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‘I Am Not Your Negro’ will introduce James Baldwin to a new generation

Article posted January 22, 2017 at 2:00 PM

By (Denise Oliver Velez)

There are voices we all need to hear. At a time when the United States is once again faced with our chilling legacy of racism and other ills including sexism, homophobia, and economic inequality, one of the most powerful voices from our recent past is speaking out again through the medium of documentary film.

It is the voice of James Baldwin. The film, I Am Not Your Negro, will be opening in movie theaters on Feb. 2.

I Am Not Your Negro, directed by Raoul Peck, is a haunting documentary that uses James Baldwin‘s words to narrate a powerful film about the nuances of race and class in America.

James Baldwin was a groundbreaking writer: Black, gay and unapologetic. He became a household name by the 1960s and even graced the cover of Time Magazine in 1963. His books like The Fire Next Time solidified him as a thought leader and political figure. With archival footage and Samuel L. Jackson narrating Baldwin’s words, I Am Not Your Negro uses an incomplete manuscript from the Harlem native to tell a story that is frighteningly relevant today.

The manuscript focused on three of his friends who died tragically: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But this isn’t just a doc about race and class. Baldwin’s commentary is much more layered. His insight was and is heartbreaking, poignant and unforgettable. With pure cinematic magic, Peck delivered one of the best documentaries of the year.

At a time when protests for justice are once again erupting across this nation, Baldwin’s voice is prescient. We will be reminded that the movement lives on, though Baldwin, Evers, Malcolm, and King are no longer among the living.


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Trump’s Hotel Was The Perfect Target During The Women’s March On Washington

Article posted January 22, 2017 at 1:51 PM

By Michael McAuliff

WASHINGTON ― If there’s one thing in Washington, D.C., that stands as a symbol for what so many people find wrong about President Donald Trump, it’s his new hotel in the city — a hotel in a building owned by the government with a contract that specifies a government official (such as the president) may not hold the lease.

Yet, Trump holds it, and now is the boss of the department that’s supposed to enforce it. (Never mind the ethical problems there.)

So imagine the reaction of hundreds of thousands of people walking past the edifice Saturday during the Women’s March on Washington. The hotel doesn’t rise high on the list of concerns compared to Trump’s self-professed ill treatment of women, his suspected ties to Russia, and his stances on immigration, Muslims, Black Lives Matter or health care.

But it served as a potent symbol and lightning rod for the marchers.

There were some boos ― and a man with a bullhorn exhorting people to give Trump and the hotel the finger certainly guaranteed marchers saw the Old Post Office that’s been converted for the Trump empire.

Belinda Lai and Michelle Hsu, of the D.C. area, led a rousing chant of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” aimed at the building and the guests inside.

They dislike “everything he stands for. He’s against women, he’s against minorities,” Lai said.

“And we don’t want to support his businesses,” chimed in Hsu. (She and Lai do support the business of local celebrity chef Jose Andres, whom Trump sued after the chef backed out of opening a restaurant in the hotel.)

“These people should not be staying here, and we’re letting them know they should be ashamed of themselves,” Lai said.

Alexis Disselkoen, an artist from Los Angeles, helped hold up a giant orange banner with “TREASON” written on it.

“We believe Donald Trump’s businesses have no business in politics or our presidency,” Disselkoen said.

Susmita Kazthekar, from Illinois, posed in front of the hotel with a sign that read, “Honesty, Integrity, Accountability. Charity to all, and malice to none.”

“This is what I want in a president … I’m not seeing this,” she said.

For more of the reaction, watch the video above.

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‘SNL’s’ Vladimir Putin Tries To Reassure Anxious Americans About President Trump

Article posted January 22, 2017 at 1:11 PM

By Adam Goldberg

Well, it’s official. Donald John Trump is now the President of the United States. And on this week’s “Saturday Night Live,” a shirtless Vladimir Putin had a clear message for the American people: “Relax. I got this.”

The satirized version of Russia’s president, played by Beck Bennett, returned to NBC to promise Americans he’d take care of the good old U.S. of A. “It’s the most expensive thing we’ve ever bought,” he explained.

A destitute (and clearly-coerced) Russian woman, played by Kate McKinnon, was brought out to explain how great things are in her native country under Putin’s leadership: “I sleep in bed, not in carcass of dog. My president is number one hottie for all time.”

