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Archive for January 26th, 2017

To Undermine Sanctuary Cities, Trump Orders Cuts for Lead Safety, Homeless Shelters, Childcare, Many Other Programs

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This order President Trump issued to cut federal funds to sanctuary cities (who basically do nothing other than prioritize police priorities in their cities, and doing the ICE’s work for them turns out to be a relatively low priority when you have more serious things to deal with: murder, rubbery, violence, and so on) is outrageous and disproportionate. It comes out of the “bullying” part of his brain, which seems to take up half of the whole brain. He wants to be touch, and he really cares not a single bit about any of the effects on the public. I’m sure it never crosses his mind, which is totally focused on himself.

Darwin BondGraham reports in the East Bay Express (east San Francisco Bay: Oakland, Berkeley, et al.):

President Donald Trump signed an order today to cut federal funding for sanctuary cities like Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley.

But what exactly is Trump cutting by removing funds from cities that do not assist the feds with enforcement of immigration laws?

His order only specifies that law enforcement grants will be exempt. That means the Trump administration can continue sending several billion a year to local police agencies. But it appears that healthcare, housing, infrastructure, disaster preparedness, and other programs face the chopping block.

Here’s a list of some City of Oakland programs funded by the U.S. government that could be weakened or eliminated if Trump’s order is fully executed.

  • One of Oakland’s biggest federally funded programs is Head Start, the childcare centers for low-income families. Head Start provides nutrition education, healthcare, mental health services, and much more for children and their parents. Oakland has been getting federal money to run its numerous Head Start daycares since 1971. This year, 1,038 kids were enrolled and the feds provided $16.7 million in support — three-quarters of the program’s total cost.
  • Lead Safe Hazard Paint Program: Oakland’s program to help low-income property owners remove toxic lead paint is funded through a federal grant. Last year the program was used to remove lead from 20 buildings.
  • Homeless shelters and healthcare: Using federal funds, Oakland supports shelters and harm reduction and healthcare services for thousands of people living on the city’s streets. For example, last year the city used HUD money to provide shelter for 548 people at the Crossroads Emergency Shelter in deep east Oakland. The city’s Homeless Mobile Outreach Program also distributed food, hygiene kits, blankets, water, and resources and referrals to 546 people.
  • Providing housing for homeless people with HIV/AIDS: Oakland case workers found transitional and permanent housing for 161 people living with HIV/AIDS last year. Without federal funding, the program will be scaled back drastically, or possibly eliminated.
  • Fixing housing for low-income seniors: Last year, the city spent $274,977 to make 81 units of housing safer and more accessible for seniors and disabled people.
  • Earthquake and fire emergency response: Since 1991, Oakland has received millions in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to purchase search and rescue equipment and train its fire department to save lives in case of a major disaster. Most recently Oakland got $1.2 million.
  • Cleaning up toxic land to build housing: Oakland has obtained $2 million in federal funds to find and clean up toxic pollution on sites that later become housing or commercial buildings. Just last month, Oakland accepted a $110,000 grant from the U.S. EPA to help the city identify contaminated land along International Boulevard. Without these grants, many contaminated parcels in Oakland will remain blighted.
  • Rape investigations: For years Oakland, like many cities, hasn’t had the resources necessary to process DNA kits that are used to identify suspects in rape investigations. The US Department of Justice gave Oakland $312,241 last year to help pay for these time-consuming laboratory tests. Although Trump’s immigration order appears to exempt law enforcement-related grants, it’s entirely up to the U.S. Attorney General to decide what qualifies, so it’s possible some grants like this could be eliminated for sanctuary cities also.
  • Food for low-income seniors: Using HUD Community Development Block Grant money, Oakland provides food to impoverished and malnourished seniors. This year, Oakland spent $20,000 in federal funds to pay for food subsidies for 5,752 people living in East Oakland through the Alameda County Community Food Bank. . .

Continue reading. The list goes on.

Did President Trump reflect for an instant on the human impact his decision would have? Did he spend any time whatsoever in thinking of alternative approaches that would achieve his goal without being so destructive? You know the answer.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 January 2017 at 7:27 pm

Dan Rather launches gutsy newsgroup to counter fake news & alternative facts

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Very interesting DailyKos post by Leslie Salzillo:

American journalist and esteemed news anchor Dan Rather announced a new social media page in the midst of January’s flying fake news and alternative facts. The Facebook “digital news feed” page is called  News and Guts”and if it’s anything like Dan Rather’s posts this past year, it’s going to be like a sledge-hammer coming down on the new administration.

