Famous Cariboo Barbie Quotes – aka Sarah Palin

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“Math is hard. Let’s go shopping.”

cariboo barbie - aka sarah palin

cariboo barbie - aka sarah palin

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

sarah palin scares me

sarah palin scares me

Top 150 words spoken at the Biden-Palin Debate

Top 150 words spoken at the Biden-Palin Debate

Great performance, Sarah Palin, but we are not that stupid

Sarah Palin - George Bushs Mini Me

Sarah Palin - George Bush's Mini Me

Bush in a Skirt

Bush in a Skirt

Palin = G.W Bush with lipstick

Palin = G.W Bush with lipstick

Nope Poster - Sarah Palin

Nope Poster - Sarah Palin

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comScore Media Metrix Ranks Top 50 U.S. Web Properties for September 2008

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RESTON, VA,  October 17, 2008 – comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today released its monthly analysis of U.S. consumer activity at the top online properties for September 2008 based on data from the comScore Media Metrix service. The tumultuous financial markets and the upcoming presidential elections were the main drivers of Internet traffic for the month. Training and education sites gained as the fall season prompted many students to prepare for the college application process and a gloomy economic outlook led some Americans to consider going back to school.

“As the financial crisis deepens, Americans have been anxiously following the latest news on the markets and carefully watching their personal financial accounts online,” commented Jack Flanagan, executive vice president of comScore Media Metrix. “The ability to track the market on a minute-by-minute basis and access banking and trading accounts quickly enables Americans to make financial decisions in real-time. Whether these decisions are sound or not is another story.”

Financial Crisis Causes Spike in Traffic to Online Trading and Financial News Sites

September proved to be a chaotic month for financial markets as several major banks crumbled and Congress raced to pass a $700 billion bailout plan to stabilize the financial markets. Consequently, visitation to business/finance – news/research and online trading sites soared with Americans keeping a watchful eye on the latest developments, as well as their personal finances.

Business/finance – news/research web sites saw a substantial increase in visitation in September, gaining 9 percent to more than 64 million visitors, while also increasing 16 percent in pages viewed and 29 percent in total time spent. These increases suggest that not only were more people visiting the sites in the category, but that they viewed more articles and content for longer periods of time on average.

Yahoo! Finance led the category with nearly 20 million visitors, a 30-percent jump from August. Several other sites experienced particularly strong growth amid the financial frenzy, including Russian financial site RBC.RU (up 155 percent to 1.2 million visitors), FoxBusiness.com (up 127 percent to 1.2 million visitors), and Google Finance (up 67 percent to 1.4 million visitors).

Top Gaining Sites in Business/Finance – News/Research Category

(Among sites with at least 1 million visitors)

September 2008 vs. August 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)

Aug-08

Sep-08

% Change

Total Internet : Total Audience

188,937

189,468

0

Business/Finance – News/Research

58,766

64,277

9

RBC.RU

466

1,190

155

FOXBUSINESS.COM

531

1,205

127

Google Finance

822

1,372

67

CNN Money

4,458

6,952

56

BLOOMBERG.COM

1,871

2,800

50

Yahoo! Finance

15,376

19,970

30

Bankrate.com Sites

2,902

3,742

29

Comcast.net Finance

1,309

1,571

20

CNBC.COM

1,270

1,524

20

Business Week Online

1,676

2,010

20

Online trading sites surged 10 percent to 12.6 million visitors in September, as investors kept watchful eyes on their dwindling portfolios and 401K’s. Fidelity Investments led the category with 3.5 million visitors, followed by ShareBuilder.com with 2 million visitors and Scottrade Sites with 1.7 million visitors. E-Trade Financial Network (up 26 percent to 1.6 million visitors), TD Ameritrade.com (up 30 percent to 1.4 million visitors) and Schwab.com (up 36 percent to 1.1 million visitors) each experienced double-digit growth.

Election Fever Drives Traffic to Politics Category

Politics reigned as the top-gaining category for the second consecutive month, experiencing a 43-percent increase to more than 20 million visitors, as interest in the Republican National Convention in early September and the first presidential debate later in the month generated heightened interest. BarackObama.com, one of the fastest-gaining properties of the month, led the category with 5.4 million visitors (up 37 percent versus August). JohnMcCain.com ranked second in the category with 3 million visitors, a 109-percent gain from August, with the Republican National Convention and interest in vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin helping drive visitors to the site.

