Category: Commentary

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

How to Get High AF in Alaska

https://video.vice.com/en_us/embed/5b06d328f1cdb347b822b684

How to Get High AF in Alaska

On VICE’s weed travel show ‘BLUNT REVIEWS,’ we trek to places where weed is legal to review things a cannabis-consuming tourist can do while they’re stoned. On this episode, VICE’s Trey Smith visited Alaska, where he stayed at Cecelia’s B&B, a weed-friendly bed and breakfast in Anchorage, and sampled a…

Welcome to the Resistance, Omarosa

Omarosa Manigault Newman, the reality show villain who campaigned for Donald Trump and followed him into the White House, is an amoral, dishonest, mercenary grifter. This makes her just like most people in Trump’s orbit. What separates her from them is that she might be capable of a sliver of shame.

Naturally, Manigault Newman’s new book, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House,” is self-serving, a way to avenge her 2017 firing and make money telling us what we already know about this wretched administration. Nevertheless, she had other options for cashing in. She has revealed that she was offered a $15,000-a-month position on the Trump re-election campaign in exchange for keeping her mouth shut. She could have had a career in right-wing media; an African-American celebrity willing to say that the Republican Party isn’t racist will always find patrons.

Instead, she chose to speak out against the man who made her a star, and repent for her complicity in electing him. She may be a manipulative narcissist, but she’s behaving more honorably than any other former Trump appointee.

That’s not a high bar, and I wouldn’t take most of the claims of “Unhinged” at face value. But we don’t have to, because Manigault Newman has receipts. When I got a prepublication copy of the book on Friday, I wasn’t sure what to think of the scene in which Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, fires her, making thuggish threats to destroy her reputation if she doesn’t go quietly. On Sunday, “Meet the Press” played her recording of the exchange, which unfolds exactly as she described.

Similarly, I didn’t quite trust her account of the post-firing phone call she received from Trump, in which the president expressed surprise and dismay that she has been let go. “No one even told me,” she quotes him saying, adding, “I don’t love you leaving at all.” But on Monday, the “Today” show played Manigault Newman’s recording of this exchange. And that $15,000-a-month contract? You can read it yourself in The Washington Post.

Of course, just because Manigault Newman is telling the truth about some things doesn’t prove that she’s telling the truth about everything, including the alleged existence of outtakes from “The Apprentice” in which Trump uses racial slurs. “Unhinged” has lots of evidence-free gossip, including speculation that Trump was sleeping with Paula White, the pretty blond prosperity-gospel preacher who gave the invocation at his inauguration. My opinion of Trump could scarcely be lower, but I won’t be convinced that he floated the idea of being sworn in on “The Art of the Deal” instead of the Bible, as Manigault Newman claims, until I hear it myself. (Lordy, I hope there are tapes.)

Still, there’s no question she has useful knowledge of our ruling clique. Perhaps the most interesting thing about “Unhinged” is its insights into how Manigault Newman, a former Democrat who’d worked in Bill Clinton’s White House, rationalized being part of Trump’s white nationalist campaign. I’ve always been mystified by how the president’s enablers, who understand his venality and incompetence, justify their behavior to themselves. (Even most bad people want to believe that they’re good.) Manigault Newman is an unreliable narrator, but her book is still the best account we have of how the Trump cult — a term she uses repeatedly — looks from the inside.

Her version of her own motivations is probably sugarcoated, but it still isn’t pretty. She’d been part of a pro-Hillary Clinton “super PAC” and was bitter that she didn’t get a job on Clinton’s campaign. Meanwhile, Manigault Newman, who grew up in poverty, knew she owed her cherished celebrity to Trump. (As she points out, he likes to surround himself with fame-worshiping people whose fortunes depend on him.) “The Trump team, unlike HRC, was true to its word and had officially brought me on board as a senior adviser and director,” she writes. “Regardless of whether Mr. Trump was being taken seriously, I was.”

She suppressed whatever unease she felt about selling out by trying to convince herself that she was representing African-American interests in the campaign and administration. Manigault Newman did graduate work at Howard, the revered historically black university. She had roots in African-American Democratic politics. When she switched sides to back Trump, the disgust of old friends and colleagues hurt. Throughout “Unhinged,” you sense her trying to explain herself to them.

Studies have shown that the people who are most likely to leave cults are those who maintain intimate links to people outside them. Manigault Newman, who last year married a pastor who campaigned for Hillary Clinton, could never fully sever ties with Trump critics.

In the end, you don’t have to trust her sincerity to see “Unhinged” as a serious indictment of Trump. Either she is telling the truth when she calls Trump “a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist” in serious mental decline, or the Trump campaign’s former director of African-American outreach, a woman frequently called upon to testify to Trump’s lack of racism, is a lying con artist. No matter how little credibility Manigault Newman has, the man who gave her a top-ranking job in his administration has less.

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/13/opinion/columnists/omarosa-unhinged-book-trump

NFL players kneel, raise fists or sit out National Anthem

(CNN)Several NFL players took a knee, raised fists or did not take to the field while the National Anthem was played Thursday night before preseason games.

The actions came weeks after the league shelved its new policy regarding conduct surrounding the anthem until it reaches an agreement with the NFL Players Association.
The Miami Herald reported that Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, along with wide receiver Albert Wilson, knelt during the anthem before a home game against Tampa Bay.