In a recent post, Rather states:

Journalism, real journalism, deep-digging reporting without fear or favor, is as important now, if not more so, than any time I can remember.

Over the past year, Dan Rather has built a Facebook page following of over 1.3 million people. It’s a place where he shares his political commentary along with posting news stories from other respected sources. He says during weeks like in early January when confirmation hearings were coming in fast and furious, there is only so much that he can do on one page andthere are far more articles that deserve attention, as well as great reporters he’d like to spotlight.

I got into news in the first place to be part of something noble and bigger than myself. For those reasons, I am starting a second Facebook page called News And Guts, a digital news feed of sorts. It’s also the name of my digital news and production company. The goal is to inform, innovate, and inspire. This Facebook page will be under the stewardship of a very talented group of reporters who work at my company. These are men and women who know real news. They’ve reported with me around the globe from dangerous and difficult datelines. I trust them and so should you.

Rather says the audience may find the tone of the new page “a little more free-wheeling” than his own. He also says he wants the page to be a two-way street that encourages the thoughts, articles, and stories page followers want to see covered.

In an era of fake news, false equivalence, and too much fluff, let’s take a stand together to demand better, and bring attention to all those doing great work.

In just weeks, News And Guts has garnered over 350k followers. To visit, click here: News And Guts.  Yep, we’ll take more of this, please. Thank you, Dan Rather.

I’ve “liked” and thus am following News and Guts. So far, so good: interesting posts.

Interesting how technology has made it more difficult to control dissemination of information to the public. We see the bad of that in the upsurge of the Alt-Right and in trolls, but here we see the good: As President Trump increases the pressure on corporate media to shut the fuck up (you think I’m exaggerating: read this article), the news can still get out through the Internet. And our business economy is so intertwined with the Internet that the government cannot simply shut it down (though in countries where they can, they do).

Written by LeisureGuy

26 January 2017 at 7:11 pm

Carl Bernstein: Nervous Republican officials are questioning President Trump’s ’emotional stability’

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Events are moving fast. Donald Trump has not been President for a week yet. Via Brad Reed at Raw Story:

Last night @CarlBernstein said DC Republicans are raising concerns about Trump’s “emotional maturity, stability”

— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 26, 2017

Watch that video. Amazing.

I’m sticking with my prediction: 25th Amendment invoked before March.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 January 2017 at 6:46 pm

Trump is getting payments from foreign governments. We have no idea what they are.

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One thing we can be sure of: they are good for Trump, if not the country. Zephyr Teachout writes in the Washington Post:

In the middle of the 17th century, King Charles II of England took a secret pension from the French King Louis XIV. He agreed to a closer relationship, including a treaty that wasn’t clearly in England’s best interest. The precise content of the secret agreement wasn’t revealed for more than 100 years.

Today, 350 years later, the president of the United States is receiving payments from foreign countries. The money comes to President Trump by way of his companies, although the details and scope of his profits are secret; he refused to disclose his tax returns. After the election, Trump had several months to move toward liquidation and putting his assets in a truly blind trust. He has chosen, instead, to keep his ownership interests in his businesses, turning over operating decisions to his children but remaining an owner. His decision threatens the integrity of American democracy and national security, and it should ring alarm bells for all citizens, regardless of political party.

Trump’s choice violates one of the most overlooked but important sections of the U.S. Constitution, the foreign emoluments clause, which was framed to avoid problems of split loyalty such as that posed by Charles II. As a law professor, I began exploring the clause in 2009 while examining the framers’ near-obsession with protecting against corruption. The clause represented a deliberate break from European traditions, where financial relationships between a country’s representatives and other governments were common. And it epitomized “the particularly demanding notion of corruption” held by our framers.

I never expected the clause to be litigated: Presidents and federal officials have gone out of their way to avoid violating it. Until now. But Trump’s blatant violation of the clause is a violation of our fundamental document and our fundamental principles.

That’s why the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed suit in federal court this week to seek a declaratory judgment and injunction. I am one of the lawyers on the case.

The framers were trained to be wary of how human nature can be tempted, and of international incentives to tempt. As George Washington said later, “Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.” Our Constitution was written in the hot summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, but the convention was haunted by recent European failures and the long-ago corruption of Rome. Secret money from foreign countries was a repeat topic, with the framers wary of the “melancholy picture” of foreign intrusions and intrigues. The British experience with Charles II was a warning that even heads of state could be influenced by foreign powers.