College Application Season Prompts Growth at Training and Education Sites

The college search and admission process began in September as many high school students prepared their applications and a slumping economy left some professionals considering further education. Careers services and development – training and education sites experienced a 21-percent increase to nearly 12 million visitors during the month. College Board Property, which provides resources for college entrance exams, led the category with 2.6 million visitors (up 31 percent), followed by scholarship search provider Fastweb.com with 2.6 million visitors (up 44 percent), and EduPlace.com with 810,000 visitors (up 49 percent).

Education – information sites also gained during the month with September marking the first full month that most students were back in school across the country. The category grew 11 percent to more than 73 million visitors, led by Dictionary.com with 15 million visitors (up 39 percent), Pearson Education with 13.3 million visitors (up 34 percent), and Answers.com with nearly 11 million visitors (up 29 percent).

Top 50 Properties

Google Sites continued to lead as the most visited property in September with more than 144 million visitors, followed by Yahoo! Sites with 142 million visitors and Microsoft Sites with 122.3 million visitors. Wikimedia Foundation Sites, parent property of Wikipedia.org, climbed one place to capture the eighth position with 60.2 million visitors, while Glam Media moved up four spots to #10 with 52.3 million visitors. Strong interest in sports during the month of September, with Major League Baseball pennant races and the beginning of the NFL season, helped push ESPN up four spots to #32 with nearly 24 million visitors, while NFL Internet Group entered the ranking this month at #48 with nearly 18 million visitors.

Top 50 Ad Focus Ranking

Platform-A led the September Ad Focus ranking reaching 91 percent of the 189.5 million Americans online. Yahoo! Network reached 86 percent of the population followed by Google Ad Network with a reach of 83 percent. Traffic Marketplace entered the top 10 this month, capturing the ninth position and reaching 131.5 million visitors. 24/7 Real Media also experienced an increase, gaining three spots to #11 and reaching nearly 129 million visitors.

comScore Top 10 Gaining Properties by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors* (U.S.)

September 2008 vs. August 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)

Aug-08

Sep-08

% Change

Rank by Unique Visitors

Total Internet : Total Audience

188,937

189,468

0

N/A

Technorati Media

3,066

11,269

268

90

ABC.COM

5,089

12,627

148

76

MANIATV.COM

2,793

4,716

69

233

Fantasy Sports Ventures

4,253

6,312

48

173

MEGAVIDEO.COM

3,430

5,067

48

217

Encyclopaedia Britannica

6,697

9,688

45

108

HotChalk

6,239

9,009

44

116

Nintendo Co.

3,728

5,216

40

209

HUFFINGTONPOST.COM

3,293

4,545

38

238

BARACKOBAMA.COM

3,913

5,350

37

204

*Ranking based on the top 250 properties in September 2008

comScore Top 10 Gaining Categories by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors (U.S.)

September 2008 vs. August 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)

Aug-08

Sep-08

% Change

Total Internet : Total Audience

188,937

189,468

0

Politics

14,040

20,081

43

Career Services and Development – Training and Education

9,576

11,588

21

Genealogy

7,929

9,067

14

Religion

20,423

22,895

12

Retail – Food

15,115

16,851

11

Education – Information

65,908

73,170

11

Retail – Computer Software

20,280

22,445

11

Online Trading

11,427

12,550

10

Business/Finance – News/Research

58,766

64,277

9

Technology – News

43,647

46,868

7

comScore Top 50 Properties (U.S.)

September 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Unique Visitors (000)

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors

(000)

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors

(000)

Total Internet : Total Audience

189,468

1

Google Sites

144,293

26

Superpages.com Network

27,625

2

Yahoo! Sites

141,956

27

Verizon Communications Corporation

27,125

3

Microsoft Sites

122,338

28

United Online, Inc

25,301

4

AOL LLC

108,349

29

Gorilla Nation

25,024

5

Fox Interactive Media

87,414

30

Yellowpages.com Network

24,916

6

eBay

69,322

31

Bank of America

24,727

7

Ask Network

62,101

32

ESPN

23,869

8

Wikimedia Foundation Sites

60,200

33

WordPress

23,125

9

Amazon Sites

55,749

34

Monster Worldwide

23,104

10

Glam Media

52,292

35

Shopzilla.com Sites

22,702

11

CBS Corporation

52,050

36

CareerBuilder LLC

22,522

12

Apple Inc.

