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61
Vox Populi / Trump eases ban on political activity by churches
« on: May 05, 2017, 03:31:06 pm »
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President Trump signed an executive order Thursday making it easier for churches and other religious groups to engage in politics without endangering their tax-exempt status.

Trump approved the measure in the Rose Garden at the White House surrounded by clergy and leaders of faith organizations during a National Day of Prayer event.

“Today my administration is leading by example as we take historic steps to protect religious liberty in the United States of America,” the president said. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.”

The measure is designed to ease enforcement of a provision in the federal tax code known as the Johnson Amendment that bars religious institutions from endorsing or opposing political candidates and parties. It directs the IRS to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion” of the amendment, according to the White House.

Additionally, it directs several agencies to consider regulatory relief for those who object to ObamaCare’s preventive service mandate on religious grounds.

Trump is fulfilling a promise he made to social conservatives, who strongly backed him during the 2016 campaign. Those groups have long argued that the Johnson Amendment violates their First Amendment rights.
Scrapping the amendment was a major rallying cry for Trump on the campaign trail and he made it one of his earliest promises once he took office. 

“Under my administration, free  speech does not end at the steps of a cathedral or synagogue or any other house of worship,” Trump said. “We are giving our churches their voices back, we are giving them back in their highest form.”

“I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution,” Trump said at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, less than two weeks after his inauguration.

Many Republican lawmakers have also called for repeal of the Johnson Amendment, and doing so was part of the 2016 GOP party platform.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) said at House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Thursday that the Johnson Amendment has had a "chilling effect through fear and intimidation from IRS threats."

Hice has introduced legislation to allow churches and other nonprofits to engage in political activity as long as it's in the normal course of business. He said he appreciates Trump's executive order, but added that "it's time that we rid our nation of this unconstitutional law by way of legislative action."

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has expressed his intention to include repeal of the amendment in tax-reform legislation that his committee is preparing.

"I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to eliminate the damaging effects of the Johnson Amendment," he said in a statement.

But the Democrats as well as some charities and religious groups have been fighting for the Johnson Amendment to be preserved. They argue that churches already can engage in some political activities and that easing the Johnson Amendment would politicize nonprofits and increase the use of “dark money” in politics.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) said at the Oversight hearing that Trump's executive order will have "little effect," because the "IRS rarely brings enforcement actions against houses of worship that engage in political activity."

Shortly after the order was released, the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Citizen said they planned to sue the administration over the order. However, they later decided against doing so, noting that the order doesn't actually change the current law.

“We were fully prepared to sue if the president carried through on his promise to gut the law and allow our churches and charities to be turned into conduits for political spending,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Thankfully, Trump’s order doesn’t do that, but his reckless statements likely will encourage the illegal funneling of dark money through religious institutions and ostensibly religious nonprofits.”

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called the order "an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome."

"After careful review of the order’s text we have determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process," he said. "The order portends but does not yet do harm to the provision of reproductive health services."

Some social conservatives voiced frustration the order does not include provisions to allow them to oppose LGBT rights on religious grounds.

Civil rights groups earlier this week were gearing up for a battle if those provisions were included.


http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/331902-trump-eases-ban-on-political-activity-by-churches

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) seized on President Trump's compliment of Australia's universal healthcare system on Thursday, saying Democrats will remind the president of the comments from the Senate floor.

Sanders weighed in on the comments during an interview on MSNBC after Trump remarked that Australia has "better healthcare than we do" during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
 
"That's great. Let's take a look at the Australian healthcare system. Maybe he wants to take a look at the Canadian healthcare system or systems throughout Europe," Sanders, an advocate of a single-payer system, told MSNBC's Chris Hayes.
 
"Thank you, Mr. President. Let us move to a Medicare-for-all system that does what every other major country on earth does — guarantee healthcare to all people at a fraction of the cost per-capita that we spend. Thank you, Mr. President. We'll quote you on the floor of the Senate," he added.

The Australian healthcare model consists of both private and public markets, with the private sector working alongside a publicly funded universal healthcare system.
 
Trump admitted Thursday evening during his trip to New York that the GOP's healthcare bill "could change a little bit" after the House narrowly passed it earlier in the day.
 
Trump has voiced confidence that the legislation will ultimately reach his desk for a signature, though the bill now moves to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.


http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/332037-sanders-to-trump-well-quote-you-on-universal-healthcare?rnd=1493947530

63
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The call came through Officer Geoffrey Freeman’s radio a few minutes before 10 a.m. on Feb. 8.

“Complaint that somebody jumped a fence and tried to chase a neighbor,” the police dispatcher in Austin, Texas, said. “Black male, tall, thin, wearing jeans, boxers.”

The dispatcher left Freeman with a final detail.

“No weapons,” she can be heard saying just before the call, later released to the public, cuts out.

