Category: Commentary

Petition Calling for Adidas to Cut Ties With Kanye West Sees Spike in Signatures After Controversial Weekend

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After videos surfaced online of Kanye West’s cut pro-Trump speech during his Saturday Night Live performance, followed by a Twitter rant calling for the 13th amendment to be abolished, a Care2 petition calling on Adidas to cut ties with the rapper spiked to 26,000 signatures.

The petition was initially created back in May after Ye spoke a slew of controversial comments on TMZ, noting in particular that slavery was a choice. “Kanye West continues to show disregard for the influence of his role as a public figure with his support of Donald Trump’s policies and his confused Twitter rants on slavery, while the rest of black America is continually marginalized and subject to unjust laws and treatment,” the petition reads. “West has a right to free speech, and he has the right to spout lies and misinformation and misplaced opinions — but Adidas should not stand idly by and, effectively, condone his behavior and revisionist history.”

West’s SNL speech, which did not make it to air followed the theme of racism in America as the rapper sported a “Make America Great Again” hat. “It’s so many times that I talk to a white person about this, and they say, ‘How could you support Trump? He’s racist.’” he announced. “Well if I was concerned about racism, I would have moved out of America a long time ago. We don’t just make our decisions off of racism. I’ma break it down to you right now: If someone inspires me and I connect with them, I don’t have to believe in all they policies.”

SOURCE OF THIS STORY: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8477897/petition-adidas-to-cut-ties-kanye-west-signature-spike

The College Recruit and the Downfall of a Hall of Fame Coach

Should a high school star be prevented from playing college basketball because his father was accused of taking a bribe?

collegeBrian Bowen Jr. was one of the top high-school basketball players in the senior class of 2017. He grew up in Saginaw, Mich., an economically depressed Rust Belt city with one of the highest rates of violent crime in the nation. It is also a basketball hotbed, where players take pride in their scrappy, physical style of play. Draymond Green, an intense, sharp-elbowed All-Star with the N.B.A. champion Golden State Warriors, is among the pros who have come from Saginaw.

Bowen, however, was not hardened by either his city or its tough-edged basketball tradition. There is a sweetness about him, a shy smile, an engaging manner. He was given the nickname “Tugs” as an infant because he pulled on his mother’s hair with his tiny fingers, and that is what his family, friends, teammates and coaches have called him ever since. His mother chauffeured him around, fed him and made his schedule. Even after he reached high school, she could sometimes be seen kneeling or sitting at the bottom of the bleachers as she laced up his sneakers before a game, like a figure-skating mom tightening the laces of her child’s skates. In his free time, he liked to build elaborate Lego structures. The worst that was said about him, an only child, was that he could seem a little sheltered.

His father, Brian Bowen Sr., a former high-school player, groomed him for basketball almost from birth. When Tugs was just 9 months old and holding onto furniture for balance as he began to walk, his father made sure he alternated between his right and left hands — while rolling a ball with the opposite hand — so he would be able to dribble and shoot a basketball with both. A few years later, the family moved into a house with a basketball court in the backyard. The court was where Tugs would begin to learn the game, and as he got older, it attracted serious players in Saginaw. They came to work, not play. Brian Bowen Sr., a former police officer who had retired on medical disability, stood watch on the sideline, offering instruction and keeping the games as clean as he could.

The surface was originally concrete, but he covered it with VersaCourt, a softer synthetic material that came in sections fitted together like puzzle pieces. “He was looking ahead even back then,” his son told me last fall, the first time we talked. “If it would have stayed cement, I would have wrecked my knees, and I wouldn’t have been able to amount to anything.”

READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/18/magazine/college-basketball-recruiting-bribery-case-rick-pitino.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=The%20New%20York%20Times%20Magazine

Why Is College in America So Expensive?

The outrageous price of a U.S. degree is unique in the world.

college ripoffBefore the automobile, before the Statue of Liberty, before the vast majority of contemporary colleges existed, the rising cost of higher education was shocking the American conscience: “Gentlemen have to pay for their sons in one year more than they spent themselves in the whole four years of their course,” The New York Times lamented in 1875.

Decadence was to blame, the writer argued: fancy student apartments, expensive meals, and “the mania for athletic sports.”

Today, the U.S. spends more on college than almost any other country, according to the 2018 Education at a Glance report, released this week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

All told, including the contributions of individual families and the government (in the form of student loans, grants, and other assistance), Americans spend about $30,000 per student a year—nearly twice as much as the average developed country. “The U.S. is in a class of its own,” says Andreas Schleicher, the director for education and skills at the OECD, and he does not mean this as a compliment. “Spending per student is exorbitant, and it has virtually no relationship to the value that students could possibly get in exchange.”