The framers understood that humans are inclined to look more favorably upon those who are responsible for their wealth. In private affairs, warmth toward someone who has given a gift, or with whom one has a good business relationship, is a positive emotion that enables human connection. But in public affairs, that sometimes-unconscious influence can be insidious. The framers had also seen how George III used his power to create a side employment relationship with parliamentarians he wanted to influence.

So the Constitution includes more than a dozen anti-corruption provisions, several of which are targeted specifically to protecting against foreign influence. For instance, only natural-born citizens can be president, foreigners are not allowed to hold federal office and a long residential period is required so candidates would not be mere tools of wealthy foreign powers.

The foreign emoluments clause prohibits federal officers from accepting foreign “gifts,” “emoluments” and “titles of nobility” without congressional consent. As a recent white paper by Harvard Law professor Larry Tribe and attorney Joshua Matz explains, extensively citing the meaning of the word at the time of the Constitutional Convention, emoluments include the profits an official receives in the course of business relationships.

The emoluments clause did not come easy: . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

. . . Consider the countries we know are making payments to Trump companies through state-owned entities, payments that affect Trump’s wealth: China and the United Arab Emirates, both at the heart of regions critical to U.S. foreign policy. Then consider the longer list of countries in a position to benefit him because of business relationships Trump has, including India, Indonesia, Turkey, the Philippines, Great Britain and Vietnam. This is just a beginning sketch of what we know so far; Russia, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan reportedly may also be involved with Trump businesses. The benefits come from a range of relationships: The Qatari state airline pays rent at the Trump Tower in New York; entities in Britain, Bulgaria, Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam reportedly make licensing payments for the rights to produce local versions of “The Apprentice,” Trump’s reality TV show; his developments in India require governmental permitting, which under the law would be a forbidden benefit.

Each of these countries, and possibly more, now has a direct mechanism to attempt to influence the president. What’s more, every time Trump makes a foreign policy decision that relates to any of these countries, citizens will wonder whether he, like Charles II, put his own financial interest ahead of American jobs, or whether he is engaging in or refraining from military action because of a business relationship. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

26 January 2017 at 5:24 pm

Useful information nowadays: Get Up and Move. It May Make You Happier.

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Gretchen Reynolds writes in the NY Times:

When people get up and move, even a little, they tend to be happier than when they are still, according to an interesting new study that used cellphone data to track activities and moods. In general, the researchers found, people who move are more content than people who sit.

There already is considerable evidence that physical activity is linked to psychological health. Epidemiological studies have found, for example, that people who exercise or otherwise are active typically are less prone to depression and anxiety than sedentary people.

But many of these studies focused only on negative moods. They often also relied on people recalling how they had felt and how much they had moved or sat in the previous week or month, with little objective data to support these recollections.

For the new study, which was published this month in PLoS One, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England decided to try a different approach. They would look, they decided, at correlations between movement and happiness, that most positive of emotions. In addition, they would look at what people reported about their activity and compare it with objective measures of movement.

To accomplish these goals, they first developed a special app for Android phones. Available free on the Google app store and ultimately downloaded by more than 10,000 men and women, it was advertised as helping people to understand how lifestyle choices, such as physical activity, might affect people’s moods. (The app, which is no longer available for download, opened with a permission form explaining to people that the data they entered would be used for academic research.)

The app randomly sent requests to people throughout the day, asking them to enter an estimation of their current mood by answering questions and also using grids in which they would place a dot showing whether they felt more stressed or relaxed, depressed or excited, and so on.

Periodically, people were also asked to assess their satisfaction with life in general.

After a few weeks, when people were comfortable with the app, they began answering additional questions about whether, in the past 15 minutes, they had been sitting, standing, walking, running, lying down or doing something else.

They also were asked about their mood at that moment.

At the same time, during the 17 months of the study, the app gathered data from the activity monitor that is built into almost every smartphone today. In essence, it checked whether someone’s recall of how much he or she had been moving in the past quarter-hour tallied with the numbers from the activity monitor.

In general, the information provided by users and the data from activity monitors was almost exactly the same.

Of greater interest to the researchers, people using the app turned out to feel happier when they had been moving in the past quarter-hour than when they had been sitting or lying down, even though most of the time they were not engaged in rigorous activity. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 January 2017 at 5:13 pm

5 books to broaden the understanding of conservatives, and 5 books to broaden the understanding of liberals

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Five books to help conservatives, selected by Cass Sunstein.

Five books to help liberals, also selected by Cass Sunstein.

