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Guest Commentary (4606)

by Carl Finamore

The San Francisco Hilton is the city's largest, taking up a square block of prime downtown real estate and boasting 1,900 rooms. Celebrity heiress Paris Hilton's signature phrase, "That's Hot!" might very well apply to the "stunning million dollar views" advertised by her hotel namesake. But it's more like "That's Cold!" when describing the views of the Hilton owners towards their employees.

The Blackstone Group, which owns the Hilton chain, proposes cutting starting wages for new hires by 25%. According to a union fact sheet, the CEO and part owner of Blackstone was paid $1,385,391,042 in 2008. That's right, 1 billion dollars plus. The average union hotel worker earned $30,000 in that same year.

This explains why over 800 members of Local 2, UNITE-HERE and 400 supporters staged their impressive rally and civil disobedience action blocking the main hotel entrance for several hours before 140 sit-in protesters were arrested, cited for misdemeanor trespassing and released a short time later.

Arrestees included Richard Trumka, new president of the 13-million member AFL-CIO and John Wilhelm, International President of the 265,000-member UNITE-HERE. Trumka called the attitude of the hotels a "disgrace" while Wilhelm congratulated Local 2 for its "heart, spirit and endurance" that he said "would spread across the country in 2010" as other hotel contracts expire.

The rally attracted city firefighters, nurses, machinists, teachers, engineers, longshore, teamsters, construction workers, and letter carriers displaying union emblems of support.

by Cliff Kindy and Neil Wollman

After an intense review, President Obama recently ordered about 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Should the U.S. government have made this decision? The goals for the United States are to prevent an Al Qaeda threat in the homeland and to stabilize the Afghan situation, allowing for some level of central government control and a face-saving withdrawal. But who else could or should have weighed in on this decision, and what are their motivations?

The Afghan government realizes that any downsizing of the U.S. presence could threaten its hold on political power. President Karzai recently stated that he expects the U.S. military presence to continue until 2024. The U.S. public is split, mainly along party lines, between those who want an early withdrawal of troops to prevent a quagmire, and those who support the U.S. military presence and fear that withdrawal would squander the investment already made.

The missing voice among these acknowledged players is that of the Afghan public. No country can impose on another a decision that country cannot abide. History is filled with attempts by strong powers to force actions upon weaker ones. This has worked sometimes in the short run, but usually crashes in the long term. The power of democracy is its dependence upon the will of the people who are impacted by a decision.

by Nikolas Kozloff

Recently, I've tuned out the tawdry Tiger Woods sex scandal. However, when Fox newsman Brit Hume sanctimoniously put down Woods' Buddhism a few days ago, I started to take more notice of the story. The Tiger Woods saga has now taken on more interesting dimensions by laying bare some deep seated prejudices.

The controversy started when Hume started to evangelize Woods. Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Hume said the virtuoso golf player should convert to Christianity because Buddhism had no place for "redemption." "The extent to which he [Woods] can recover seems to me depends on his faith," Hume pontificated.

"He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith," the newsman declared. Presumptuously, Hume then inserted his own personal message to the golfer: "Tiger," he said, "turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

Needless to say, some Buddhists found Hume's on air commentary distasteful. Kyle Lovett of TheReformedBuddhist.com writes "Could Hume get away with saying something like this about Jewish people or black people or the Muslim Faith? You betcha he couldn't. Why should he be able to skate away scott free when speaking about Buddhists? Because we are only 3% or 4% of the population of the U.S.?"

by Bill Berkowitz

Larry Jones, the founder of Feed the Children, has been fired over charges that he spied on the organization's top executives, surreptitiously accepted money from a supplier, and keeping a cache of pornographic magazines hidden in his office. That's only the tip of the iceberg!
Over the past three decades, you've probably seen its advertisements on television, in newspapers and magazines, encouraging you to donate money to provide food, medical supplies, and clothing to children across the globe. The Oklahoma City-based Feed the Children was founded 30 years ago by Jones as a Christian, international, non-profit relief organization. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, it is the seventh largest charity in the United States based on private support.
After years of getting away with a series of shady activities, Larry Jones has got some serious explaining to do. The founder, president and public face of Feed the Children has been fired from the organization after being accused "of taking bribes … hiding hard-core pornography" in his office, and planting "microphones in the offices of top executives who opposed him," Charisma News Service reported on January 5.
Jones, who was fired on November 6, "has denied all wrongdoing" and he has "filed a wrongful termination suit … claiming the ministry board terminated him '"for reasons of personal malice and spite and not for any authorized cause."
According to Charisma News, Feed the Children -- founded by Jones 30 years ago -- filed "a countersuit Dec. 28 that alleges Jones misspent ministry funds, pocketed money given to pay his travel expenses and kept gifts from speaking appearances. It also says hard-core pornographic magazines were found in Jones' office."

by Peter Phillips

Free Market Capitalism remains the dominant American ideological truth. The decline of communism opened the door for unrepentant free marketers to boldly espouse market competition as the final solution for global harmony. According to the American mantra, if given the opportunity to freely develop, the marketplace will solve all evils. We will enjoy economic expansion, individual freedom, and unlimited bliss by fully deregulating and privatizing society's socio-economic institutions.