Bennett’s Putin personally addressed President Trump as well. After highlighting the huge turnout for Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, the fictionalized Russian leader called out Trump for lying about the size of his inauguration crowd: “If you’re going to lie, don’t make it so obvious. You know, say you are friends with LeBron James, not that you ARE LeBron James.”

The “SNL” iteration of Putin bade farewell to the American people with a disconcerting sentiment: “It’s going to be a long four years for many of you, but remember, we’re in this together.”

Watch the full sketch above.

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At Trump’s Inauguration, His Hollow Rhetoric Collides with Reality

Article posted January 22, 2017 at 12:54 PM

By Michael Winship Throughout the campaign and the transition period leading up to the Inauguration, whenever Donald Trump was caught lying or tweeting something outrageous we were told by his acolytes that we should ignore his words and instead pay attention to his deeds. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s Queen of Bull, who has moved from campaign manager to White House counselor, actually has argued that what he says should not be taken literally, even telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “You always want to go with what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.”

Well, we’re journalists, not cardiologists but okay, by that standard, President Trump’s inaugural address was of a piece, much of it appealing to his core constituency — white workers and the middle class angry that they’ve been left out of the good times, as indeed they have been. But the speech was hollow rhetoric when compared to all the things Trump and his fledgling administration actually have done in just the last few weeks and hours.

“Today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another,” Trump declared. “But we are transferring power from Washington, DC, and giving it back to you, the people… The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs.”

Fine, we’ll do as Kellyanne Conway recommends. Rather than heed the rhetoric we’ll look at his deeds and try to plumb the depths of his tiny heart. Truth is, Donald Trump has surrounded himself with many of the very elitists responsible for the plight of those everyday people he promised never to forget. The establishment he decried in his speech is front and center; six Goldman Sachs alumni alone already are in his administration, including Treasury Secretary-designate Steve Mnuchin, the man who parked a hundred million dollars in an offshore account and forgot to tell the Senate about it (we’re not making this up).

Trump bragged Thursday night about the collective high IQ of his Cabinet but the real number that’s troubling, as the website Quartz noted last month, is that the first 17 people he named to the Cabinet or Cabinet-ranking posts “have well over $9.5 billion in combined wealth… This collection of wealth is greater than that of the 43 million least wealthy American households combined.”

Let that sink in. Those first 17 people plucked by Trump to help him govern have more wealth “than over one-third of the 126 million households total in the US. Affluence of this magnitude in a US presidential Cabinet is unprecedented.”

How about billionaire Wilbur Ross firing an undocumented household staff member to avoid being embarrassed when Trump picked Ross as secretary of commerce? Could it be he suddenly developed an interest in immigration policy?

Or Labor Secretary-designate Andrew Puzder, CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants, his profits built on cutting corners and paying workers the lowest wages possible. Unless he has suddenly developed the common touch, it’s not likely he’ll be a robust advocate for blue- and white-collar workers.

Or Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos, whose confirmation hearings this past week revealed she knows almost nothing about public education — which, by the way, she doesn’t believe in — but whose lack of credentials pale in importance beside the more than $20 million she and her family have given to Republican candidates at the federal level, including many of the senators who will vote for her confirmation.

And how about Trump himself — stopping his inaugural parade to get out of his limousine in front of his DC hotel, of course — but so far failing to keep his promise last week that by Jan. 20 he would transfer complete control of his businesses? According to Pro Publica‘s Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw, none of the required documents have been filed.

No time for that, apparently, but plenty of time during his first hours in office to eliminate a climate change page on the White House website and replace it with attacks on the “burdensome” regulation of the energy industry — exactly what the global warming giants of fossil fuel sought to achieve with their campaign contributions. The new president already has forgotten those ordinary people out there experiencing the erratic weather brought on by climate change, many of them watching the waters rise around their homes and small businesses. Perhaps Trump plans to build them an ark.

Speaking of everyday people: If you’re one of the homeowners struggling to make ends meet, some of the people Trump pledged in his inaugural address to defend, consider this as well: One of his first executive orders Friday suspended his predecessor’s plan to decrease insurance premiums on Federal Housing Administration mortgages, a move Obama intended to help stabilize the housing market. Congratulations — if you’re one of those mortgage holders, you’ve been Trumped!

“A punch in the gut to middle-class buyers” — that’s how it was described by Sarah Edelman, director of housing policy at the Center for American Progress. “…With mortgage interest rates already on the rise, reversing the FHA’s move to cut insurance premiums in fact puts the dream of homeownership farther out of reach for millions of hardworking Americans.”

