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The latest spin on Nike sweatshops

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Here it comes again, the "Gooberhead Award," given periodically to prominent figures who have their mouths running at full speed but don't seem to have their brains in gear.

Today's awardee is Maria Eitel, a first-time Goober winner, but given her position, I'll bet it won't be her last. Ms. Eitel has been named to a prestigious new job: Vice President for Corporate and Social Responsibility at Nike. Gosh, that's a heavy load to shoulder, huh? The giant shoemaker, a notorious sweatshop exploiter, announced that she'll now be responsible for shaping up Nike's labor practices. Company president Thomas Clarke declared that the hiring of Ms. Eitel signals Nike's commitment from the top to be a leader ... in global corporate citizenship.

Wow, she must be a tiger! Probably has a lot of experience in the fight against worldwide labor exploitation. It'll take a tough cookie to bend the Nike "swooshtika" toward justice, so let's check her credentials: Let's see, she's been a television reporter, a White House spokeswoman for the Bush Administration and a corporate affairs manager for Microsoft.

What? She's a PR flak, a political spinmeister, a corporate con artist! We're to believe that she'll hold Nike's golden feet to the fire? Who do they think they're kidding?

In her Nike debut, Ms. Eitel sounded more like a lap dog than a watch dog, declaring that criticism of the company's labor practices has not been justified because this is "a very complex issue." What a goober. There's nothing complex about the fact that Nike hires teen-age girls in Asia to make its pricey shoes, pays them subpoverty wages and allows them to be abused in the workplace. Nike's new "VP for Corporate Responsibility" is just another public-relations cover-up.

They can put French perfume on a skunk, butit still won't hide the stink.


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