Freeman headed toward the disturbance, which was taking place in a pocket of suburbia a couple of miles north of the University of Texas at Austin campus.

The last of a series of 911 calls relayed to Freeman reported a “totally nude black male” in the area. Freeman, a 10-year veteran of the force, called for additional units and continued his search.

“Sounds like this guy could either be ... 10-86 [subject with mental illness] and losing it or high or something,” he told dispatch, according to a memo later published by Austin’s Citizen Review Panel.

Within half an hour of arriving, Freeman found what he was looking for. He exited his cruiser and confronted David Joseph, who was completely naked and standing in the middle of the street.

After just seconds of verbal contact, Joseph, a 17-year-old known to his friends as Pronto, lay dying on the asphalt. Freeman had shot him through the heart.

Medical examiners would officially describe Joseph as African-American, 5 feet 7 inches tall and 146 pounds. Freeman, 46 years old and also black, stood at the same height, but was nearly 100 pounds heavier than the teen. A toxicology report later found traces of marijuana, the prescription drug Xanax and an antihistamine in Joseph’s system. It’s still unclear what drove him to strip off his clothes and run around the neighborhood.

Joseph is one of the nearly 300 people police have shot and killed so far this year, according to The Washington Post’s unofficial tally. And like the rest of the names on that list, you’re probably not familiar with Joseph or his story.

There was no mention of Joseph on CNN, Fox News or MSNBC on the day he died, or on any day since, according to a Huffington Post review of programming. Instead, cable news gleefully reported that Donald Trump had called his Republican opponent Texas Sen. Ted Cruz a “pussy.” The schoolyard insult prompted numerous segments, including “experts” speculating on whether the billionaire’s vulgarity would sink his candidacy. (It didn’t.)

There have been at least 20 cases in which cops have shot unarmed civilians to death this year, and a HuffPost examination of cable news transcripts found that the major cable news networks have not covered any of them.

“I have yet to speak with a single person — on 10 college campuses — who has correctly identified” any of the victims, Shaun King, an activist and criminal justice reporter for the New York Daily News, wrote in a column earlier this month. “The hashtags and trending topics of police brutality victims that were once a staple from coast to coast have all but disappeared.”

Although the media’s interest in police shootings may have changed, the broad outlines of many of the cases haven’t. According to Freeman, Joseph didn’t comply with his commands to stop, and instead turned and charged. Freeman claimed he feared for his life and had to resort to lethal force, even though he was also equipped with a Taser, pepper spray and a baton. Joseph’s family said the teen needed help, not a bullet to the chest.

Similar accounts fueled controversy in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as other cities including New York City, Baltimore, Minneapolis and Chicago over the past two years. And like those cases, Joseph’s shooting raises many of the same questions about law enforcement’s use of force, training, racial biases and the ability to hold officers accountable for catastrophic misjudgment or misconduct.

Unlike in those cases, however, Joseph has not become a household name or part of a rallying cry in the fight against police violence.

And he’s not alone in his relative anonymity. Although police reform is still on many people’s minds — including the journalists who continue to cover it — mainstream reporting on the issue seems to have shifted away from telling the stories behind the climbing death toll.

Instead, the media has turned its sights to the heated presidential election, burning through the oxygen that had given life to stories about police brutality and reform.

“The election has distracted people and, even worse, the media has just given in to the lowest common denominator to cover every crazy and outrageous thing Trump says at the expense of actually covering issues and concerns,” Sarah Oates, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland, told HuffPost.

It’s not that wall-to-wall coverage of the presidential election has completely undercut the conversation about policing in America. Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have both reached out to the families of victims of police violence, even recruiting some of them as surrogates. And they’ve both made sweeping — though perhaps unrealistic — promises to enact police reform if elected president. But in the midst of a contentious primary season, they’ve stopped using new examples to illustrate the critical importance of the issue.

The focus was less abstract last year. Police fatally shot 109 unarmed civilians in 2015, according to The Guardian’s unofficial tally, a steady drumbeat of bloodshed accentuated by higher-profile incidents that dominated headlines for days. National attention helped amplify the existing local activism, and under the klieg lights, city and state officials felt pressure to listen to the demands for accountability, transparency and change.

Video footage played an integral role in building that storyline. Last year, the public had little choice but to watch as bystander video of an officer opening fire on a fleeing 50-year-old Walter Scott was broadcast on repeat around the nation. In the days that passed between the Scott shooting and the release of the footage, law enforcement tried to portray the incident as a reasonable use of force. The four-minute cell phone video unwound that narrative, and eventually led prosecutors to charge the officer with murder.

In the cases from this year that HuffPost analyzed, however, there have so far been no publicly released videos clearly showing the shootings — no visual evidence to further force Americans to take a hard look at police violence and potentially challenge the notion that officers are always right. And considering that police are still killing people frequently — in incidents that often sound troublingly familiar — it’s possible that the public has developed a higher threshold for outrage.

