CHESTER KULIS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"The only premise of the book was to just go out and listen."
And the book, edited by Miles Harvey, who is quoted above, is remarkable. It's one of a kind, as far as I know – How Long Will I Cry? – the first publication of a newly formed nonprofit organization called Big Shoulders Books, which is affiliated with Chicago's DePaul University. It's available free of charge, because . . . how could a cry in the wilderness be otherwise?
It's a cry in the wilderness punctuated by gunfire. Usually all we hear is the gunfire, emanating from "those" neighborhoods, the violent ones, "so physically and spiritually isolated from the rest of us," as Alex Kotlowitz describes them in his foreword. How Long Will I Cry? is an attempt – no, I mean a beginning – at ending that isolation.
It's the dream and collaboration of lots of people who live in and love Chicago, cultural mecca and, in recent years, "murder capital" of America. This book begins telling the city's untold story, which is the untold story of so much of the country. It lets loose the voices of children, teenagers, adults who have been wounded by the violence that is the shadow side of American and human culture: the voices of those who have lost their children and their friends to it; the voices of those who have grown up with it; the voices of those who have participated in it and been dragged into it.
There are 35 interviews in all. Together they convey the complex dynamic of poverty, despair and hope beyond hope. We need to listen. We need to find a collective resolve to end the violence.
ROBERT SCHEER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Finally, Barack Obama may prove deserving of his Nobel Peace Prize by joining with England, France, China, Russia and Germany in negotiating an eminently sensible rapprochement with Iran on its nuclear program. Following on his pullback from war with Syria and instead, successfully negotiating the destruction of that country's supply of chemical weapons, this is another bold step to fulfill the peacemaking promise that got him elected president in the first place.
As Obama reminded his audience at an event Monday in San Francisco, he was fulfilling the pledge from his first campaign to usher in a "new era of American leadership, one that turned the page on a decade of war." As a candidate in 2007, he committed to engage in "aggressive personal diplomacy" with Iran's leaders, and he has now done just that.
This is potentially an international game changer comparable to Richard Nixon's opening to Mao's Red China and Ronald Reagan's overtures to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, two examples of heroic diplomacy that combined to destroy the underpinnings of the Cold War. Those who continually call for regime change in Iran as a condition for improved relations with that country, as Obama's critics are now doing, ignore that history.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The U.S.-led deal to freeze Iran's nuclear program is a great accomplishment on many levels. Begin with the most basic: What if the talks in Geneva had failed?
If Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had gone home empty-handed, we would likely be drifting toward war. Iran's uranium-enrichment centrifuges would continue whirling until it became unambiguously clear that the nation, if it chose, could make a "breakout" dash to build a nuclear weapon in a matter of weeks -- something President Obama has said he will not allow.
The president could decide to attack Iran's nuclear facilities or he could wait until Israeli military action forced his hand. Either way, we'd be engaged in another Middle East war -- one whose economic, political and human consequences could be dire.
So what did Kerry do in Geneva? He won an agreement that not only freezes Iran's nuclear-enrichment program for six months but actually rolls it back; that prevents new nuclear facilities from coming online; and that provides for unprecedented daily inspections to ensure that Iran is living up to it commitments.
Let me restate that to make it clearer: In May of next year, Iran will be further away from being able to build a bomb than it is today.
And this achievement is being attacked with the word "appeasement" and references to Munich? Give me a break.
REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On September 16, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary on how Rev. Billy Talen -- street theater minister for the anti-consumer movement -- and his choir leader were arrested for leading a performance art protest at a Chase bank branch in Manhattan. The target of the theatrical presentation was how JP Morgan Chase is one of the key banks financing industries that are tumbling earth toward a climate implosion. On December 9th, Talen and his choir master will appear in a NYC court and face the prosecution's charges that could result in up to a year in jail.
Meanwhile, Jamie Dimon, Washington D.C.'s made man on Wall Street and the don of JP Morgan Chase, has not faced a criminal investigation (that has been made public) or charges for his role in Wall Street's crash. Yes, JP Morgan Chase was recently fined $13 billion dollars, but that is largely -- as large as it may appear -- a public relations stunt on the part of the Department of Justice to make it appear that it is cracking down on errant banks.
Meanwhile, Jamie Dimon rakes in the millions and remains the talk of the town. But Rev. Billy and his associate may go to jail for entertaining some Chase stuffed suits with their presentation on behalf of saving life on the planet.
The following is a commentary Rev. Billy wrote recently for BuzzFlash at Truthout about the tragic irony of his prosecution, in the face of Wall Street crooks being as untouchable as the mafia.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Sometimes it pays just to go away. You could ask Jim Skinner about that.
He was CEO of the hamburger behemoth, McDonald's, pulling down a hefty $8.8 million in pay. Last year, though, Skinner retired, and, rather than getting a gold watch, he was given a load of gold — so large that even a Brink's armored truck would have been too small to haul it all away. His salary of $753,000 was the least of it. The Big Mac chain also served up $1.7 million to the chief in stock and $3 million in option awards. Then it slathered on another $10.2 million in retirement pay. All that was topped by a super-rich dessert: $11.6 million in "incentive pay."
What? Why does a guy with millions already on his food tray need any incentive to do his job? Maybe because Skinner found it hard to stomach the biggest part of his job, which was to pay poverty wages to McDonald's workers, shove thousands of them onto food stamps and other programs paid for by taxpayers, and lobby aggressively to prevent any increases in the minimum wage or any tax hikes on uber-rich elites like him.