Contrast that cheapskate move with the money being spent on Trump’s big inaugural weekend. Nicholas Fandos at The New York Times reported last week that, “All told, the group planning the inaugural festivities says it has raised more than $100 million, which would be nearly double the record for an inauguration, with much of it coming in six- and seven-figure checks from America’s corporate suites.” That includes a million bucks from Boeing and half a million from Chevron. A small price to pay for the kind of influence and thinly veiled bribery that are sure to characterize the Trump years.

“We will make America wealthy again,” Trump bellowed in his speech — he just didn’t say that the wealth won’t be shared. Fact is, “the forgotten men and women of our country” whom Trump addressed in the speech don’t have a chance against the army of influence peddlers with whom the new president already has surrounded himself.

For example, it was announced on Thursday that 13 — yes, 13 — lawyers from the high-powered law firm of Jones Day will be moving to top positions in the administration, seven of them at the White House alone. It’s s “a ton of top jobs” for one Washington firm, as David Lat of the website Above the Law put it: “This is very good news for Jones Day and the lawyers remaining at the firm. It’s great for the firm’s prestige, and it also means that JD lawyers will be eagerly sought after by clients with issues pending before their former colleagues.” (italics added).

This must be what they mean by “draining the swamp” — they just divert it over to the White House.

A pall of contradiction hung over the whole ceremony Friday — between the rhetoric aimed at those millions of working people and middle-class Americans to whom Trump said he was talking and the fabulous wealth concentrated in his personal and official circles. Not once did he mention the words democracy, or equality, or even the Constitution. And while the clergy who offered prayers frequently invoked the names of God and Jesus, no one disturbed the official piety by reminding the privileged and powerful gathered around the new president that Jesus told his followers, “… I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Or had said to a certain rich young man: “You lack one thing. Sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Or had admonished his followers: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.”

It wasn’t that kind of affair, of course. Instead, a few hours after the swearing-in, President Trump, in another of his first official acts, signed an executive order moving forward the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which could ultimately remove 18 to 32 million people from health insurance. Many of them presumably voted for Trump. Not a few may now need a miracle to survive.

By the way, according to Darren Samuelsohn at Politico, the end of the ACA would personally save our billionaire president “at least $6.7 million” in Medicare taxes.

Let us pray. After we march.

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It Only Takes 286 People to “Repeal and Replace” Donald Trump (And Other “Magic Numbers” for The Next 4 Years)

Article posted January 22, 2017 at 12:47 PM

By Richard Greene

Now that millions have flooded streets across the world to send a message to Mr. Trump, it’s time to act on that message.

To do so, here’s a quick course in “Stop Trump Civics” . . .

Lesson #1: “The ‘Magic Numbers’ of Democracy”

“Democracy” is a mathematical concept and everything in it is nothing more than a number.

And the numbers to make a difference are shockingly small and surprisingly achievable.

So, here are some super simple numbers for those who dream of making a difference.


The “Magic Number” to “Repeal and Replace” Donald Trump.

It takes 218 Members of The House of Representatives to impeach Donald Trump and 67 Members of The United States Senate to convict. Reach 286 and Donald Trump is no longer President.

The “Magic Number” of Republicans to vote to impeach and convict Donald Trump if all 242 Democrats vote to do so.

There are 194 Democrats in The House. If 24 Republicans join with them, Donald Trump will be impeached.
There are 48 Democrats in The Senate. If 19 Republican Senators join with them, Donald Trump is convicted and instantly removed from office.

The “Magic Number” to Stop Almost Any Piece of Legislation Donald Trump (or Mike Pence) May Propose.

If Democrats filibuster any piece of legislation in The Senate (even if it passes The House) and 41 of the 48 Democrats (or any combination of 41 Democratic and Republican Senators) vote to continue the filibuster by voting against something called “cloture”, then the bill does not get voted on and dies immediately.

The “Magic Number” to Stop Any Supreme Court Nominee Donald Trump (or Mike Pence) May Choose.

If Democrats filibuster any Supreme Court nominee in The Senate and 41 of the 48 Democrats (or any combination of 41 Democratic and Republican Senators) vote to continue the filibuster by voting against something called “cloture”, then the nominee does not get voted on and his nomination dies immediately.

The “Magic Number” of additional Democrats to take control of The United States House of Representatives in the November 6, 2018 Election

There are 194 Democrats in The House of Representatives. If 24 more are elected then Democrats would have a 218 vote majority and would take control of The House, would appoint a Speaker of The House and would control all committees and sub-committees.