While Clinton and Sanders have been less outspoken about issues of police violence this year, they didn’t hesitate to get involved last year. In fact, both candidates appeared to make a point of saying the names of people killed by police, channeling a cause promoted by activists aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement.

But now that Clinton and Sanders are trying to win over voters and build their national appeal, Oates says they’re taking a more delicate approach.

“It allows them to get some votes hopefully without alienating the white majority,” she said of the candidates’ overtures on police reform. “They’re kind of stuck between people who don’t ever want to hear the police criticized and people who really want to say there’s a real problem with the power that’s given to police versus the rights of the citizens.”

This shift can’t be chalked up entirely to a campaign-obsessed media that thrives on vapid political coverage. If there’s one upside to this trend, it’s that police are so far killing fewer unarmed people this year than they were in 2015. But we’re just months into 2016, and we’ve still seen a number of disturbing incidents that under different circumstances, might have resonated beyond the local level.

Take the case of Antronie Scott, a 36-year-old black man who was shot and killed by San Antonio Police Officer John Lee in February, just days before Joseph’s fatal shooting. Lee found Scott, who was wanted on two felony charges, sitting in the parking lot of his girlfriend’s apartment complex. According to Lee, Scott made a sudden turn after he stepped out of his car. Lee says he thought he saw a gun. 

It was a cell phone.

Activists in San Antonio held rallies calling for justice, but Scott’s story still failed to permeate the national news cycle. Mike Lowe, a local Black Lives Matter activist, attributes part of this to the fact that the demonstrations there were less disruptive than major protests in Ferguson, Baltimore and Chicago.

“A lot of individuals may not be rebellious or have that spirit of protest in them to be like, ‘We’re just going to occupy the streets until justice happens,’” he said.

Those more confrontational attitudes have paid dividends in other cities, Lowe said. But he says politicians in San Antonio take pride in the fact that the city isn’t like its peers. After Scott’s shooting, Mayor Ivy Taylor, who is black, said in a statement that it was important for San Antonio to not compare itself — and the killing of Scott — to what has happened elsewhere.

“Every city or town also has its own context,” she said. “I will not allow our city’s story to be that of cities we see on the national news.”

“Politicizing this incident and putting it in the context of what’s happening in other cities is not the solution — just as reverting to 20th-century police techniques or protesting the very meetings that seek to provide the opportunity for constructive dialogue is not the solution,” Taylor added.


Read more at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/police-shootings-2016_us_5713d98ae4b0018f9cba52d1

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The hashtag #IAmAPreexistingCondition is one of the most heartbreaking hashtags you’ll read on Twitter. Some of the most powerful stories come from veterans.

With the hashtag, Americans suffering from preexisting conditions who are at risk of losing their health coverage under the American Health Care Act (Trumpcare) are sharing their personal stories of how losing care would upend their lives.

An unusually large number of people participating in the conversation are former veterans who have served in the military and stand to lose their coverage due to various conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, hearing loss, blood clots, and even sexual assault. Under Trumpcare, all of these conditions and more put these veterans at risk of losing health care.

It’s a very real possibility that these veterans and millions of others will lose their healthcare coverage if Trumpcare indeed becomes law. Under the House’s version, language in an amendment authored by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-New Jersey) would allow states to have total discretion in what is deemed to be “essential” coverage that health insurance companies must provide in a state insurance exchange.

Under Obamacare, prescription drugs, emergency room treatment, pediatric care, and preexisting conditions were deemed essential. However, insurance companies may indeed deny a veteran’s coverage due to post-traumatic stress disorder if a state allows it. While Republican Fred Upton (R-Michigan) added an amendment allocating $8 billion specifically for patients with preexisting conditions, a recent independent study found that only five percent of Americans with preexisting conditions would be covered under the bill.


http://resistancereport.com/class-war/veterans-preexisting-condition/

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A federal judge has temporarily reopened voter registration Thursday, ahead of a congressional runoff election in Georgia's 6th district.

According to a report by AJC.com, the decision was made by U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten as a part of a larger lawsuit that examined whether Georgia violated federal law by reducing the amount of time state residents had to register to vote.

Voter registration was closed on March 20, despite the runoff contest being scheduled for the end of June.


The lawsuit was filed by The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represents multiple civil rights and voting rights organizations.
It argued that the registration cutoff was premature, the AJC reported, and that state residents should have been allowed to register for two more months.
 
Focus has been heavy on the race in recent months, with the top two jungle primary vote-getters — Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel — set to face off on June 20.
 
Ossoff came two points short of capturing the majority vote required to win the election outright.
 
Handel, who came second in the preliminary contest, now enjoys full GOP support, including the direct backing of President Trump and his administration.
 
