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Retail sales reportedly grew approximately 5.5 percent this holiday season.

That's good news for jobs, but the bad news is that the greatest amount of increased employment may be overseas, not in the US.

A December 28 AP article provides some ominous insight:

Corporate profits are up. Stock prices are up. So why isn't anyone hiring?

Actually, many American companies are - just maybe not in your town. They're hiring overseas, where sales are surging and the pipeline of orders is fat.

More than half of the 15,000 people that Caterpillar Inc. has hired this year were outside the U.S. UPS is also hiring at a faster clip overseas. For both companies, sales in international markets are growing at least twice as fast as domestically.

The trend helps explain why unemployment remains high in the United States, edging up to 9.8 percent last month, even though companies are performing well: All but 4 percent of the top 500 U.S. corporations reported profits this year, and the stock market is close to its highest point since the 2008 financial


Michael Moore's Christmas message this year was a quotation from William Rivers Pitt's eloquent Truthout column on the spirit of giving of oneself:

Before Santa and presents and shopping and all the attendant Christmas (stuff) got involved, this holiday was enshrined to commemorate a guy who got nailed to a tree for daring to tell people to be kind to one another. If you have two cloaks, He said, give one away. Remember those who have less than you, be charitable, be good, be merciful.

Truthout's Pitt - a trenchant cynic about current politics, but an inspiring optimist about the powers of the human soul - also gently prods us to be giving and strong in a nation seemingly gone crazed: "Help someone if you can. Hold close to you who and what you love. Be fiercely present in these mad days, to whatever extent is reasonable for you. Remember what we can do, together, if we lean in to the task."

This is more than a compelling message for a religious holiday: it is the resolution we should carry with us into the New Year.

Long after the empty boxes that were filled with holiday consumer gifts have been thrown away, there is still plenty of time ahead to fill the heart of another human being with the gift of care and love.

We just need to find it within ourselves and actualize it. This is the joy we can have every day of the year, not just on a religious holiday.

This is the one, true faith: the faith of our common humanity.


Although touted as a populist movement of individual rights, the Tea Party has got some explaining to do when it comes to supporting democracy.

Specifically, not long ago, Tea Party Nation President Judson Philips advocated that only persons who own property be allowed to vote.

In a blog critical of the Tea Party movement, "Tea Party Nationalism," a November column


Why does Mary Matalin want money from me? Don't she and her hubby, James Carville, have enough millions between them not to solicit my lunch money?

Based on an email I received from Matalin on December 21, she is passing the can for the Libby Legal Defense Trust. The name of the c-3 charitable fund for a convicted Cheney staffer, who endangered our national security, is a bit out of date. After all, Scooter Libby was found guilty and Bush didn't pardon him, so what is there to defend?

According to Matalin, Scooter deserves his "good name" back, and wants me to pop for a few dollars to help him remove the blemish his crime. Scooter must be feeling really down after exposing a CIA agent engaged in trying to reduce illicit trade in weapons of mass destruction (the ironies abound).

Indeed, Matalin is particularly crestfallen that Scooter's reputation


Yesterday, BuzzFlash argued that Sweden - probably at the behest of the US - was exploiting the sex charges against Julian Assange to damage the reputation of WikiLeaks.

We also noted that BuzzFlash is not passing judgment on the accusations leveled against Assange (as detailed here in The Guardian UK) - and believes that, although the Swedish prosecutors have bungled the case (even dropping the charges at one point), the two women in Sweden have every right to make legal allegations if they believe them to be true. And Assange should answer for them through the legal process - not through the media. (It is important to note that Assange has not been charged with any crimes, as of yet. He is legally considered a fugitive from an ongoing investigation.)

While some progressives and pro-transparency advocates consider the sexual complaints to be a setup, BuzzFlash believes that there are two levels going on simultaneously: an appropriate legal investigation, and layered on top of it is the use of the case to achieve political goals to bring down WikiLeaks with Assange.

As we pointed out yesterday, Sweden requested an INTERPOL alert to 188 nations - at the highest public level - at a time when the CIA was most likely so close to Assange that their agents could hear him flush the toilet. The purpose of INTERPOL, in terms of international fugitives, is to inform countries that individuals are wanted by another nation so that the fugitive can be located. But that was entirely unnecessary in the case of Assange because, according to The Guardian UK, the British police knew where Assange was in the UK and were awaiting a new extradition request, because the Swedes had goofed up their first one. So, the Swedes knew that Assange was in Britain and that his lawyers had been negotiating with the British Police.