The “Magic Number” of additional Democrats to take control of The United States Senate in the November 6, 2018 Election

There are 48 Democrats in The Senate. If 3 more are elected then Democrats would have a 51 -49 vote majority and would take control of The Senate, would appoint a Majority Leader and would control all committees and sub-committees. Further, Democrats would have virtually total control over whether and when to bring Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominees and any pieces of legislation up for a vote.

The “Magic Number” to Invoke The 25th Amendment and Temporarily Remove Donald Trump from The Presidency

If The Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet (8 of the 15) declare that Donald Trump is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” he will immediately be relieved of his duties and The Vice-President shall serve as “Acting President”.

The “Magic Number” to Invoke The 25th Amendment and Permanently Remove Donald Trump from The Presidency

If Donald Trump objects to the temporary removal it then takes a 2/3 majority of both houses of Congress to remove him permanently – 290 in The House and 67 in The Senate.

Democracy is just numbers. Crowdsource these numbers and you change America, even (and especially) in “The Age of Trump”!

Richard Greene is a former Fellow at The Constitutional Rights Foundation, attorney, political talk show host, Founder of the civic engagement campaign, and a political communication strategist who advises political leaders around the world.

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Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Never stop marching

Article posted January 22, 2017 at 12:05 PM

By (Mark Sumner)


They came. The call went out and … they came. In Washington, yes. In Los Angeles. Boston. Chicago. In Denver, and in Austin. But also in Bethel, Alaska where the high temperature for the day was -21. They came in conservative strongholds like Lubbock, Texas and Colorado Springs. They marched in Oxford, Mississippi, and in Oklahoma City. They marched in London and Paris and Madrid and flooded the streets of Amsterdam. They marched on the tiny Isle of Eigg in the Scottish Hebrides, and by their thousands in Nairobi. They brought their children. They got up in retirement homes where even 101-year-old feet showed they could still march.

They invented chants. And songs. They created signs that were clever, arch, hilarious, artistic, defiant, angry, touching, and heartbreaking. They wore T-shirts in sunshine and coats in the driving snow. They wore those glorious, glorious hats.

It was beautiful. So beautiful that it sometimes hurt to watch—in the best possible way.

After a day that seemed so dark, where it felt like hope had been crushed and the light had been dimmed, when optimism seemed lost and justice diminished, they showed that there is still a word that means all those things, all at once, and much, much more.


Come inside. Let’s read some pundits.


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Open thread: Trump, criminal charges and unqualified

Article posted January 22, 2017 at 4:00 AM

By (Barbara Morrill)

What’s coming up on Sunday Kos …

  • Do we think we are morally and intellectually superior, by Susan Grigsby
  • Evangelical Christian quits over Obamacare: I discovered I could no longer believe any of it, by Egberto Willies
  • Kentucky passes bill telling unions how to spend voluntary dues; House speaker can’t explain why, by David Akadjian
  • Media offers wide range of opinions on how to cover Trump, by Sher Watts Spooner
  • Criminal charges against executives who break the law protect us from greed. What say you, Trump, by Ian Reifowitz
  • ‘I’m not your negro’ will introduce James Baldwin to a new generation, by Denise Oliver Velez
  • Lincoln’s heir, by Jon Perr
  • Betsy DeVos, dangerously unqualified to be education secretary, by Mark E Andersen
  • Welcome to the new American kleptocracy, by Frank Vyan Walton
  • It’s complicated: Reflections on Obama’s legacy from a black progressive woman, by Kelly Macias


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These Muslim Teens Just Went To Their First Women’s March. They Could Have Led it.

Article posted January 22, 2017 at 3:30 AM

By Jennifer Bendery

WASHINGTON ― Early Saturday, Ekram Seid hopped on a city bus with her sister, Yasmin, and made the trek across town for the Women’s March on Washington. Neither had been to a political march before, but they felt a responsibility to go to this one.

“I’m the oldest of three girls,” Ekram told The Huffington Post, standing in a sea of people chanting and waving signs advocating social justice issues and opposing President Donald Trump. “So I just came here because I have to lead by example for them that it’s important that we speak on the issues that matter to us. And sometimes we have to take action.”

Ekram and Yasmin stood out in the crowd. Both are under 5 feet tall. Both wore hijabs. And both are teenagers. Ekram, 18, is even shorter than her younger sister and has braces. Yasmin, 13, stood quietly by her big sister. But once they spoke, they were far beyond their years. Both described what is at stake for Muslim women and other minorities if they don’t engage in politics and stand up for their rights.

