan. That says it all, doesn’t it?

Plantations were a familiar feature of the antebellum South, but were abandoned following the Civil War. Now a new generation of corporate kleptocrats want to revive the tradition. They think that weakening consumer demand and persistent stagnation can only be overcome by skirting vital labor protections and shifting more of the cost of production onto workers. Obama’s promise zones provide a way for big business to slip the chains of “onerous” regulations and restore, what many CEO’s believe to be, the Natural Order, that is, a Darwinian, dog-eat-dog world where only the strongest and most cunning survive. This is a world in which Obama has done quite well, although he’s had to distance himself from his political base and throw friends under the bus (Jeremiah Wright) in his relentless climb to the top. Even so, selling out has never been an issue for Obama.

Special economic zones are not a new idea, in fact, they’ve been tried in the UK, Australia and other places where the global bank cartel exerts its grip. In Tokyo, last month, right-wing PM, Shinzo Abe announced the launching of his own “Special Economic Zones”. Here’s a short summary of Abe’s plan from an article in the Japan Times:

“Special zones aimed at spurring corporate investment through deregulation and tax incentives are to be created in Tokyo as well as Osaka and central Aichi Prefecture….Other deregulation steps to debut in such zones will let private firms operate public schools, let experts without teaching licenses teach classes, expand the scope of treatment that can be administered by non-Japanese doctors and nurses, facilitate the use of foreign drugs and increase the number of hospital beds.” (Japan Times)

Sound familiar? Deregulation, privatization, and cheap labor; the toxic coctail that has vaporized the US middle class and wiped out a good portion of the developing world.

Obama calls these promise zones. We think corporate plantations is a more fitting moniker.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/10/obamas-corporate-plantations/  

See also:  http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/01/09/obam-j09.html

Other stories of interest on different topics:

Having now turned Iran into a starving state, thanks to sanctions, the big reveal is that what we really are negotiating for is US and European oil companies’ access to the Iranian sweet, light crude. Who’d a thunk?

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/01/09/iran-j09.html

Another continuing resolution, stop-gap measure and threat of government shut-down.  Oh, yeah, we kinda forgot the last spending bill was temporary, didn’t we?

“WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House of Representatives next week will pass a stop-gap funding measure to prevent a government shutdown for three days as negotiators try to finalize a $1 trillion spending bill, Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Friday.[…]”

http://news.yahoo.com/congress-pass-stopgap-funding-bill-next-week-top-020538787–sector.html

So this guy being nominated by Obama to be vice chair of the US Federal Reserve, which handles monetary policy in the US and which is currently handing $80 bb/month to the big banks, holds dual US/Israeli citizenship, currently works at Citigroup, was a governor of Israel’s central bank from ’05 until last year, and also worked for the IMF and World Bank. There is no word on whether he, like Jack Lew, has been offered a Citigroup bonus for taking a government position.  Or if he is getting a bonus from the Israeli government for obtaining a high position in the US monetary system.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/01/10/obama-nominates-financier-stanley-fischer-as-federal-reserve-vice-chair/

“Biotech titan Monsanto saw its shares surge by more than 2 percent on Wednesday morning after announcing better-than-expected first quarter earnings earlier that day.[…]”   Thanks in large part to surging sales of Round-up, which is sprayed in extraordinary amounts by farmers using GMO seeds.

http://rt.com/usa/monsanto-first-quarter-earnings-322/

Wasn’t the CIA-led coup against Zelaya the first open Obama interference in someone else’s gov’t?  Why, yes, I believe it was, back in ’09.  How gauche of me to remember that.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/01/07/dirty-war-over-clean-fuel-farmers-in-honduras-terrorized-by-u-s-backed-security-forces/

“Google CEO Larry Page has rapidly positioned Google to become an indispensable U.S. military contractor.”

http://dailycaller.com/2014/01/09/googles-robots-and-creeping-militarization/#ixzz2qImYunhk

UPDATE, Wed., 15 Jan.:  In a move that should surprise nobody, the Senate just scuttled the extension of unemployment benefits.  They got mired down in their “procedural votes” and “partisan wrangling” and in general just overwhelmed themselves with the tough work of being assholes.  And now they are off for another long week-end.

” […] For now, senators will likely step back, move on to working on a larger omnibus spending bill that needs to be passed to keep the government running. […]”

That’s their opportunity to further cut food stamps, energy assistance, WIC, etc., so the unemployed won’t have those programs to turn to either.  But they will slip in more money to the Pentagon, because a bill isn’t really a bill unless it has military spending increases in it.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/extension-of-unemployment-benefits-dead-in-senate-for-now/

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