Only one country spends more per student, and that country is Luxembourg—where tuition is nevertheless free for students, thanks to government outlays. In fact, a third of developed countries offer college free of charge to their citizens. (And another third keep tuition very cheap—less than $2,400 a year.) The farther away you get from the United States, the more baffling it looks.

This back-to-school season, The Atlantic is investigating a classic American mystery: Why does college cost so much? And is it worth it?

At first, like the 19th-century writer of yore, I wanted to blame the curdled indulgences of campus life: fancy dormitories, climbing walls, lazy rivers, dining halls with open-fire-pit grills. And most of all—college sports. Certainly sports deserved blame.

On first glance, the new international data provide some support for this narrative. The U.S. ranks No. 1 in the world for spending on student-welfare services such as housing, meals, health care, and transportation, a category of spending that the OECD lumps together under “ancillary services.” All in all, American taxpayers and families spend about $3,370 on these services per student—more than three times the average for the developed world. One reason for this difference is that American college students are far more likely to live away from home. And living away from home is expensive, with or without a lazy river. Experts say that campuses in Canada and Europe tend to have fewer dormitories and dining halls than campuses in the U.S. “The bundle of services that an American university provides and what a French university provides are very different,” says David Feldman, an economist focused on education at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. “Reasonable people can argue about whether American universities should have these kind of services, but the fact that we do does not mark American universities as inherently inefficient. It marks them as different.” READ MORE:https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/09/why-is-college-so-expensive-in-america/569884/

America’s Invisible Pot Addicts More and more Americans are reporting near-constant cannabis use, as legalization forges ahead.

The proliferation of retail boutiques in California did not really bother him, Evan told me, but the billboards did. Advertisements for delivery, advertisements promoting the substance for relaxation, for fun, for health. “Shop. It’s legal.” “Hello marijuana, goodbye hangover.” “It’s not a trigger,” he told me. “But it is in your face.”

When we spoke, he had been sober for a hard-fought seven weeks: seven weeks of sleepless nights, intermittent nausea, irritability, trouble focusing, and psychological turmoil. There were upsides, he said, in terms of reduced mental fog, a fatter wallet, and a growing sense of confidence that he could quit. “I don’t think it’s a ‘can’ as much as a ‘must,’” he said.

Evan, who asked that his full name not be used for fear of professional repercussions, has a self-described cannabis-use disorder. If not necessarily because of legalization, but alongside legalization, such problems are becoming more common: The share of adults with one has doubled since the early aughts, as the share of cannabis users who consume it daily or near-daily has jumped nearly 50 percent—all “in the context of increasingly permissive cannabis legislation, attitudes, and lower risk perception,” as the National Institutes of Health put it.

READ MORE: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/08/americas-invisible-pot-addicts/567886/

How Trump Betrays ‘Forgotten’ Americans

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 7.45.29 AMFrom the Supreme Court to labor organizing rules, the president undermines workers’ greatest champions.

Donald Trump promotes himself as a friend of “forgotten” workers, but in ways large and small his administration has undermined what has traditionally been the biggest champion of workers: labor unions.

Most recently, he used his authority as president to deliver a harsh Labor Day message to the 2.1 million people who work for him, canceling pay raises for the civilian employees of the federal government. In May, he issued three executive orders to weaken federal employees’ unions by, among other things, limiting the subjects they can bargain over. (On Aug. 25, a judge ruled that this move violated federal law.) In March 2017, Mr. Trump signed a law repealing an executive order signed by President Obama that sought to keep the federal government from awarding contracts to companies that violate laws protecting workers’ right to unionize, as well as wage and job safety laws.

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has installed a conservative majority on the National Labor Relations Board that has moved quickly to make it harder for unions to organize. Last December, the board overturned a rule, beloved by unions, that made it easier to organize smaller units of workers in big factories and stores. In another board decision, his appointees made it tougher for workers at fast-food restaurants and other franchised operations to unionize, although that “joint employer” ruling was vacated when a labor board member later recused himself because of a conflict of interest. The board is also looking to slow down unionization elections, a move that unions oppose because it would give corporations more time to pressure workers to vote against unionizing.

Mr. Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, was the deciding vote in a case that delivered this year’s biggest blow to workers. In Janus v. AFSCME, the court’s conservative majority, in a 5-to-4 vote, ruled in June that government employees can’t be required to pay any fees to the unions that bargain for them. By allowing many government workers to become “free riders,” that ruling is expected to chop revenues to many public employee unions by one-tenth to one-third.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/03/opinion/trump-labor-unions-greenhouse.html

Opinion: Trump’s presidency reaches a Nixon moment, GOP must put America first Donald Trump and the D.C.swamp creatures are doing real damage to America

The enduring greatness of America is proven by our country’s endurance of dreadful presidents, from a drunken Andrew Johnson, to Warren Harding presiding over Cabinet bribes, to Richard Nixon talking to portraits of his predecessors.