“Donald Trump doesn’t scare me,” Ekram said. “It’s that it’s 2017, and there are people with this very provisional mindset, that kind of scares me and worries me. But I’m not scared for me. I’m scared for my sisters. I feel like I can handle anything.”

Yasmin, who is in eighth grade, said she wanted to be at the march because “I wanted to hear what people had to say and I’m a feminist, so it means a lot to me.”

Asked what it means to be a feminist, Yasmin replied, “Women’s empowerment and the belief that women can do anything men can do. And can do it better.”

Ekram, who starts college on Monday and wants to be an art therapist, chimed in, “I think everyone should be a feminist because women give life. If you’re not a feminist, you’re not supporting your mother. You’re not supporting yourself.”

Ekram and Yasmin navigated the masses with neon green posters that read “Girls Just Want To Have Fun-Damental Human Rights!” and “Women Can Do It All.” They’ve lived in D.C. since 2007, when their family moved from Ethiopia. Yasmin said she wished she was born in the United States so she could run for president.

“Maybe Congress will change the law back, that you don’t have to be born here,” she said. “If Congress changes the law, then I’m going to run for president.”

When HuffPost suggested she could run for Congress, Yasmin replied, “Yeah, but I want to be president.”

“You know, a lot of presidents have a background in politics,” Ekram offered.

“Yeah…” said Yasmin, uninterested and trailing off. “I want to go to medical school and law school. Women can do it all.”

Throughout Trump’s rise over the past year, and the ugly anti-Muslim rhetoric that’s come along with him, Ekram and Yasmin said they’ve gotten used to strangers coming up to them and offering words of support.

“I guess there’s not a lot of Muslim people in the McDonalds’ community,” said Yasmin. “When I go to McDonalds, people are like, ‘Oh, keep doing what you’re doing! Don’t listen to Donald Trump!’ Or something.”

There have been instances, though, of people treating them differently because of the way they look. When their family was at the airport recently getting ready to board a plane, Yasmin overheard one of the bag checkers say to another that they needed to thoroughly go through their family’s bags because “we don’t want any problems on the plane.”

“I felt hurt,” she said. “I had my hijab on, and my mother doesn’t speak full English and didn’t understand what he was talking about.”

But Yasmin ― who is, again, 13 ― decided this was one of those moments where speaking out mattered.

“I went up to the lady [behind the desk] and I was like, ‘You guys need to stop discriminating against us as Muslims because that’s not fair. You wouldn’t do that to anybody else,’” she said. “I just left it at that.”

“Yeah,” laughed Ekram. “That’s my sister.”

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14 Signs From The Women’s March To Honor Roe v. Wade’s 44th Anniversary

Article posted January 22, 2017 at 2:56 AM

By Alanna Vagianos

WASHINGTON, D.C. ― The Women’s March on Washington (and the hundreds of sister marches around the nation and world) took place the day before the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Many D.C. marchers proudly held signs calling for affordable and accessible reproductive healthcare for women. From the age-old rallying cry of “My body, my choice,” to more creative slogans such as “Leave your rosaries off my ovaries,” each sign was an important reminder of the positive impact Roe v. Wade had on so many women’s lives.

Here are 14 of our favorite:

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Former CIA Director John Brennan Says ‘Trump Should Be Ashamed Of Himself’

Article posted January 22, 2017 at 2:54 AM

By Annum Masroor

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan said Saturday that he is “deeply saddened and angered” by President Donald Trump’s “despicable display of self-aggrandizement” during a speech in front of CIA employees.

Speaking at the spy agency he spent months disparaging, Trump attacked the media for accurately reporting the crowd size at his inauguration, criticized reporters over claims he removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office and told his audience that “probably almost everybody in this room voted for me.”

Former CIA Dir Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement…(1/2)

— Nick Shapiro (@nick_shapiro) January 21, 2017

…in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes. Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself.” (2/2)

— Nick Shapiro (@nick_shapiro) January 21, 2017

In his first press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attacked reporters and also pedaled the lie that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” despite photos and crowd estimates clearly saying otherwise.

Standing in front of a wall studded with 117 chiseled stars ― each for an agent who died in the line of duty ― Trump also told CIA officials that the U.S. should have “kept the oil” after invading Iraq.

“Now I said it for economic reasons,” he said. “But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil, you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place, so we should have kept the oil.”

Taking Iraq’s oil would be in violation of international law and United Nations agreements.

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