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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary (4364)

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

This is a story of health care and two Americans; a tale of two citizens, if you will.

This week, Regina Benjamin was nominated by President Obama as our next surgeon general, charged with educating Americans on medical issues and overseeing the United States Public Health Service. She was the first African American woman to head a state medical society, a member of the board of trustees of the American Medical Association and last year was named the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius award.

But more important, she's a country doctor, a family physician along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, serving the poor and uninsured - white, black and Asian. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed her clinic - the second time a hurricane had done so - she mortgaged her own home to rebuild it. The day it was to reopen, a fire burned the clinic to the ground. Moving to a trailer, Dr. Benjamin and her staff never missed a day of work.

by Nikolas Kozloff

When the Honduran military overthrew the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya two weeks ago, there might have been a sigh of relief in the corporate boardrooms of Chiquita. Earlier this year, the Cincinnati-based fruit company joined Dole in criticizing the government in Tegucigalpa that had raised the minimum wage by 60%. Chiquita complained that the new regulations would cut into company profits, requiring the firm to spend more on costs than in Costa Rica: 20 cents more to produce a crate of pineapple and 10 cents more to produce a crate of bananas to be exact. In all, Chiquita fretted that it would lose millions under Zelaya's labor reforms since the company produced around 8 million crates of pineapple and 22 million crates of bananas per year.

When the minimum wage decree came down, Chiquita sought help and appealed to the Honduran National Business Council, known by its Spanish acronym COHEP. Like Chiquita, COHEP was unhappy about Zelaya's minimum wage measure. Amílcar Bulnes, the group's president, argued that if the government went forward with the minimum wage increase, employers would be forced to let workers go, thus increasing unemployment in the country. The most important business organization in Honduras, COHEP groups 60 trade associations and chambers of commerce representing every sector of the Honduran economy. According to its own Web site, COHEP is the political and technical arm of the Honduran private sector, supports trade agreements and provides "critical support for the democratic system."

by Bill Berkowitz

Since delivering the invocation at President Barack Obama's Inauguration in late January, Pastor Rick Warren has been on the down low... well, sort of. He hasn't totally disappeared from the public spotlight -- he's often speaking to some group somewhere -- but he's been staying out of the media spotlight by not appearing on the cable news networks.

After his last round of cable news network appearances, Warren got involved in a minor controversy when he denied that he had been a big-time supporter of Proposition 8 -- California's anti-same-sex marriage initiative. Gay marriage advocates pointed out that he was definitely on board the anti-gay marriage train (and they had the video to prove it), while Warren's Christian conservative colleagues felt blindsided by his "not so much" stance.

Now, Warren, founder of Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, California -- a megachurch with thousands of members -- and the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," which has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, has stirred up another hornet's nest among Christian conservatives by his recent appearance at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Thursday, 16 July 2009 02:26

Andrew Lehman: No Words

by Andrew Lehman

For several months now, the Republicans have been seeking to find a way to demonize the Obama Administration, experimenting with the words "socialist" and "fascist" to see which word seems more powerful at evoking fear.

"Fascist" suggests a one-party government controlled by a small elite, often with close ties to specific corporations. Fascism is often characterized by an atmosphere composed of fear and reprisal.

"Socialist" seems to imply a government focused on the group instead of the individual, denying individuals their desire to do as they please while seeking ways to make the less economically advantaged individuals within the group more secure. Implied is the denigration of individual rights.

In both cases, there is the implied "in" group and "out" group. Republicans are seeking ways to have people who identify with being the out group identify with Republicans, who identify themselves as the out group. Regarding fascism, Republicans work the meme that Democrats are in total control. Declaring socialism, they imply that the individual has lost all ability to achieve success.

by Nikolas Kozloff

Behind the recent pressure campaign against the Zelaya regime in Honduras lurks a shadowy world of right wing foundations, lobbying groups, and anti-Chávez figures. This tangled web of Washington, D.C. interests includes the Arcadia Foundation, a mysterious figure named Robert Carmona Borjas, and former State Department official Otto Reich. What do all these organizations and characters have in common? In one way or another, they are all tied back to Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

by Chris Mooney & Sheril Kirshenbaum

This summer, as the U.S. Senate debates whether to join the House of Representatives in passing the first law in U.S. history to control global warming, expect to hear a lot of misinformation, a lot of absurdity, and a lot of gobbledygook. You'll hear assertions that the globe isn't warming any longer -- cooling has set in. You'll see any local temperature variation (in the cooler direction, anyway) seized upon to the same end. You'll hear the sun invoked -- rather than human industrial emissions -- as the cause of climate change.

And you'll probably hear many ingeniously wrong things that we can't even predict yet.

