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Friday, 20 January 2017 05:48

A Worker Is Someone to See, Not See Through

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

terkelworking3Forty years later, Studs Terkel's book inspired "Working America." (Image: The New Press)

Commentaries like this one aren't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain Truthout and BuzzFlash by making a tax-deductible donation?

Many Wealthy Americans Look at Workers Every Day Without Seeing Them

That's the striking premise of a photo exhibition, "Working America," now on display at the Harold Washington Chicago Public Library through the end of January. Jane Saks, who conceived and oversaw the project, told BuzzFlash that she wanted to create a presentation that compelled the viewer to interact with the large-format photographic images of workers as individuals, instead of viewing them as replaceable members of a mass indistinguishable workforce.

"I wanted to put the individual worker first, to make his or her presence in their images part of a larger public dialogue," Saks said. "Persons who come upon the exhibit in the library are compelled to engage with the worker as they emerge from invisibility. The large portraits put the individual forward first."

The photography, taken by American photojournalist Lynsey Addario, captures the personalities of people at work or in retirement after a lifetime of labor. The images are mute, but the "voices" of the workers -- their identities -- become present in the viewers' mind. To many wealthy Americans, laborers such as building engineers, bus drivers, and fast food workers, for examples, register as just background noise to the day. We don't give full personhood to the persons we are encounteri

Saks, who heads the About Project -- which "amplifies artistic voices...[that focus on] human rights and gender inequality" -- describes the exhibit as a being a tribute to the 40th anniversary of the publication of Studs Terkel's iconic oral history, Working. 

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Commentaries like this one aren't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain Truthout and BuzzFlash by making a tax-deductible donation?

Apple 0120wrp opt(Photo: fir0002)The first genetically modified (GMO) apples, which are engineered to resist browning when sliced, will arrive in select midwestern U.S. stores next month. The fruit, produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits and sold under the brand name Arctic Apples, will be packaged as "grab-and-go" slices, according to Capital Press.

A customer will only know that the fruit is genetically modified by scanning the packaging with a smartphone. The company is adhering to the new GMO food labeling act which allows businesses to use a QR code instead of clear wording that informs consumers if a product contains GMO ingredients.

"We are selling it under the Arctic brand and we've had a lot of press and attention, so I assume most people will know what it is," Okanagan's founder and president Neal Carter told Capital Press.

The company's product can be identified with its logo of a snowflake inside an apple outline.

2017.19.1 BF Berkowitz 2Franklin Graham during his Decision America tour at the Nebraska State Capitol Building in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo: Wikimedia)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Commentaries like this one aren't funded by corporate advertising, but by readers like you. Can you help sustain Truthout and BuzzFlash by making a tax-deductible donation?

On Friday, January 20, when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, he will be surrounded by a group of Christian conservative evangelical preachers. Trump's evangelical entourage, according to J. Lee Grady, the former editor of the evangelical publication, Charisma, and now the director of The Mordecai Project, is slated to "include Paula White, a Pentecostal pastor from Florida who is sometimes credited with bringing Trump to faith; evangelist Franklin Graham; Hispanic minister Sammy Rodriguez (who denounced Trump's anti-immigrant comments); and African-American preacher Wayne T. Jackson of Detroit." There will also be a rabbi and a Catholic cardinal "on the stage."

White, the senior pastor at New Destiny Christian Center, has been Trump's "spiritual advisor," Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and is someone who has been an exceedingly Obamaphobic voice since President Obama's first took office in 2009, recently maintained that God played a role in Trump's electoral triumph. Jackson is a Detroit-based prosperity preacher, and the founder of an African-American Christian TV network.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

7811078716 e5ddeff985 zWhy didn't the DC Press Corps ask the hard questions in interviews with President Obama? (Photo: Marc Nozell)

 This BuzzFlash commentary was only published because of support from readers like you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation and fund more stories like it!

On January 10, President Barack Obama gave a farewell speech before 18,000 people at McCormick Place, Chicago's convention center. Some media pundits called his remarks a return to Obama's Chicago community organizer days. However, a lot of the rhetoric sounded like political pablum. Consider this, from the official White House transcript:

The peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected President to the next. (Applause.) I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me. (Applause.) Because it's up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.

We have what we need to do so. We have everything we need to meet those challenges. After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth. Our youth, our drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means that the future should be ours. But that potential will only be realized if our democracy works. Only if our politics better reflects the decency of our people. (Applause.) Only if all of us, regardless of party affiliation or particular interests, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.

In a January 13 article, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) took the occasion to note that "for the eight years he was in office, President Barack Obama snubbed the Chicago press corps, ignoring repeated interview requests from local reporters in his adopted hometown."

2017.19.1 BF Koehler(Photo: lilyo)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

This BuzzFlash commentary was only published because of support from readers like you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation and fund more stories like it!

The icon's day has come and gone, and -- oh, the irony -- eight people were fatally shot in Chicago on his weekend. Another eight were shot during a Martin Luther King rally and celebration in Miami.

God knows how many more died this past weekend: around the country, around the world.

An enormous wrong called human violence continues to roll across Planet Earth, but we bring less understanding to it than we had 50 years ago, when King spoke at Riverside Church in New York City and stood courageously against the war in Vietnam.

"We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation," King said in his electrifying and disturbing speech, which merged the movement for civil rights and social justice with the growing national outrage against war. "The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. . . .

"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today."