47,556

37

Weatherbug Property

22,427

13

New York Times Digital

47,146

38

Photobucket.com LLC

22,371

14

Turner Network

46,860

39

Demand Media

22,361

15

Viacom Digital

44,517

40

Answers.com Sites

22,253

16

FACEBOOK.COM

41,416

41

Gannett Sites

21,689

17

Weather Channel, The

37,916

42

Real.com Network

21,515

18

craigslist, inc.

35,258

43

Hearst Corporation

19,403

19

Adobe Sites

35,100

44

iVillage.com: The Womens Network

19,183

20

Time Warner – Excluding AOL

30,851

45

WorldNow – ABC Owned Sites

18,884

21

AT&T, Inc.

30,134

46

WhitePages

18,664

22

Wal-Mart

29,003

47

Expedia Inc

18,279

23

Comcast Corporation

28,700

48

NFL Internet Group

17,857

24

Disney Online

28,607

49

WebMD Health

17,263

25

Target Corporation

28,213

50

The Mozilla Organization

17,179

comScore Ad Focus Ranking (U.S.)

September 2008

Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Locations

Unique Visitors (000)

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors (000)

Reach %

Rank

Property

Unique Visitors (000)

Reach %

Total Internet : Total Audience

189,468

100%

1

Platform-A**

171,692

91%

26

Centro – Potential Reach

83,921

44%

2

Yahoo! Network**

161,996

86%

27

AdBrite**

79,853

42%

3

Google Ad Network**

156,355

83%

28

YOUTUBE.COM

75,389

40%

4

Specific Media**

153,435

81%

29

NNN Total Newspapers: U.S.

73,880

39%

5

ValueClick Networks**

150,395

79%

30

Vibrant Media**

73,323

39%

6

Tribal Fusion**

141,850

75%

31

MYSPACE.COM*

73,035

39%

7

Yahoo!

140,200

74%

32

Gorilla Nation Media – Potential Reach

64,303

34%

8

Google

136,219

72%

33

Ask Network

62,101

33%

9

Traffic Marketplace**

131,458

69%

34

Kontera**

58,809

31%

10

YuMe Video Network – Potential Reach

130,238

69%

35

Pulse 360**

58,559

31%

11

24/7 Real Media**

128,775

68%

36

MSN.COM Home Page

57,457

30%

12

Casale Media – MediaNet**

128,585

68%

37

EBAY.COM

55,476

29%

13

Tremor Media – Potential Reach

128,060

68%

38

ITN National Broadband Networks – Potential Reach

54,905

29%

14

Adconion Media Group**

122,632

65%

39

Ybrant – Oridian – ADdynamix Network**

53,993

28%

15

interCLICK**

121,987

64%

40

IB Local Network

53,645

28%

16

Revenue Science**

120,899

64%

41

IAC Ad Solutions – Potential Reach

52,405

28%

17

DRIVEpm**

113,162

60%

42

NNN Top 25

51,222

27%

18

CPX Interactive**

111,847

59%

43

Intergi – Potential Reach

48,929

26%

19

ADSDAQ by ContextWeb**

109,570

58%

44

Business.com Network

47,174

25%

20

Collective Media**

109,489

58%

45

QuadrantONE – Potential Reach

46,403

24%

21

MSN-Windows Live

109,274

58%

46

AMAZON.COM

45,980

24%

22

AOL Media Network

108,349

57%

47

TattoMedia**

44,894

24%

23

Burst Media**

101,493

54%

48

MapQuest

44,588

24%

24

Turn, Inc**

101,462

54%

49

AdOn Network**

43,719

23%

25

Undertone Networks**

85,722

45%

50

NNN Top 10

42,032

22%

Reach % denotes the percentage of the total Internet population that viewed a particular entity at least once in September.  For instance, Yahoo! was seen by 74 percent of the 189 million Internet users in September.

* Entity has assigned some portion of traffic to other syndicated entities.