Batten ruled that the voter registration for the final stage of the runoff election will be open until May 21.


http://thehill.com/homenews/house/331993-judge-reopens-georgia-voter-registration-ahead-of-ga-6

66
Vox Populi / Iowa Supreme Court blocks new abortion restriction
« on: May 05, 2017, 03:23:38 pm »
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The Iowa Supreme Court has blocked a new state law requiring a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa said the court issued a temporary order blocking the waiting period and a "medically unnecessary appointment" in which the mother has to have an ultrasound that shows the approximate age of the fetus.

The ACLU affiliate brought the lawsuit challenging the law with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

The legislation Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed into law Friday bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That provision was not a focus of the request for an injunction, The Des Moines Register reported.

“This ruling means that dozens of women today are able to access the care they need,” Suzanna de Baca, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland's CEO, said in a statement.

“In the two hours we saw patients between the governor signing this legislation into law and when the temporary injunction was ordered, havoc was wreaked on many patients’ lives. One woman had driven seven hours to her appointment, only to be told she couldn’t have the procedure today; others were angry and upset at the intrusion into their lives.”

Baca said she’s hopeful the court will ultimately agree that the safe, legal abortion is a protected right guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution.


http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/332148-iowa-supreme-court-blocks-new-abortion-restriction

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Update: After Vox reported this story Tuesday, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) released a statement saying he would close this loophole. Read the story here.

House Republicans appear to have included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from their latest health care plan.

The new Republican amendment, introduced Tuesday night, would allow states to waive out of Obamacare’s ban on preexisting conditions. This means that insurers could once again, under certain circumstances, charge sick people higher premiums than healthy people.

Republican legislators liked this policy well enough to offer it in a new amendment. They do not, however, seem to like it enough to have it apply to themselves and their staff. A spokesperson for Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who authored this amendment, confirmed this was the case: Members of Congress and their staff would get the guarantee of keeping these Obamacare regulations. Health law expert Tim Jost flagged this particular issue to me.

A bit of background is helpful here. Obamacare requires all members of Congress and their staff to purchase coverage through the health law’s marketplace, just like Obamacare enrollees. The politics of that plank were simple enough, meant to demonstrate that if the coverage in this law were good enough for Americans, it should be good enough for their representatives in Washington.

That’s been happening for the past four years now. Fast-forward to this new amendment, which would allow states to waive out of key Obamacare protections like the ban on preexisting conditions or the requirement to cover things like maternity care and mental health services.

If congressional aides lived in a state that decided to waive these protections, the aides who were sick could presumably be vulnerable to higher premiums than the aides who are healthy. Their benefits package could get skimpier as Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirement may no longer apply either.

This apparently does not sound appealing, because the Republican amendment includes the members of Congress and their staff as a protected group who cannot be affected by this amendment’s terms.

You can see it on the sixth page of the amendment, although it is admittedly hard to spot. The Obamacare section that requires legislators to buy on the marketplace is section 1312(d)(3)(D). And if you look at the Republican amendment, and the list of who cannot be included in this waiver? It includes Section 1312(d)(3)(D).


Read more at http://www.vox.com/2017/4/25/15429982/gop-exemption-ahca-amendment

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Just last week, Donald Trump’s White House tried to play a little hardball. With a government-shutdown deadline looming, Team Trump sent word to Capitol Hill that the president expects any spending bill to include taxpayer money for a border wall. Since there was no chance Democrats would agree to such a demand, it meant one of two things would happen.

Either Trump would shut the federal government down on Friday at midnight, which would be politically problematic for him and his administration, or Trump would surrender, which would be politically problematic for him and his administration.

The president has apparently chosen the latter.
President Donald Trump has indicated that he’s willing to back away from his demand that a government funding bill include money to build a wall on the Southern border, a move that could help clear the way for Congress to avoid a shutdown.

A senior administration official tells NBC News that the president is open to obtaining funding for the border wall in the regular appropriations process for 2018 later this year instead of insisting it be included as part of the large spending bill to keep the government’s lights on past this week.
According to a Washington Post report, the president personally hosted a private meeting with some conservative media figures yesterday afternoon and told them he’s prepared to delay funding for the wall “until September.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters yesterday. “The president is working hard to keep the government open.” And by “working hard,” Mnuchin apparently meant, “crawling away from the corner he backed himself into without any plan for success.”

Democrats are likely to agree to some new funding for border security, in the form of investments in “technology and border agents,” and it’s easy to imagine the president pretending that this is money for some kind of symbolic, metaphorical wall, but let’s not play games: Trump and his team effectively told Democrats, “Allocate money for the wall or else.” Calling the White House’s bluff, Democrats replied, “No.”

And in response, Team Trump blinked.

For a guy who billed himself as a world-class expert in negotiations, the president is remarkably bad at this. It was painfully obvious from the start that this strategy would fail, but Trump and his aides pursued this gambit anyway.