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

SolarFarm 0118wrp opt(Photo: US Bureau of Land Management)U.S. solar employs more workers than any other energy industry, including coal, oil and natural gas combined, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's second annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

6.4 million Americans now work in the traditional energy and the energy efficiency sector, which added more than 300,000 net new jobs in 2016, or 14 percent of the nation's job growth.

"This report verifies the dynamic role that our energy technologies and infrastructure play in a 21st century economy," said DOE Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy David Foster. "Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America, producing 14 percent of the new jobs in 2016."

The solar industry is particularly shining bright.

"Proportionally, solar employment accounts for the largest share of workers in the Electric Power Generation sector," the report, released on Jan. 13, states. "This is largely due to the construction related to the significant buildout of new solar generation capacity." Overall, the U.S. solar workforce increased 25 percent in 2016.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2916200309 fe65dc6dce zThe myth of the "heroic savior." (Photo: cranky messiah)

There is a big difference between truly assisting marginalized groups and being a charitable "savior."

The latter label characterizes many people of privilege and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) that attempt to provide solutions for individuals and groups in need -- without listening to the voices of those whom they are supposedly "helping." This is the essential message of a book recently featured as a Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week: No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality, by Jordan Flaherty.

In an excerpt from his book featured on Truthout, Flaherty writes:

The savior mentality means that you want to help others but are not open to guidance from those you want to help. Saviors fundamentally believe they are better than the people they are rescuing. Saviors want to support the struggle of communities that are not their own, but they believe they must remain in charge. The savior always wants to lead, never to follow. When the people they have chosen to rescue tell them they are not helping, they think those people are mistaken. It is almost taken as evidence that they need more help.

The savior mentality is not about individual failings. It is the logical result of a racist, colonialist, capitalist, hetero-patriarchal system setting us against each other. And being a savior is not a fixed identity....

Saviors adopt trendy labels such as social entrepreneur or change agent. They preach the religion of kinder capitalism, the idea that you can get rich while also helping others, that the pursuit of profit, described with buzzwords like engagement, innovation, and sharing economy, will improve everyone's lives through efficiency. However, I stand with nineteenth-century novelist Honoré de Balzac, who wrote that behind every fortune is a concealed crime. I don't believe you can get rich while doing good -- wealth and justice are mutually exclusive. The more wealth exists in the world, the less justice.

In short, the savior or charity mentality allows the "giver" to feel righteous, compassionate and fair without having to engage in the hard work of achieving those goals by listening to the needs of people whom they are allegedly assisting.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pitchfork 0118wrp opt(Photo: Robert Couse-Baker)Buckle up, friends. Most Americans are about to be detoured onto a rough and rocky back road called "Trump Way." The autocratic tycoon was unabashed on the campaign trail in promising his victory would ensure millions of people a dire future, including mass deportations of immigrants, refugee bans and frontal assaults on women. But they're not the only ominous prospects. It will surprise many of the working stiffs who voted for the blustery billionaire to learn something he didn't communicate in his hectoring, "truth-telling" speeches: His little-discussed economic agenda is filled with provisions that would permit 1-percenters to travel more luxuriously than ever in the smooth, fast lanes of life, while the middle class and the poor are flagged onto Trump Way for a hairy, four-year ride of even more downward mobility. The proposed package includes:

—Immediately seizing control of the National Labor Relations Board, turning it into a corporate bulldozer to destroy workers' rights, particularly the right to organize unions

—"Yuuuuge" new tax cuts for corporations and the super rich, busting the budget for addressing human needs

—Privatization of such basics as public education, Medicare and Social Security

—Deregulation of corporate profiteers — from Wall Street banksters to Big Oil polluters

—Eliminating the federal minimum wage

—Freeing corporations from rules that prohibit discrimination in hiring, paying, promoting and firing workers

2017.17.1 BF Talen(Photo: OccupyReno MediaCommittee)REVEREND BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On Jan. 11th, in Des Moines, Iowa -- Reverend Billy Talen and his co-defendant Father Frank Cordaro were found innocent of the charge of Trespass, with possible $500 fine and 30 days in prison. In her decision, Judge Carol Coppola refused to accept the prosecution's motion to stop Talen and Cordaro from invoking the 1st Amendment in their defense. This is a reflection on the brief trial by Reverend Billy.                                   

"Your honor -- he's a professional protester!" the assistant District Attorney called out in horror. Wylie Stecklow my long-suffering pro bono lawyer standing next to me cast a wry side-long glance.

Why the demonization of protest?

Protesters supported by volunteer donations are not a new idea. We create national holidays for some of the prominent ones. Sometimes you just have to go out and ask for help! In the Church of Stop Shopping we have 200 people who give $2 each month. We call these friends "Holy Rollers."

2017.17.1 BF Buchheit(Photo: Giuseppe Milo)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The reality of the disposable American has been building up in recent years, and new evidence keeps pouring in. Now the potential exists for greater suffering under the rule of a billionaire Cabinet that is far, far removed from average workers and renters and homeowners.

First the "Upside" -- 5% of Us Are Millionaires

Depending on the source, America has anywhere from 7 million to 13.5 million millionaires -- about 5% of U.S. adults, and about a 40% increase in just six years. At the other end, 90% of us have gained NOTHING since 1997, and at least half of us NOTHING since 1980.

New Evidence of an Overall Collapse

Recent studies show America at or near the bottom among developed countries in disposable income poverty, income and wealth inequality, safety net provisions, employment, economic mobility, life expectancy, infant mortality, and the well-being of children. We've run the table. The better part of America is equivalent to a third-world country.

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