None as dreadful, or as dreadfully dangerous, as the 45th President, Donald J. Trump.

This week, Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to illegally funneling hush money to porn star Stormy DanScreen Shot 2018-08-23 at 9.51.16 PMiels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to influence the election, while former campaign adviser Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of financial fraud.

RELATED: Manafort juror says 1 holdout prevented 18-count conviction

The cesspool of Donald Trump’s government was again on full display early Thursday morning with Trump denouncing his own Attorney General for recusing himself in the Russia investigation. “What kind of man is this?” he asked.

Trump decried “flippers,” like Cohen — participants in criminal behavior who decide to cooperate with prosecutors, and suggested deals like his ought to be made illegal.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the second House member to endorse Trump in 2016, appeared in court to face charges he and spouse took $250,000 in campaign funds to support a lavish personal lifestyle.

The first Trump endorser, Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, has already been indicted on charges of tipping off his son to dump a drug stock after learning that the company’s wonder drug had failed a test. He made the call from the White House lawn.

What proverb sums up the situation? A fish rots from the head down.

Or the Turkish variation: The fish stinks first from the head.

A generation ago, we had principled Republicans who put country first.

READ MORE: https://www.sfgate.com/local/politics/article/Trump-nixon-manafort-cohen-flynn-impeach-opinion-13177648.php

How Aretha Franklin Took Care of Business (And Where Her Estate Stands Now)

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 9.07.24 PMIn 2015, Aretha Franklin delivered one of her most indelible performances, singing “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” in tribute to the song’s co-writer, Carole King, at the Kennedy Center Honors. Before starting — and bringing a jubilant King and a teary President Obama to their feet — the singer did something she had done on countless stages before: nonchalantly tossed her purse (here, a sparkly clutch) on the piano. The move spoke volumes about how the singer took care of business.

It’s well known that Franklin, who died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer, demanded to be paid in cash, partly because she came up in an era when African-American artists were routinely ripped off by white promoters. “Aretha would put her reading glasses on her nose and she would be there while you counted out” the money, recalls Empire Entertainment’s JB Miller, who hired Franklin for numerous private and corporate gigs starting in the 1990s. “The purse would always make it onstage.”

And after the show, “you had your audience with her backstage as she paid everyone” — the band, backing singers and so on — in cash, recalls Narada Michael Walden, who in addition to producing Franklin’s 1985 Grammy-winning smash, “Freeway of Love,” occasionally played drums in her band.

Franklin was as exacting with her performance contracts as she was with her music. They had to accommodate two major challenges: her fear of flying and her 20- to 30-person entourage. Her willingness to only travel by bus and her health issues later in life limited her earning power. Franklin never landed on Forbes’ highest-paid celebrities list, with the magazine estimating her annual income in the low seven figures.

Since 2015, Franklin reported only six concerts to Billboard Boxscore, with an average per-show gross of $304,689. Among bus rental, gas, hotel rooms and per diems, moving Franklin and her entourage accounted for $50,000 to $100,000 in expenses alone, according to producer Michael Levitt, who worked with her on several events. “If you wanted Aretha on your show, her terms were nonnegotiable. It was her way, or no way,” says Levitt. But “Aretha was worth it. She always delivered, and it always seemed effortless on her part.”

Franklin didn’t suffer fools lightly, Levitt says, but she held herself to high standards as well. “Aretha was late for rehearsal [for Bill Clinton’s 50th birthday party] and when she arrived, she blamed me for not getting her the [rehearsal] information. I tried to explain that we sent a packet with all the call times to her and her team.  She wasn’t having it and put me in my place. To get the wrath of Aretha Franklin was pretty devastating,” Levitt says. “The next day she arrived for the show run-through. Her bodyguard came up to me and said ‘Ms. Franklin would like to speak to you.’ I was anticipating part two of the wrath. [Instead], she said “Young man, I am so sorry.  When I returned to my hotel last night, I discovered that you did indeed send over the proper information and for that, I owe you an apology.’  I truly appreciated that she cared enough to right that wrong. I mean, how many people can say they received an apology from the Queen of Soul?”

To avoid such misunderstandings, Franklin would often phone ahead herself to work out details. “There would be this fog: You wouldn’t know when she was coming in, how she was coming in, where she was staying,” says Miller. “Then, usually within 24 to 48 hours [before the event], you’d get a call from Aretha, and it would always be about something like making sure there’s no air-conditioning on. That was a big thing of hers…People that don’t know how to work with artists like that might get really intimidated and go, ‘Oh, she was a diva and threatened not to perform,’ but she cared a lot about the performance and she wanted it to be great. It was always an interesting road to get there.”

READ MORE: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8471888/aretha-franklin-business-estate