The fact that the White House took one posture last week, only to take a more conciliatory line this week, doesn’t count as a flip-flop, per se. It’s actually something far worse: it’s an example of Trump talking tough, only to quit when the pressure rose and no one much cared about his chest-thumping.

For a fairly new and unpopular president, developing a reputation for failing to follow through on threats will carry consequences. Trump said he desperately needed a Muslim ban. He vowed to unveil a cybersecurity plan. He swore his voter-fraud commission would tackle important work. He’d demand an up-or-down vote in the House on the American Health Care Act. He’d label China a currency manipulator. Each of these commitments were either ignored or forgotten about by an easily distracted president who, everyone now knows, doesn’t always mean what he says.

Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy is known for having said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Donald Trump’s maxim appears to be, “Speak bigly and carry a small golf club.”


http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/prevent-shutdown-trump-begins-embarrassing-surrender

69
Education / 21 state AGs denounce DeVos for ending student loan reform
« on: April 28, 2017, 01:03:56 pm »
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More than 20 Democratic state attorneys general denounced Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a letter Monday over her decision to end the department's efforts to reform the student loan industry, according to a Reuters report.

 Her decision would halt the department’s efforts to help borrowers know about their debt and repayment options. 

"We should be looking for ways to ease the burden of student debt, not enabling the student loan servicing industry to manipulate and exploit students," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote, according to Reuters.

DeVos, a controversial President Trump nominee, announced in an April memo that she was ending the reform efforts because of "moving deadlines, changing requirements and a lack of consistent objectives.” DeVos's decision echoes the Republican policy view that the federal government should not be involved in the student loan business.

Former President Obama moved the student lending business from banks and companies to the federal government and worked to set up safeguards to ensure lenders followed the law.
In the $1.3 trillion business, $137 billion of student loan debt is in default, according to a March report by the Consumer Federation of America.

"We now find ourselves in a situation where we must promptly address not only these shortcomings but also any other issues that may impede our ability to ensure borrowers do not experience deficiencies in service," DeVos wrote in a version of her memo published on the department’s website.

The department did not immediately respond to Reuter’s request for comment about the letter.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez slammed DeVos’s decision, saying it would help big corporations profit on student debt and counteract reforms put in place by the Obama administration.

In Obama’s final hours as president, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed a lawsuit against Navient Corp., a major loan servicer, alleging that it deceived borrowers about their repayment options -- allegations that Navient say are false.

Navient claimed the bureau, created under the Obama administration, only sued because it refused to settle in a CFPB investigation before Trump took office.


http://thehill.com/homenews/news/330338-21-state-attorney-generals-denounce-devos-for-ending-student-loan-reform

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If you ask any conservative, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson was completely justified in shooting Michael Brown under extremely suspicious circumstances because the unarmed African-American teenager “tried to Grab Wilson’s gun.” This, Wilson now admits, is a lie.

In his 2014 testimony, Wilson claimed that Brown grabbed his gun and said “you are too much of a pussy to shoot me.”

“The gun goes down into my hip and at that point I thought I was getting shot,” Wilson said — and the Right ate it up.


Read more at http://addictinginfo.com/2017/03/15/darren-wilson-just-admitted-he-lied-about-michael-brown-trying-to-take-his-gun/

71
General Discussion / Dave Chappelle Is an American Folk Hero
« on: April 28, 2017, 01:02:15 pm »
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TWELVE YEARS AND two presidents ago, he suddenly bolted from his mega-hit Comedy Central series, “Chappelle’s Show,” leaving a $50 million contract on the table. Over those years, Dave Chappelle became a human “Where's Waldo,” his every sighting a TMZ or social media moment: There he is getting coffee in Santa Monica! There he is hosting “Juke Joint,” his live music showcase, in a sweaty cow barn in Ohio! There he is at the 2016 Academy Awards, supporting his homie, Chris Rock! There he is at his Ohio town hall, attending a meeting on police-community relations! And there he is hosting “Saturday Night Live” last November, for the first time ever, days after Donald Trump’s victory, because creator Lorne Michaels begged him to do so, “before I die.” For Chappelle, the show was also a way to pay tribute to A Tribe Called Quest’s recently deceased Phife Dawg. For the audience, it was the revelation of: Yes, that dude is still the funniest man in America.

Michaels had also specifically wanted Chappelle to be the first postelection host, which might have struck some as mad risky — “I have this reputation for being, like, unpredictable,” Chappelle admits — and this was the comedian’s first time performing live on network television, in a divided America no less. For Chappelle himself, the moment “felt bigger than Trump winning the election,” he says. “Trump winning the election felt like a force of nature. Me coming back to television in that fashion felt like the arduous task. I bumped into Louis CK the night before and he told me, don’t do your actual monologue in rehearsal, and that was probably the best advice anyone had given me. ... I just did a fake monologue at rehearsal.”