WTVJ Miami reported that Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn raised his fist during the song.
Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 9.52.44 PM
The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett walked out of the tunnel during the playing of the anthem and headed to the team bench. The Daily News said Eagles captain Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback De’Vante Bausby raised their fists.
Several Jacksonville Jaguars players were not on the field for the playing of the anthem before their preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, according to The Florida Times Union. The players included Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith, Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon.
During the NFL Network’s television coverage of the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants game, 10 Giants were seen kneeling in unison in an end zone before the National Anthem was played.
A dozen games were played Thursday night. It was not immediately clear how many saw signs of protest.
The anthem controversy has been rumbling since 2016, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem to draw attention to racial injustice.
Kaepernick tweeted Thursday night, lauding the action of two players who protested.
The debate ratcheted up a notch in 2017 when US President Donald Trump said kneeling players showed “total disrespect for our great country.”
After withstanding two seasons of backlash against players kneeling, raising fists and displaying other means of protest during the anthem, the NFL said it would fine teams with protesting players directly, who in turn would have it in their discretion to enforce pregame anthem observations in their own ways.
After confusion, the NFL decided to take its new policy back to the drawing board and consult with the players association.
“The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue,” read the joint statement. “In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA’s grievance and on the NFL’s anthem policy.”

Beyoncé and Serena are changing the narrative for postpartum women

01-beyonce-vogue-september-cover-2018(CNN)Beyoncé and Serena Williams have once again proven that they are icons — but this time, it’s not for the reasons you might think. I’m not referring to their legendary professional accomplishments, but rather to their willingness to speak out publicly to counteract the pervasive fat-shaming that surrounds women’s postpartum bodies.

Earlier this week, in a rare and candid as-told-to Vogue feature, Beyoncé spoke about her difficult pregnancy with twins Rumi and Sir, revealing that she weighed 218 pounds the day she gave birth by emergency C-section because she had been suffering from toxemia — more commonly known as pre-eclampsia and whose typical symptoms are high blood pressure and swelling of the limbs — and had been on bed rest for over a month.
She contrasted this birth with that of her daughter Blue, when she felt pressure to lose all the baby weight in three months. This time, she said, “During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be. … To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it.”
Twitter went particularly crazy over the kicker of this part of the feature: “But right now, my little FUPA and I feel like we are meant to be.” And rightly so: the Queen of popular music and one of the sexiest women in the world has embraced her “Fat Upper Pubic Area” (the “p” sometimes stands for a different word), the fatty pouch that hangs over the genital area that is the bane of many a mother’s existence.
Beyoncé’s public revelation of her weight was a real bombshell, as it represents for many women (myself included) one of the most private details of a woman’s pregnancy. Right after giving birth to my second child a little over six months ago, a nurse asked me what my last recorded weight was and I was ashamed to say it out loud with my husband in the room.
This despite the fact that I have become a rather vocal critic of fat-shaming and am constantly striving to let go of what I now see as the fat phobia that surrounded me during my childhood and adolescence. And yet, I was still embarrassed by that number on the scale because it began with the number “2.” I never imagined Beyoncé’s number did, too.
I felt a similar sense of relief a month ago when, before becoming a finalist at Wimbledon just 10 months after giving birth, Serena Williams revealed that she struggled to lose weight while breastfeeding, despite observing a strict diet and exercise regimen. She said, “You hear when you breastfeed you lose weight and you’re so thin, and it wasn’t happening to me. … For my body, it didn’t work, no matter how much I worked out, no matter how much I did.”
In fact, Serena said she quickly lost 10 pounds once she stopped breastfeeding. This statement exploded the common assumption that breastfeeding and weight loss go hand in hand, and resonated strongly with me and, I’m quite sure, thousands of other mothers for whom breastfeeding did not result in weight loss.
While I would never argue this is a myth, the notion that breastfeeding will automatically lead to weight loss — which is reinforced by virtually all medical professionals, lactation consultants, and parenting websites a woman encounters during and after pregnancy — is a generalization that doesn’t account for the diversity of body types among women. It directly contributes to further unrealistic expectations for women during the postpartum period, namely that women should “bounce back” (return to their pre-pregnancy weight) as quickly as possible.
It’s also not lost on me that Beyoncé and Serena are two black women putting forth a different narrative about the ways women’s bodies change during and after pregnancy. This is particularly significant because black women suffer from disproportionately high maternal mortality rates, partly because they are too often not believed or taken seriously by medical professionals.
According to her interview in Vogue earlier this year, had Serena not advocated for herself and been so familiar with her medical history, her post-birth complications could have been even more serious. It’s possible that Beyoncé’s pregnancy complications were also affected by her race, as black women are 50% more likely than women of other races to have pre-eclampsia or eclampsia (seizures that can develop in women with pre-eclampsia).
Not only do black women have to fight harder to advocate for themselves during and after pregnancy — which sometimes means refusing a doctor’s suggestions — but they also have a long history of challenging mainstream beauty standards that privilege thinness and whiteness. Serena and Beyoncé are the most public examples of the myriad ways black women are modeling self-care and self-love in a society that regularly denigrates them as too loud, too arrogant (see the petty reactions by some white women to Beyoncé’s pregnancy announcement), or too aggressive/”mannish” (see the trolling Serena has received throughout her entire career).
Taken together, these statements by the greatest performer and the greatest female athlete of our time, respectively, are challenges to the toxic body-shaming of women during and after pregnancy that our society urgently needs to hear. Anyone remember Kim Kardashian’s first pregnancy, during which she was compared to a whale?
I am grateful for these public statements by celebrity mothers of color — which also include the blunt and hugely relatable Instagram and Twitter feeds of model Chrissy Teigen — that destigmatize pregnancy-related weight gain and encourage women to accept that their postpartum bodies will never mirror their previous ones, even if they breastfeed their babies.
As women who have not historically seen themselves on the cover of magazines, mothers of color — particularly black women — have a lot to teach us, not because they can save us from ourselves (painting them as saviors only strips their humanity and freedom to mess up like the rest of us, and it’s not their job to carry us on their backs!) but because they have had to advocate for and love themselves against all odds for centuries.
This is the kind of strength and self-acceptance I want my own daughter to see as she grows up.