** Denotes an advertising network.

About comScore Media Metrix

comScore Media Metrix provides industry-leading Internet audience measurement services that report details of online media usage, visitor demographics and online buying power for the home, work and university audiences across local U.S. markets and across the globe. comScore Media Metrix reports are used by financial analysts, advertising agencies, publishers and marketers. comScore Media Metrix syndicated ratings are based on industry-sanctioned sampling methodologies.

About comScore
comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR) is a global leader in measuring the digital world and preferred source of digital marketing intelligence. For more information, please visit www.comscore.com/boilerplate
Contact:
Sarah Radwanick
Senior Analyst
comScore, Inc.
312-775-6538
press@comscore.com

Japan’s Aging Workforce – Will America face the same problems?

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Japan has the fastest aging population of all industrialized nations, and now with the sharp economic downturn being experienced by global markets, the signs of an aging society are become more apparent.

An aging population that is either unable to work further places an additional burden on the health system, and an aging population that is unable to find work due to their age impacts negatively on the tax revenues. It is a double edged sword that is striking at the heart of Japan. In 2000, 17.4% of the Japanese population was 60 years or older,  and it is estimated that by 2025 and 2054 those numbers will increase to 28.7% and 36% respectively. For a more detailed analysis of the aging population in Japan and implications please read Yukiko T. Ellis’ report.

The United States and Canada are facing similiar problems with a dramatic rise in their population over the age of 60, which is estimated to jump from 16% in 2000 to over 25% in 2025. The impact of rise can be mitigated somewhat at least in the North American context with the influx of a younger immigrant base. However, Japan does not have this luxury and the fertility rate amongst Japanese females is some of the lowest in the world.

This article from Norimitsu Onishi highligts some of the social signs we are beginning to see now of an aging population combined with an economic slow down.

———————————————————-

A leftover city of day laborers in Japan faces grim future
By Norimitsu Onishi
Sunday, October 12, 2008

OSAKA, Japan: With job signs stuck to their vans’ windshields and sliding side doors left open in expectation, the recruiters were sizing up the potential hires at Japan’s largest day-labor market here recently.

By 4:30 a.m., thousands of aging day laborers had spilled out of the neighborhood’s flophouses and homeless shelters, or risen from its parks and streets, to form a potential work force of mostly graying men.

A sign on one blue van, barely legible in the twilight, offered a 15-day construction job paying $95 a day, minus $33 in room and board.

Although the terms were comparatively decent, the recruiter sitting in a folding chair in front of the blue van had found only one suitably young laborer by 5 a.m. Most were above the unwritten cutoff age of 55.

“It’s really hard to use the men here because they’ve gotten old,” said the recruiter, Takuya Nakamae, 55, turning his head toward his prize catch, a recruit in his 30s. “If you’re this young, everybody wants you and you get plenty of offers. Just look at how young you are!”

And yet it was the older men who really knew how to work, he said, adding: “They’re the ones who worked during Japan’s decades of economic boom, so they know the ins and outs of every job. It’s just that they don’t have the strength anymore.”

Nowadays, few young men gravitate here, the Airin district of Osaka. Little is being built in Japan’s stagnant economy, and young day laborers or part-time workers find jobs by registering their cellphone numbers with temporary employment agencies.

Many of the older men who remain arrived here to work on the 1970 Expo in Osaka, which, like the Tokyo Olympics six years earlier, became a symbol of postwar Japan’s rebirth. Over the decades, they left to work on bridges, buildings and highways all over the country, performing the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in helping build Japan. Some made it out of here and moved on to steadier jobs and lives.

But many others are still in Airin, one of the few corners of Japan where stray dogs lie in the middle of the street alongside drunken men, and Japanese mobsters, or yakuza, sell drugs openly on street corners and run gambling dens on certain blocks. After one worker claimed abuse by the police, scores of people here rioted for five days over the summer, though old-timers said the disturbances were only a faint echo of the violent and widespread riots of the 1960s and 1990s.

Many of the men left in Airin, on average just shy of 60 years old and with no family ties, are waiting to die here, said Minoru Yamada, who moved here in 1973, once worked as a day laborer and is now chairman of Kamagasaki Shien Kiko, a private organization that helps laborers.

“At one time, this was a place where you could remake yourself,” Yamada said. “But not anymore. Now it’s become a dumping ground for old men, a place where waste is disposed of.”