The actual monologue had a shocker, ending with a peace sign to the new president, all the more powerful coming from Chappelle: He said, give Trump a chance, and vice versa. “I said we demand he gives us a chance,” says Chappelle. “I didn’t softball ’em.” He did not vote for Donald Trump, but “welcome to the world, this is how it goes — tyranny of the majority, or tyranny of the minority in this case,” he says. And, if nothing else, “I feel like a lot of people in America understand what the political process felt like for disenfranchised people.”

DAVE CHAPPELLE did not just turn up on “SNL,” or nab a reported $60 million deal with Netflix (for three taped stand-up shows), after years of seclusion. He’s been touring consistently, traveling on buses and planes and, one time, crossing the country on his motorcycle. He never really went anywhere, in other words, except inside himself. For Chappelle that meant briefly traveling to Africa right after quitting the show, then returning to his stand-up roots, performing in intimate spaces when he felt like it, and, yes, it also meant sometimes stopping a show because he didn't like the reaction of members of the audience.

I last sat down with Chappelle in 2006, and it was abundantly clear that he was unhappy; the pressures of stardom and the media’s insatiable fascination terrified him. The year before he had left his show at the height of its popularity, and he asked me if he had done the right thing, if he should go back. I told him that I couldn’t possibly answer that question for him. He didn’t go back, of course. He quit — the way Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Nina Simone quit, the way Kurt Cobain wanted to. People thought he was crazy or stupid, and said so.

Continue reading the main story
I think of all of this as I watch Chappelle, in a black hoodie, with his ever-present cigarette bungee-jumping from his mouth, pacing the outer ring of the Gotham Comedy Club in New York one night in March. The packed house has no idea he’s here, or that Jerry Seinfeld will introduce him. It is mostly white folks — 300 millennials, Gen Xers, baby boomers, shoulder to shoulder. The race of the crowd doesn’t matter to Chappelle. “I feel grateful that things are working out, the way people support me,” he had told me earlier. “It’s really warm, man, like an old friend. I was reflecting on it, and doing stand-up has been one of the most consistent parts of my life, you know what I mean? Like it was the first adult decision I made, and I really stuck to it.”

A colossal roar goes up when Seinfeld announces Gotham’s surprise guest. Chappelle arrives onstage to a standing ovation — the sort of wild applause generally reserved for, say, a populist presidential candidate, like Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. Except Chappelle has a singular gift for blurring left and right, blue states and red states. His 11 years on the road have taken him from big cities to towns, allowing him to talk with, listen to and feel people, but with the sort of authentic interest a politician can rarely duplicate.

That Chappelle is an African-American raised by college professor parents, a Muslim with a Filipino wife, three biracial children and a white stepbrother, speaks to his singular ability to remix cultural boundaries in ways many cannot, or wish they could. He also happens to feel most comfortable in Middle America, on the acres of land he bought in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in the 2000s. So, yes, he is sprawling urban graffiti, with his casual usage of the N-word, his elastic black English and his fusillade of curse words, but he's also small-town folk with a hard-won vulnerability.

I have known Chappelle and watched him do stand-up in New York since he was a bone-thin 19-year-old import from the Washington D.C. area, where he spent big chunks of his youth. Today, at 43, the baby face is gone, and there’s gray in his occasional goatee; his years of weight-lifting have yielded cartoonishly thick Popeye biceps. But what I see as I watch him pace that Gotham stage — freestyling on love, marriage, the ways and words of the LGBTQ community, racism, sexism — is a master at his game, one with the down-home storytelling of Langston Hughes and the comic fearlessness of Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Chappelle has become, on his own terms, a comedian who not only speaks for us, but ahead of us.

“MAYBE THERE IS a purpose for me being here, outside of my own desire,” he said to me on a phone call a few days before the Gotham appearance. “I feel like more of an empathetic person as I age. I have a better understanding of the emotional content just based off certain experiences I went through, and I’m sure it has influenced my work.”

Chappelle still goes hard at his shows, but more and more, he makes a point of letting you know he’s joking — “I’m not trying to be malicious,” he’ll say, even as he challenges white racism, black self-hatred or the contradictions of this or that community. It’s a humility that comes from what he’s been through.

“The experience of having that show, then not having that show, raising kids, and all the different things that happen in a person’s life — it humbles you. It opens the door for gratitude, and you appreciate things more because you fight for it.”

This year marks three decades since Chappelle first did a stand-up routine at a nightclub, as a 14-year-old. (Five years later he was being hailed as someone to watch.) “Yeah, I’m getting to that age where I start thinking of a legacy, not even that I’m that old, but I’ve just been doing it that long,” he says. “I was at Ali’s funeral and I saw Farrakhan there, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I saw Bill Clinton. They all looked great, but I realized that these guys are getting old. And then I realized I’m getting old, and we’re all here because Muhammad Ali is dead!”