Indeed, Sweden was working closely with UK law enforcement at the time it directed INTERPOL to make the "red notice" for Assange public, thus ensuring maximum negative coverage from the media of WikiLeaks and Assange. What proof is there that Sweden was working with the UK? According



An examination of the INTERPOL web site would lead one to believe that Sweden intentionally heightened the media frenzy around the sex charges against Juilan Assange as compared to similar sex charges against others.

Why does BuzzFlash make this contention?

For several reasons, but first it is important to point out BuzzFlash's perspective on the charges themselves: Assange should answer to them, and we would hope that there would be a day that most governments, including Sweden, pursued sex charges by women with the vigor Sweden is pursuing Assange.

Yes, the US government is out to get Assange, and it is very possible that the Swedish government is using the charges to achieve a political goal of extraditing him to Sweden and then to the US, because extradition from the UK would take longer. But it is wrong to vilify the women who made the legal accusations. They have a right to have their claims taken seriously.

That being said, the international handling of the case by the Swedish government in relationship to Assange appears to be based more on Assange's role as head of WikiLeaks than how the charges would normally be handled via INTERPOL.

One of INTERPOL's duties for its member countries is to disseminate "wanted" information, at the request of a nation, to law enforcement agencies


If the 9/11 terrorists wanted to cause the deaths of many Americans, Republicans in the Senate are aiding and abetting them.

That may sound like a monstrous, sensationalistic accusation, but there is really no other way to characterize a GOP filibuster last week to prevent funding that would assist the medical needs of 9/11 first responders in serious ill health due to exposures to toxins at the site. ABC News headlined the act of betrayal, "9/11 Health Bill Falls Short in Senate Test Vote: Senate Republicans block bill to help 9/11 responders, survivors sickened by trade center dust."

As far as the federal budget goes, this is small potatoes: $7.4 billion. But the Republicans were sticking to higher priorities at the time for them: a vote on a tax break for the super rich. Now that the bank accounts of billionaires have been padded, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York holds out hope that


Did you hear the joke about CNN sponsoring a Republican presidential candidate debate with the Tea Party as a partner?

Well, it's not a joke.

According to Mother Jones, "Sam Feist, CNN's political director, says the arrangement was designed to give undecided voters a way to educate themselves about 'diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party.' It's not the first time CNN has partnered with the group. Earlier this year, CNN embedded with Tea Party Express on one of its bus tours, giving the group extensive coverage."

Hold that outraged laughter for a moment. Each year, the corporate media gets more and more skewed toward titillation and craven appeals to "targeted news marketing." And that is dangerous to a democracy.

Television news, in particular, has long since become an entertainment product, something that is sandwiched between commercials. To get higher fees for ads, the media conglomerates need to attract more viewers. And to attract more viewers, they need to sensationalize and reinforce a viewer's worldview, not objectively report


Does Pennsylvania Avenue eventually become Wall Street, or does it just seem that way?

Obama's former budget director, Peter Orszag, is becoming Citigroup's vice chairman of global banking, at a salary speculated to be well in excess of one million dollars a year - and that doesn't include the "bonuses."

Orszag is just one in a long line of top-level Democratic and Republican economic advisers in D.C. who make seamless rides back and forth from Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Hill. As a Reuters article notes:

He [Orszag] follows in the footsteps of another prominent Democratic government official - former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who became a senior counselor to Citigroup and helped shape the bank's strategy during the years leading up to the financial crisis. Rubin resigned under a cloud of criticism in early 2009, after the struggling bank accepted $45 billion in U.S. government bailout funds.

Rubin has come to symbolize the continuous "neoliberal" school of finance that has been the course of both parties for the last few decades - and many Rubin fellow travelers - such as Geithner


What a difference a few days makes in government "evaluations" of the longest war in American history.

On Monday, The New York Times reported on an ominous assessment - circulating on Capitol Hill - of the Afghanistan war. But by Thursday, the White House was touting the Bush/Obama ongoing "optimism" that the "fragile" war is "showing progress" and troops will be withdrawn at some point in the future.

But given that recent polling indicates that an increasing number of Americans (60 percent in one poll) are opposed to the nearly decade-old conflict, it's hard to see how Afghanistan is anything but an albatross around the neck

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