A grim report by the city government last year said that conditions in Airin were rapidly worsening: an aging population, rising homelessness, deepening poverty and increasing cases of tuberculosis and alcoholism. The number of welfare recipients has grown fivefold in the past decade.

An ancient slum, this area was renamed and reshaped into Airin in the 1960s when the city government cleared it of family dwellings, concentrated all the city’s day laborers here and invited others from all over Japan to meet a construction boom. Today, the city estimates that 30,000 people live here, about a quarter of its peak two decades ago, in this 62-hectare, or 153-acre, neighborhood, which is less than one-fifth the size of New York’s Central Park.

The district’s overall population is more than 85 percent male. But in Airin’s core – an urban valley hemmed in by wide avenues and an elevated train track – there are almost no women at all.

During Japan’s economic go-go years, the number of jobs offered here swelled, peaking at 9,614 a day in 1990. The number has fallen to about a third of that today and no longer includes jobs in the kind of large and lucrative construction projects that fueled Japan’s boom.

Still, recruiters show up every morning at the Airin General Center, the day-labor market, saying they need to check over hires before sending them to a job.

“This is different from bidding on dead tuna at a fish market auction,” said one recruiter, who said he shifted to Airin more than two decades ago after working as a pimp in Tokyo. “Sure, you can recruit on the Internet, but on the Internet, you can’t make out someone’s character. For example, a guy can be O.K. if he hasn’t been drinking. But if he has, he may get crazy and create problems for everybody around him.”

A couple of hours after the recruiters had left for the day, Tadashi Kato showed up at the center to put his name down for a job as a night watchman. Kato, 75, came here in 1957, abandoning forever his home in rural Hokkaido and family talk of fixing him up with a job at the national railway.

“It’d be natural to wonder whether I would have been better off joining the national railway, but I’ve led a carefree life and have seen things that people usually can’t,” Kato said in a guttural voice, explaining that he had taken photos of past riots here and was looking for a “successor” to inherit them.

He once lived in a flophouse. But nowadays, with few jobs coming his way, he sleeps on the streets. He refused to apply for welfare or enter the city-run homeless shelters, where each person receives one piece of hardtack bread a night. He would never, he said, depend on the government.

He was married briefly, and he said that, unlike many of the men who came here to escape after accumulating debts or abandoning their families, he long supported his former wife and their only child, a daughter.

He last saw his daughter, in Tokyo, when his first grandchild was born three decades ago.

“‘Your feet stink – don’t come here dressed like that,”‘ he said she told him. “She said I could come if I had some money for her, but not to bother if I didn’t. Either way, it’s hard being a man.”

He had not seen his daughter since, but he said he knew her address.

“When I die, I’ll absolutely go to my daughter’s,” Kato said of his ashes, adding, “Sometimes, you know, I think if I could go painlessly, it wouldn’t be that bad not to wake up in the morning.”

It was not 11 a.m. yet, but Airin’s tiny outdoor drinking stalls were already filling up. These days, the most popular was a five-stool stall that belonged to Yayoi Onodera, 48, who charged $5 per drink and sold rice balls. She had earned around $40,000 in profit since moving here from Tokyo six months ago.

“I never dreamed I’d make so much money,” Onodera said, adding that she had struggled in the beginning but was encouraged by a local yakuza leader who used to stop by before he was arrested and imprisoned for drug dealing.

Later that afternoon, many of the men drifted to Sankaku Park nearby where they watched sumo wrestlers on a television set atop a pole.

But Kazuyasu Ikeda, 64, went straight home to the 4.5-square-meter, or 49-square-foot, room he had been renting for the past six years for $11 a night. From his fourth-floor room, where he had a television set, 16 small cactuses and a small tank filled with guppies, he had a view of a parking lot and, beyond that, the Hankai train line.

He had just collected his wages for cutting grass that day and was in high spirits. The wages, of course, were nothing compared with what he had made during Japan’s economic boom. Helping to build a highway in Okinawa back then, he said, he far outearned American marines stationed there.

“At a foreigners’ bar that I used to go to, I was even more popular than the foreigners,” Ikeda said, adding that he was such a regular that the bar kept a bottle of Camus Cognac for him.

He never had children and thus suffered no guilt, he said with a laugh.