It would be interesting if a group of people, including both conservatives and liberals, would meet monthly, each month discussing one of the books, taking them alternatively from the conservative list and the liberal list: 10 discussions, which would not even take a year.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 January 2017 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Books

The Black List identifies the great scripts that have not been made into movies

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Very interesting article in the Atlantic by Alex Wagner:

In the age of the gargantuan blockbuster, it wasn’t immediately clear that the story of a suicidal mathematician in wartime England would make for a successful movie. In fact, it wasn’t clear that it would make for a movie at all.

In 2010, Graham Moore was a precocious 28-year-old author who had just written a novel about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At a cocktail party in Los Angeles, a producer named Nora Grossman mentioned to him that she and her producing partner were interested in making a film based on a biography of Alan Turing—the English scientist who is credited with developing the first computer but was punished for his homosexuality. Moore was immediately intrigued; he’d been interested in Turing’s story since he was a teenager. “I have to be the one to write this!” he told Grossman.

She and her partner, Ido Ostrowsky, agreed, and Moore set to work. After he finished the screenplay, he called his agent. “ ‘Hey, I have this script about a gay English mathematician who killed himself,’ ” Moore deadpanned to me, recalling that—because of the subject matter—he didn’t expect it to be an instant success. But his agent loved the script, recognizing that Moore had managed to turn what could have been a morbid biopic into a riveting thriller. A few months later, Warner Brothers bought a one-year option to make the film.

But selling a screenplay is not the same as making a movie, as Moore would soon learn. Warner Brothers, like many of the major studios today, is largely in the business of making big movies, and the script, despite being very good, did not fit the mold of the tentpole franchises that might do well in, say, China. Moore wondered whether it would ever get made. “It would have been their lowest-budget movie in 30 years,” he told me recently.

Nine months into Warner Brothers’ year-long option, Moore got a call from Greg Silverman, then an executive vice president at the company, who gave him his script back on good terms and told him to “go make this as the small indie film that you always should have.” Technically, Warner Brothers could have sat on the script for another three months, so getting it back when Moore did was a boon. Yet he knew the project faced an uncertain future. Many scripts bounce from studio to studio, cast and crew come and go according to availability, and even a great story can languish for years—or never get told.

But Moore had an important advantage. In 2011, shortly after Warner Brothers optioned his screenplay, it landed in the No. 1 spot on something called the Black List: an anonymous survey in which industry professionals name the scripts they liked the most that year. The Black List was started in 2005 by a 27-year-old film executive from west Georgia named Franklin Leonard, and has become an influential index of the most original and well-written—if not the most bankable—screenplays in Hollywood. Its power to launch careers and expedite projects is astounding.

Moore saw this power firsthand when he tried again to sell his script. “Because of the Black List, everybody had already read it,” he said—including the Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, who would end up making the movie, and the English actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who would star in it.

At an event in 2014, Cumberbatch recalled first hearing about the script. “What could have been a sort of English-scented rose garden of a script kind of landed with huge heat on it, because it was top of the Black List,” he said. “I was intrigued by people of taste who said ‘You’ve got to read it’—including everyone who votes on the Black List.”

Having gotten the attention of Tyldum, Cumberbatch, and other key players, the project sailed along. “We skipped six steps,” Moore told me. “We were shooting less than 12 months later.”

The movie, like the script, was called The Imitation Game. It went on to garner eight Academy Award nominations—and to win the 2015 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The movies that have come out of Black List scripts comprise a Murderers’ Row of critics’ picks: Spotlight, The Revenant, Whiplash, Argo, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Juno, There Will Be Blood. Four of the past eight Best Picture winners at the Oscars and nine of the past 18 winners for Best Screenplay or Best Adapted Screenplay appeared on the Black List.

Franklin Leonard was a junior executive at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions when he started the Black List. “Throughout the year in Hollywood,” he told me, “there are all these conversations happening at all levels about ‘What have you read that’s good lately?’ ” In 2005, he decided to anonymously survey his Rolodex, soliciting from his contacts their picks for the top 10 scripts of the year that were not yet being made into movies. Ninety-three executives and studio assistants responded. Leonard compiled the results, ranked them by the number of mentions each got, and sent his contacts a PDF of the list from an anonymous email address. A couple of years later, the Los Angeles Times outed him as the Black List’s creator, and eventually he started announcing the list more publicly—on Twitter and YouTube, and on a website he created.

Though Leonard created the survey essentially because he was looking for some good reading material, he quickly realized that it had a certain subversive potential. Leonard is outspoken about the lack of diversity in Hollywood—not just when it comes to who appears onscreen, but also in terms of what kinds of stories get told. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 January 2017 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

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