Humility means he’s not as concerned with audiences liking what he says. “A person could come to a show like mine, and they could disagree with me, and it wouldn’t ruin the show. They just wouldn’t agree with me,” he says. “People say I’m brave. Well, it’s like mutual brave, like we are all in this together,” he adds. “It’s a messy intersection of what you think about things, what you feel about things, and I think people find solace in informative art, because it reminds them that they’re now — oh! — thinking and feeling this way.”

Chappelle’s shows attract die-hard Republicans and liberals, and each find plenty to laugh at. Perhaps because of this he is less despairing of America than some. “I mean as bad as things feel right now, I can see the common denominators on both sides, and it’s not as divided as people believe.”

If he’s sounding a little statesmanlike, maybe it’s because he has considered entering politics. “I’ve thought about it, but I don’t think I would do something like that unless I was confident that I could be effective,” he says. “Right now I feel like just using my voice, like anyone else in the community. But political aspirations as a comedian — I’ve said so much wild [expletive] in my life.”

I remind him that the current president has said some wild things, too. “Yeah, that guy. He really broke the ice, bro.” Chappelle breaks into one of his uncontrollable laughs.

Is he at least comfortable being a star now? “I don’t know that I consider myself a star,” he says. “I just feel whatever this experience is, is more grounded in reality. I’m a showman, man.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/t-magazine/dave-chappelle-profile.html?smid=fb-share

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Christine Hoffman, principal at St. Petersburg, Fla.’s Campbell Park Elementary School, was removed from her school after asking teachers to segregate white students from the black students so the white students could feel comfortable, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Last week, Hoffman emailed her staff stating that white students, who are all between 5 and 10 years old, should be in the same class. Campbell Park Elementary’s student population includes 606 students, and 49 are white. After sending out the email, Hoffman sent another one apologizing for her bad judgment, but it was too late. Once parents got wind of the email, they requested her firing.

People who questioned Hoffman’s motives about the decision included Denise Ford, a 53-year-old community member, and Ebony Johnson, a 37-year-old mother to a fifth-grader at Campbell Park.

Ford wanted to know if there was an ongoing bullying issue at the school or if white parents said they were uncomfortable. But, of course, Hoffman said neither of those issues existed. Both women also wanted to know why Hoffman didn’t make an effort to make students of other backgrounds feel “comfortable.”

“The parents said that as black people, we are used to being the only black person in the classroom, and no one is making sure we are comfortable,” Ford said. “The parents were not accepting of any excuse. We accept your apology, but you have to go.”

“You have so many Caucasian white parents who knew of this school being a low-graded school,” Johnson said. “If white students wanted their children to attend another school, they would’ve placed them there. They did not. So who is Mrs. Hoffman to decide to separate the whites from the blacks?”

Hoffman is now working at the school district’s administrative offices until district officials decide what to do with her next. Hopefully, parents feel more comfortable with Hoffman out of the school.


http://www.theroot.com/white-fl-principal-requested-segregation-of-white-stud-1794659626?utm_medium=sharefromsite&utm_source=The_Root_facebook

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Directing / Jonathan Demme, the last of the great journeyman directors
« on: April 28, 2017, 12:57:49 pm »
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“If the story’s worth telling, I’ll tell it. And, arguably, everybody’s story is worth telling.”

That was Jonathan Demme speaking during an interview 10 years ago, as he prepared to be honored at the Charles Guggenheim Symposium at the Silverdocs film festival. As a nonfiction filmmaker every bit as attracted to Haitian culture and Middle East politics as music and spirituality, there’s no doubt that Demme — who died Wednesday at the age of 73 — possessed the energy, curiosity and humanism befitting Guggenheim’s legacy. As a director who swung regularly between the worlds of documentaries and narrative features, he embodied the best principles of each, which in turn nourished his work in both.

“It’s been great for me to do fiction on the one hand and nonfiction on the other,” Demme told me in 2007, “because the disciplines are so different. When I’m filming reality, I wind up trying to fashion that reality in a dramatic or entertaining way, so I can grip the audience. When I’m doing a fiction film, I’m trying to make it feel as real as possible. So I feel it’s a healthy twin set of reference points for me.”

As a filmmaker who cut his teeth working for the B-movie impresario Roger Corman, along with the likes of Martin Scorsese, John Sayles, Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron, Demme stands athwart his peers, not only for his artistic accomplishments, but for the sheer breadth and depth of the genres in which he worked. It’s difficult to imagine a filmmaker starting out today who could look forward to making movies as different in voice, subject matter and style — and yet as consistently good — as “Melvin and Howard,” “Something Wild,” “Married to the Mob,” “Philadelphia” and “Rachel Getting Married.” The films themselves were often as difficult to pin down as Demme’s variegated career. Is “Something Wild” a comedy or creepy captivity narrative? Is “Philadelphia” a classic melodrama or bold, timely polemic? Is “The Silence of the Lambs” a taut psychological thriller or horror film? The correct answer to all these questions, of course, is “Yes.”