But as he watched the end of the sumo matches of the day, Ikeda, a red towel he had used while working still wrapped around his head, seemed to grow tired and his mood darkened. The conversation drifted, as it often did in Airin, to the topic of death.

Ikeda boasted that he had never taken a handout, stood in a soup line or stayed in a homeless shelter. When there were no jobs, he collected aluminum cans. His “policy” was to rely on no one, he said.

“I’ll hang on for another 10 years,” he said.

The men here, he said, were like cigarette lighters worth 100 yen, or less than $1.

“It’s painful to throw away a Zippo or Dunhill lighter even if it doesn’t light properly anymore,” he said. “But 100-yen lighters you just throw away. That’s what we are.”

International Herald Tribune Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune | http://www.iht.com

The Rise Disaster Capitalism Again – Credit Default Swaps

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April 14, 2005
By Naomi Klein

Fittingly, a government devoted to perpetual pre-emptive deconstruction now has a standing office of perpetual pre-emptive reconstruction.

Gone are the days of waiting for wars to break out and then drawing up ad hoc plans to pick up the pieces. In close cooperation with the National Intelligence Council, Pascual’s office keeps “high risk” countries on a “watch list” and assembles rapid-response teams ready to engage in prewar planning and to “mobilize and deploy quickly” after a conflict has gone down. The teams are made up of private companies, nongovernmental organizations and members of think tanks–some, Pascual told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in October, will have “pre-completed” contracts to rebuild countries that are not yet broken. Doing this paperwork in advance could “cut off three to six months in your response time.”

The plans Pascual’s teams have been drawing up in his little-known office in the State Department are about changing “the very social fabric of a nation,” he told CSIS. The office’s mandate is not to rebuild any old states, you see, but to create “democratic and market-oriented” ones. So, for instance (and he was just pulling this example out of his hat, no doubt), his fast-acting reconstructors might help sell off “state-owned enterprises that created a nonviable economy.” Sometimes rebuilding, he explained, means “tearing apart the old.”

Few ideologues can resist the allure of a blank slate–that was colonialism’s seductive promise: “discovering” wide-open new lands where utopia seemed possible. But colonialism is dead, or so we are told; there are no new places to discover, no terra nullius (there never was), no more blank pages on which, as Mao once said, “the newest and most beautiful words can be written.” There is, however, plenty of destruction–countries smashed to rubble, whether by so-called Acts of God or by Acts of Bush (on orders from God). And where there is destruction there is reconstruction, a chance to grab hold of “the terrible barrenness,” as a UN official recently described the devastation in Aceh, and fill it with the most perfect, beautiful plans.

“We used to have vulgar colonialism,” says Shalmali Guttal, a Bangalore-based researcher with Focus on the Global South. “Now we have sophisticated colonialism, and they call it ‘reconstruction.'”

It certainly seems that ever-larger portions of the globe are under active reconstruction: being rebuilt by a parallel government made up of a familiar cast of for-profit consulting firms, engineering companies, mega-NGOs, government and UN aid agencies and international financial institutions. And from the people living in these reconstruction sites–Iraq to Aceh, Afghanistan to Haiti–a similar chorus of complaints can be heard. The work is far too slow, if it is happening at all. Foreign consultants live high on cost-plus expense accounts and thousand- dollar-a-day salaries, while locals are shut out of much-needed jobs, training and decision-making. Expert “democracy builders” lecture governments on the importance of transparency and “good governance,” yet most contractors and NGOs refuse to open their books to those same governments, let alone give them control over how their aid money is spent.

Three months after the tsunami hit Aceh, the New York Times ran a distressing story reporting that “almost nothing seems to have been done to begin repairs and rebuilding.” The dispatch could easily have come from Iraq, where, as the Los Angeles Times just reported, all of Bechtel’s allegedly rebuilt water plants have started to break down, one more in an endless litany of reconstruction screw-ups. It could also have come from Afghanistan, where President Hamid Karzai recently blasted “corrupt, wasteful and unaccountable” foreign contractors for “squandering the precious resources that Afghanistan received in aid.” Or from Sri Lanka, where 600,000 people who lost their homes in the tsunami are still languishing in temporary camps. One hundred days after the giant waves hit, Herman Kumara, head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement in Negombo, Sri Lanka, sent out a desperate e-mail to colleagues around the world. “The funds received for the benefit of the victims are directed to the benefit of the privileged few, not to the real victims,” he wrote. “Our voices are not heard and not allowed to be voiced.”