It's dirty work, but Skinner did it, finally skipping away with a 2012 pay package totaling $27.7 million. Yet, in the phantasmagoric plutocracy of CorporateLand, too much is not enough. Last year, for the first time ever, the 10 highest-paid CEOs in America hauled in at least $100 million each, even as the great majority of workaday families have lost income.
This gaping (and ever-widening) inequality is the greatest threat to our society's cohesion. Too few people now control an unconscionable and untenable share of America's money and power, using it to grab more of both for themselves. They can build a $100-million wall, but it won't be high enough to hide their greed from the rest of us.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
1. Scrounging to Survive and Heartlessness
Beverly is a middle-aged homeless woman who survives day-by-day on the streets of Chicago. I learned about her from my friend Joe, an advocate for the homeless and a volunteer at a community kitchen on the city's north side. He first noticed Beverly huddled in a theater exitway on a frigid November morning, cup in hand, a pair of crutches leaning against the door behind her. He gave her a little money, and she responded with a smile and a quiet "thank you." They talked a little bit; she seemed eager to share a few minutes of conversation. She mentioned that she hadn't eaten that day. Since they were too far from, and it was too early for, the community kitchen, Joe offered to buy her a meal. Her favorite was chili, at a lunch spot around the corner.
Charles and David Koch are both members of the .00001%. That's a group of twenty individuals who have a total net worth of over a half-trillion dollars, about $26 billion each. One of David's residences is at 740 Park Avenue, in the most exclusive area of Manhattan. The doorman at the 740 building had this to say about David Koch: "We would load up his trucks - two vans, usually - every weekend, for the Hamptons...multiple guys, in and out, in and out, heavy bags. We would never get a tip from Mr. Koch. We would never get a smile from Mr. Koch. Fifty-dollar check for Christmas."
2. Bedbugs and Gluttony
Beverly had made $8 that day, from 8AM to 2PM, a little over a dollar an hour. She needed $22 for a night in a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel, where she could shower and have some privacy, and most importantly feel safe for a few hours. The alternative was a local mission, where, she said, "You got to sleep with your stuff under you, so that nobody will steal it from you." She also spoke reluctantly about the bedbugs.
Hamptons home builder Joe Farrell described some of the extravagances: a home ATM machine "regularly restocked with $20,000 in $10 bills"; and a store selling $30,000 bottles of Dom Perignon. A trifle for someone like David Koch, who made $3 million an hour from his investments last year.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The US Chamber of Commerce ought to change its name to the Pirates of the Americas -- and maybe sponsor a ride at Disneyworld where everyone gets their pocket or purses picked at the end of the boat trip.
Not only does the Chamber advocate for policies that continue to hamper small businesses, fleece consumers, and increase corporate profits to stratospheric records at the expense of workers, it also wants to pretty much legalize allowing US companies to use bribery abroad.
According to Public Citizen, which authored a recent analysis:
The report, “License to Bribe,” highlights efforts over the past several years by the US Chamber of Commerce to weaken the FCPA. According to the report, the U.S. Chamber’s five proposals “show that the organization either greatly misunderstands many of the FCPA’s enforcement realities, or that it is purposefully oversimplifying how the law is enforced (or both).”
The report also describes responses to these requests, from experts and from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which have joint jurisdiction over FCPA matters and released guidelines seemingly in response to the US Chamber’s requests.
The responses highlight concerns that the US Chamber’s proposals would make the law less effective at curbing bribery and would weaken the health of both the world’s economy and of democratic institutions across the globe. The U.S. Chamber’s request for the FCPA to limit a company’s liability for the acts of its subsidiary, for example, was rebuffed by the DOJ and SEC because that change would give companies an incentive to create subsidiaries for the very purpose of engaging in bribery. The proposal is especially concerning given the fact that so many of the cases in which companies have been found guilty or paid settlements were ones in which this was the mechanism by which the corrupt behavior was taking place.
WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Boy o boy, the bodies on the fainting couches are stacked three deep over at the Washington Post in the aftermath of the Senate's historic rule change regarding the filibuster.
Dana Milbank: "The Democrats' naked power grab...they will come to deeply regret what they have done."
The Post's Editorial Board: "After filibuster vote, both parties will face nasty 'nuclear' fallout...Both parties have been guilty...Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) proved not enough of a leader to resist the 'naked power grab.'"
JOE CONASON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Nobody in Washington talks much about the poor in America these days, even though they are more and more with us in the economic aftermath of the Great Recession. Perhaps that is why the Washington Post welcomed Paul Ryan's recent declaration that he wants to fight poverty "with kinder, gentler policies to encourage work and upward mobility."
The Wisconsin Republican confided to a Post reporter that he has been "quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods" — too quietly to gain any favorable publicity, until now — and consulting with all the usual suspects in the capital's right-wing think tanks. He wants everyone to understand that he is seeking to figure out the problems faced by poor folks and how he can help.
As a 2016 presidential hopeful, Ryan evidently intends to rebrand himself as a "compassionate conservative" — the same propaganda meme deployed by former President George W. Bush and Karl Rove during the prelude to the 2000 campaign for president — at a moment when the Republican Party badly needs appealing new images and ideas. The Bush gang dropped that gimmick well before they entered the White House, and it was never glimpsed again. But whenever a Republican spouts kinder, gentler, compassionate-conservative babble, the vaunted cynicism of the capital press corps gets washed away in a warm bath of credulity.