Demme won the Oscar in 1992 for “The Silence of the Lambs” (one of many for the film), which despite inspiring the dubious trend of injecting sadism into otherwise sophisticated suspense, stands to this day as the gold standard of the form. But he also made one of the greatest music documentaries of all time — “Stop Making Sense,” a concert film featuring Talking Heads — as well as an ambitious three-film project documenting the life and work of Neil Young. After Hurricane Katrina, he traveled to New Orleans to film people determined to get back to their homes, despite uncooperative authorities. He was particularly interested in Carolyn Parker, who was one of the last to leave her house during the storm, and who Demme said he wanted to film “for the rest of my life.” While filming documentaries, he said, “You have this in­cred­ibly intimate relationship [with your subjects]. At a certain point you realize: I love him. I love her.”

That love — for people, their environments, their struggles and the art form with which he explored them — informed every frame of Demme’s films, whether they were nonfiction or fiction. And, it bears noting, most of the latter were written by other people. At a time when most filmmakers are either studio-controlled shepherds of intellectual-property vehicles, or adamantly independent auteurs, Demme might have been the last of the great journeyman directors, as comfortable with bringing his chops and compassion to bear on a weird screwball comedy as on a handsome, straight-ahead drama. If the screenplay is the founding document of every film, Demme evinced a remarkably consistent knack for knowing how to execute it, from casting the right actors to hiring the right cinematographers, designers and editors.

As difficult as it is to reproduce a career as varied as Demme’s in a film world where directors are swiftly co-opted by self-limiting franchises, genre silos and pigeonholed personae, it’s even more challenging to imagine pursuing that career the way he did: simply by making movies that he himself wanted to see.

“If I have a gift — and I think I do, because I’ve gotten to make these films — it’s enthusiasm,” he said in 2007. “In anything I do, that’s there. I’ve got great enthusiasm for the subject at hand.” And audiences were far richer for it.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/jonathan-demme-the-last-of-the-great-journeyman-directors/2017/04/26/ee308cf8-2a93-11e7-a616-d7c8a68c1a66_story.html?tid=sm_Fb&utm_term=.804f087c13c6

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The New York Times editorial board is blasting President Trump's new tax proposal as "laughable."

In an editorial published late Wednesday, the publication's editorial board called Trump's proposal a "laughable stunt by a gang of plutocrats looking to enrich themselves at the expense of the country's future."

The plan slashes taxes for businesses and wealthy families, the editorial board wrote, in the "vague hope of propelling economic growth."

"So as to not seem completely venal, they served up a few goodies for the average wage-earning family, among them fewer and lower tax brackets and a higher standard deduction," the editorial said.

"The proposal was so empty of illustrative detail that few people could even begin to calculate its impact on their pocketbooks."

The editors said the tax plan might not even benefit some middle-class families because it eliminates "important deductions like those for state and local taxes."
The president's tax plan would create three tax brackets for individuals. Most itemized deductions would be eliminated, but the standard deduction would be doubled.

It would also eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes.

The tax rate for corporations and most businesses would be reduced to 15 percent.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday hailed the plan as "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country."

The White House provided a one-page summary of its plan that is short on details, and there is no Congressional Budget Office score for what it would do to the deficit. The proposal to cut corporate and business tax rates is raising GOP concerns about blowing up the deficit.

The Times editors said there are legitimate reasons to run deficits, but "borrowing trillions of dollars to provide a huge windfall for people at the top is not one of those reasons."

"It is hard to know whether Mr. Trump’s tax plan or some version of it could pass," the editorial said.

"Republican leaders have said that they want to pass revenue-neutral changes to the tax code that would not explode the deficit."

The president has already sent a "strong message about where his sympathies lie" despite what happens with the plan, the editorial said.

"They lie not with the working people who elected him," the editorial said, "but with the plutocracy that envelops him."


http://thehill.com/homenews/news/330820-nyt-editorial-trump-tax-outline-a-laughable-stunt

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While on a flight over the weekend, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu had no idea an entire family had been observing his actions. But when he started to disembark, he was slipped a note that ‘really put a smile’ on his face. The note was signed, “The Family that sat behind you” and has gone viral for all the right reasons. Check it out in the post below!

“Hi! You don’t know us, but we wanted to thank you. Our son sat behind you on this flight and watched you. He saw you studying your plays, watched you make healthy choices with your snacks, food and drink. He watched how polite you were to everyone.

He is only 10 but just made an elite hockey team and we are on our way to training in CT. You are an inspiration to children and for that you should be proud!

Thank you and best of luck!

The family that sat behind you.


http://www.inspiremore.com/mohamed-sanu-family-that-sat-behind-you/

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