But if the reconstruction industry is stunningly inept at rebuilding, that may be because rebuilding is not its primary purpose. According to Guttal, “It’s not reconstruction at all–it’s about reshaping everything.” If anything, the stories of corruption and incompetence serve to mask this deeper scandal: the rise of a predatory form of disaster capitalism that uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering. And on this front, the reconstruction industry works so quickly and efficiently that the privatizations and land grabs are usually locked in before the local population knows what hit them. Kumara, in another e-mail, warns that Sri Lanka is now facing “a second tsunami of corporate globalization and militarization,” potentially even more devastating than the first. “We see this as a plan of action amidst the tsunami crisis to hand over the sea and the coast to foreign corporations and tourism, with military assistance from the US Marines.”

As Deputy Defense Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz designed and oversaw a strikingly similar project in Iraq: The fires were still burning in Baghdad when US occupation officials rewrote the investment laws and announced that the country’s state-owned companies would be privatized. Some have pointed to this track record to argue that Wolfowitz is unfit to lead the World Bank; in fact, nothing could have prepared him better for his new job. In Iraq, Wolfowitz was just doing what the World Bank is already doing in virtually every war-torn and disaster-struck country in the world–albeit with fewer bureaucratic niceties and more ideological bravado.

“Post-conflict” countries now receive 20-25 percent of the World Bank’s total lending, up from 16 percent in 1998–itself an 800 percent increase since 1980, according to a Congressional Research Service study. Rapid response to wars and natural disasters has traditionally been the domain of United Nations agencies, which worked with NGOs to provide emergency aid, build temporary housing and the like. But now reconstruction work has been revealed as a tremendously lucrative industry, too important to be left to the do-gooders at the UN. So today it is the World Bank, already devoted to the principle of poverty-alleviation through profit-making, that leads the charge.

And there is no doubt that there are profits to be made in the reconstruction business. There are massive engineering and supplies contracts ($10 billion to Halliburton in Iraq and Afghanistan alone); “democracy building” has exploded into a $2 billion industry; and times have never been better for public-sector consultants–the private firms that advise governments on selling off their assets, often running government services themselves as subcontractors. (Bearing Point, the favored of these firms in the United States, reported that the revenues for its “public services” division “had quadrupled in just five years,” and the profits are huge: $342 million in 2002–a profit margin of 35 percent.)

But shattered countries are attractive to the World Bank for another reason: They take orders well. After a cataclysmic event, governments will usually do whatever it takes to get aid dollars–even if it means racking up huge debts and agreeing to sweeping policy reforms. And with the local population struggling to find shelter and food, political organizing against privatization can seem like an unimaginable luxury.

Even better from the bank’s perspective, many war-ravaged countries are in states of “limited sovereignty”: They are considered too unstable and unskilled to manage the aid money pouring in, so it is often put in a trust fund managed by the World Bank. This is the case in East Timor, where the bank doles out money to the government as long as it shows it is spending responsibly. Apparently, this means slashing public-sector jobs (Timor’s government is half the size it was under Indonesian occupation) but lavishing aid money on foreign consultants the bank insists the government hire (researcher Ben Moxham writes, “In one government department, a single international consultant earns in one month the same as his twenty Timorese colleagues earn together in an entire year”).

In Afghanistan, where the World Bank also administers the country’s aid through a trust fund, it has already managed to privatize healthcare by refusing to give funds to the Ministry of Health to build hospitals. Instead it funnels money directly to NGOs, which are running their own private health clinics on three-year contracts. It has also mandated “an increased role for the private sector” in the water system, telecommunications, oil, gas and mining and directed the government to “withdraw” from the electricity sector and leave it to “foreign private investors.” These profound transformations of Afghan society were never debated or reported on, because few outside the bank know they took place: The changes were buried deep in a “technical annex” attached to a grant providing “emergency” aid to Afghanistan’s war-torn infrastructure–two years before the country had an elected government.