The selection of Obama as the U.S. President placed into power the party of the trilateralist wing of the American corporate elite. Obama's business/government revolving-door cabinet is comprised of just as many corporate CEOs and business elites as any presidency in recent history. This new government elite will continue the work to see that the American mantra remains safe, globalized, and unchallenged.

Pesky socialist or nationalist leaning governments will be undermined, pressured into compliance or even invaded if they dare to resist the American mantra. The full force of U.S. dominated global institutions: WTO, World Bank, IMF, NAFTA, will focus on maximizing free market circumstances and corporate access to every region of the world.


By Paul Sullivan
On December 28, the Christian Science Monitor published an op-ed that was misleading – to the point of being pure propaganda.   The lead sentence is so far from reality that I stayed late at the office on New Year’s Eve to kill this myth dreamed up by someone who must read military press releases and then regurgitate them whole.

The CSM column by Jamie Holmes falsely claimed that, "For the first time since the establishment of all-volunteer forces in 1973, the US military has met all of its recruiting goals."  Not only is this wrong, it ignores a mountain of evidence clearly available in the press showing the military remains in crisis.

In reality, the military failed to reach new enlistment goals for the past decade.  The military accomplished this by manipulating, and thereby significantly lowering, the number of new recruits needed to fill the ranks.  The military accomplished this voodoo bookkeeping by relying upon more than 500,000 individual National Guard and Reserve service members to fill recruiting shortages.  The true number is even higher because many Guard and Reserve activated and deployed twice or more.


By Bill Berkowitz
With a nod, a wink, apologies, and great appreciation to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities:
It was the best of times (the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first African American president in U .S. history), it was the worst of times (the killing in Iraq and Afghanistan rages on), it was the age of wisdom (a time to find solutions to difficult problems), it was the age of foolishness (birthers, deathers, gun-toting anti-Obama protesters), it was the epoch of belief (can we really come up with meaningful health care reform?), it was the epoch of incredulity (Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck), it was the season of Light (could real solutions to climate change be at hand?), it was the season of Darkness (tea partiers were on the move), and, it was the spring of hope (“Yes We Can”), it was the winter of despair (Is this the change we believed in?), we had everything before us (a brand new day), we had nothing before us (same as it ever was), we were all going direct to heaven (“It’s a Beautiful Day”), we were all going direct the other way (“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for) - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
The following are some of the stories I covered during the past year.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009 04:47

Bill Berkowitz: Ralph Reed-ifornication

by Bill Berkowitz

Are you ready for another round of 'GOPers Gone Wild?' Should Lisa Baron's book see the light of day, it could … well … blow the socks off a number of Ralph Reed's conservative cohorts.

If over the past few decades you didn't take Ralph Reed seriously enough, you clearly misunderestimated the man.

Whatever else Reed might be, he is a serious man. He was serious when, as Executive Director of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, he helped make it the most important and influential religious right group in the 1990s. He has had a serious post-Christian Coalition career, turning his Century Strategies, a public relations/political consulting group, into a high-powered enterprise. In 2000, it took some of Reed's serious smearing of John McCain in the South Carolina Republican primary to get George W. Bush's flagging presidential campaign back on track.

Six years later, Reed was serious enough to determine that the launching pad for his electoral aspirations lie in the Georgia Lieutenant Governor office. What looked like a sure thing took a serious turn south when Reed was tied to former GOP uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009 01:11

Brent Budowsky: The Lost Decade

by Brent Budowsky

The lost decade that will thankfully come to an end began with a huge bubble of shameless greed and wanton wealth that was labeled the NASDAQ bubble, which ended in a collapse accompanied by huge paydays, mammoth bonuses and lucrative stock option deals for those who caused it.

The lost decade now ends with a huge bubble of shameless greed and wanton wealth that was labelled the greatest crash since the Great Depression, and was accompanied by huge paydays, mammoth bonuses, and lucrative stock option deals for those who caused it, while working stiffs paid for this largesse with giant bailouts and suffered from this greed with 17% real jobless.

Try this. Most people don't realize it, but a date can be Googled, and one can reread all the news and stories from that date. Google March 10, 2000 and add NASDAQ, which was the time when that market reached 5,000. The stories might as well read from today. Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are destined to repeat them.

Near the beginning of this lost decade, a President was warned about a terrorist who planned to fly airplanes into buildings in New York and he ignored those warnings and showed contempt for those who gave them. And now, near the end of the decade, we spend Christmas worried about another attack from terrorists who plan to explode planes over the oceans.

by Jacqueline Marcus

On December 27, Lesley Stahl on CBS' "60 Minutes" reported on California's severe drought crisis and how money for new water distribution planning is an absolute necessity for agriculture and cities.

"Water is in short supply. You don't have to go to Africa or the Middle East to see how much the planet is running dry. Just go to California, where, after three years of drought, dozens of towns and cities have imposed mandatory water rationing and a half million acres in the country's agricultural breadbasket are lying fallow.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action hero governor, has thrust himself into the fray by requiring towns and cities across the state to reduce their water use by 20 percent over ten years. That means less water to drink, to bathe in, and to water the lawn.

At the San Luis Reservoir in California's farm country, the water is down to half its supply."

Lesley Stahl did not address the central cause of the problem: Global Warming.

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