None of this should be surprising by now: Endless surveys have demonstrated that the scientific community and the U.S. public stand vastly far apart on climate change. The latest, from the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, found that while 84 percent of scientists believe human beings are driving global warming through their greenhouse gas emissions (the accepted scientific view), just 49 percent of the public agrees. If you break that down by party affiliation, things get still more revealing: 67 percent of Republicans disagree with the scientific consensus view, arguing either than global warming is "natural" rather than human caused, or even maintaining that it isn't happening at all.

by David Swanson

This moment, in which the Attorney General of the United States claims to be considering the possibility of allowing our laws against torture to be enforced, seems a good one in which to reveal that I have seen over 1,200 torture photos and a dozen videos that are in the possession of the United States military. These are photographs depicting torture, the victims of torture, and other inhuman and degrading treatment. Several videos show a prisoner intentionally slamming his head face-first very hard into a metal door. Guards filmed this from several angles rather than stopping it.

The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) of Australia revealed several of these photographs, video of the head slamming, and video of prisoners forced to masturbate, as part of a news report broadcast in 2006. But the full collection has not been made available to the public or to a special prosecutor, although it was shown to members of Congress in 2004. When these photos are eventually made public, I encourage you to take a good look at them. After you get over feeling ill, it might be appropriate to consider Congress' past five years of inaction. You'll be able to feel sick all over again.

In January 2004, the military seized photos and videos that were on computers and cell phones at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Those related to the abuse of prisoners amounted, as far as I know, to those in the collection I've looked at. So this collection does not include images of torture or mistreatment that may have taken place at Abu Ghraib after that date or at other locations at any time. I have reason to believe that such photos also exist in large quantity and depict types of abuses we have not yet seen.

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

If you want to know what really matters in Washington, don't go to Capitol Hill for one of those hearings, or pay attention to those staged White House "town meetings." They're just for show. What really happens -- the serious business of Washington -- happens in the shadows, out of sight, off the record. Only occasionally -- and usually only because someone high up stumbles -- do we get a glimpse of just how pervasive the corruption has become.

Case in point: Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of The Washington Post -- one of the most powerful people in DC -- invited top officials from the White House, the Cabinet, and Congress to her home for an intimate, off-the-record dinner to discuss health care reform with some of her reporters and editors covering the story.

But CEOs and lobbyists from the health care industry were invited, too, provided they forked over $25,000 a head -- or up to a quarter of a million if they want to sponsor a whole series of these cozy get-togethers. And what is the inducement offered? Nothing less, the invitation read, than "an exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will get it done."

by Nikolas Kozloff

As the Republican Party implodes, the public is becoming aware of a secretive Christian society known as the Family or the Fellowship. The group was founded in 1935 in opposition to FDR's New Deal and its adherents subscribe to a far right Christian fundamentalist and free market ideology. A minister named Abraham Vereide founded the Family after having a vision in which God visited him in the person of the head of the United States Steel Corporation (no, I'm not making this up). The Family has a connection to house on C Street in Washington, D.C., known simply as C Street. Officially registered as a church, the building serves as a meeting place and residence for conservative politicians.

Few members of the fellowship talk about the group's mission. The organization organizes the annual National Prayer Breakfast that is attended by the president, members of Congress, and diplomats from around the world. Earlier this year, Obama presented his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the event. According to Jeff Sharlet who wrote a book about the group, the Family's philosophy is based on "a sort of trickle-down fundamentalism," that believes that the wealthy and powerful, if they "can get their hearts right with God ... will dispense blessings to those underneath them." True believers in market orthodoxy, Family members think that God's will operates directly through Adam Smith's "invisible hand."

by Brad Reed of Commonweal Institute

If the media coverage of the Iranian elections has taught us anything, it's that the neoconservatives have held onto their megaphones in the mainstream press. For those of you unfamiliar with the neoconservatives - or neocons, as they are often referred to - they're a clique of right-wing foreign policy ideologues who think the use of American military power is always justified under any circumstances. The endgame, as neocon Max Boot put it, is to have American troops occupy the "troubled lands" that "cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets." The neocons' one real attempt at implementing this doctrine so far has been in Iraq, where our country has been fighting for more than six years to take out Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction stockpiles.

Amazingly, the neocons have learned nothing from the bloody experience in Iraq and would like to see it copied several times over. The recent Iranian elections are a case in point, as the neocons used the crackdown on Iranian dissidents as an excuse to both portray President Obama as weak and to restate their calls for regime change in the country. And of course, it isn't merely Iran where the neocons would like to see military force applied. Neocon guru and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, for instance, has advocated using the American military to preventatively attack not only Iran, but also North Korea, Sudan and even Somali pirates. The neocons don't seem to understand that it is simply not possible to fight multiple wars at once with our already-overstretched military. When Newt Gingrich was asked on Meet the Press a few years ago if having 130,000 of our troops stuck in Iraq had harmed our ability to deal effectively with Iran and North Korea, Gingrich actually said that it only hurt us "in our minds."

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