It has been much the same story in Haiti, following the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In exchange for a $61 million loan, the bank is requiring “public-private partnership and governance in the education and health sectors,” according to bank documents–i.e., private companies running schools and hospitals. Roger Noriega, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, has made it clear that the Bush Administration shares these goals. “We will also encourage the government of Haiti to move forward, at the appropriate time, with restructuring and privatization of some public sector enterprises,” he told the American Enterprise Institute on April 14, 2004.

These are extraordinarily controversial plans in a country with a powerful socialist base, and the bank admits that this is precisely why it is pushing them now, with Haiti under what approaches military rule. “The Transitional Government provide[s] a window of opportunity for implementing economic governance reforms…that may be hard for a future government to undo,” the bank notes in its Economic Governance Reform Operation Project agreement. For Haitians, this is a particularly bitter irony: Many blame multilateral institutions, including the World Bank, for deepening the political crisis that led to Aristide’s ouster by withholding hundreds of millions in promised loans. At the time, the Inter-American Development Bank, under pressure from the State Department, claimed Haiti was insufficiently democratic to receive the money, pointing to minor irregularities in a legislative election. But now that Aristide is out, the World Bank is openly celebrating the perks of operating in a democracy-free zone.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been imposing shock therapy on countries in various states of shock for at least three decades, most notably after Latin America’s military coups and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet many observers say that today’s disaster capitalism really hit its stride with Hurricane Mitch. For a week in October 1998, Mitch parked itself over Central America, swallowing villages whole and killing more than 9,000. Already impoverished countries were desperate for reconstruction aid–and it came, but with strings attached. In the two months after Mitch struck, with the country still knee-deep in rubble, corpses and mud, the Honduran congress initiated what the Financial Times called “speed sell-offs after the storm.” It passed laws allowing the privatization of airports, seaports and highways and fast-tracked plans to privatize the state telephone company, the national electric company and parts of the water sector. It overturned land-reform laws and made it easier for foreigners to buy and sell property. It was much the same in neighboring countries: In the same two months, Guatemala announced plans to sell off its phone system, and Nicaragua did likewise, along with its electric company and its petroleum sector.

All of the privatization plans were pushed aggressively by the usual suspects. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the World Bank and International Monetary Fund had thrown their weight behind the [telecom] sale, making it a condition for release of roughly $47 million in aid annually over three years and linking it to about $4.4 billion in foreign-debt relief for Nicaragua.”

Now the bank is using the December 26 tsunami to push through its cookie-cutter policies. The most devastated countries have seen almost no debt relief, and most of the World Bank’s emergency aid has come in the form of loans, not grants. Rather than emphasizing the need to help the small fishing communities–more than 80 percent of the wave’s victims–the bank is pushing for expansion of the tourism sector and industrial fish farms. As for the damaged public infrastructure, like roads and schools, bank documents recognize that rebuilding them “may strain public finances” and suggest that governments consider privatization (yes, they have only one idea). “For certain investments,” notes the bank’s tsunami-response plan, “it may be appropriate to utilize private financing.”

As in other reconstruction sites, from Haiti to Iraq, tsunami relief has little to do with recovering what was lost. Although hotels and industry have already started reconstructing on the coast, in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and India, governments have passed laws preventing families from rebuilding their oceanfront homes. Hundreds of thousands of people are being forcibly relocated inland, to military style barracks in Aceh and prefab concrete boxes in Thailand. The coast is not being rebuilt as it was–dotted with fishing villages and beaches strewn with handmade nets. Instead, governments, corporations and foreign donors are teaming up to rebuild it as they would like it to be: the beaches as playgrounds for tourists, the oceans as watery mines for corporate fishing fleets, both serviced by privatized airports and highways built on borrowed money.

In January Condoleezza Rice sparked a small controversy by describing the tsunami as “a wonderful opportunity” that “has paid great dividends for us.” Many were horrified at the idea of treating a massive human tragedy as a chance to seek advantage. But, if anything, Rice was understating the case. A group calling itself Thailand Tsunami Survivors and Supporters says that for “businessmen-politicians, the tsunami was the answer to their prayers, since it literally wiped these coastal areas clean of the communities which had previously stood in the way of their plans for resorts, hotels, casinos and shrimp farms. To them, all these coastal areas are now open land!”

Disaster, it seems, is the new terra nullius.

About Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (September 2007); an earlier international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). more…