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the flog

Faith Leaders: Republican Tax Reform Bill is ‘Immoral,’ ‘Attack on American Families’

A group of local clergy and concerned citizens gathered in the unseasonable heat in Hemming Park this morning at a press conference organized to call upon Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson to reject the proposed tax plan. The senate is expected to vote on the bill later this week.

Standing across the street from Rubio's Jacksonville office, they decried the Republican-drafted tax reform plan for benefiting the wealthy and harming lower-income Americans-particularly minorities, children, the elderly and working families-for raising the national deficit, and taking healthcare coverage from millions.

"[This plan] gives the richest 1 percent and corporations a huge tax cut ... it cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 and eliminates estate tax that really only benefits people like our president," said Joey McKinnon of Faith in Public Life, the multidenominational faith group that organized the press conference.

Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church Pastor Lee Harris, also of African Americans Ministers Leadership Council, said that the tax reform bill will be particularly harmful to African Americans and other people of color. He said it is "at best" a reincarnation of the trickle-down economics of the 1980s, which "never worked."

"At worst, it is a kind of neo-slavery ... either way, it is something that people of color cannot afford," he said.

Pastor Harris believes that the bill will bring back elements of "putrid ideas" such as sharecropping, housing and economic discrimination, and gaps in wealth and health. He said that while the plan may at first seem palatable, just like the old adage about putting a frog in cold water and slowly turning the heat up until it boils, the changes to the tax code will gradually harm Americans until it is too late.

He rattled off a series of ways in which the plan will impact black America, including reducing Medicaid by $5.3 trillion over 10 years, triggering $400 billion in Medicare cuts in a …   More

THE FLOG

FOR THE PEOPLE? MAYBE.

Attorney John Morgan has been teasing a potential run for the governorship of Florida pretty much all year. The specter of his candidacy has been tantalizing for progressive Democrats who saw his deep pockets and shallow policy agenda as an ideal alternative to politics-as-usual; many considered him the party's best chance of reclaiming a spot they've not held in 20 years. The architect and chief financier of last year's successful medical marijuana vote was even touted by folks as diverse as Snoop Dogg and Roger Stone, which in retrospect could have hinted at shenanigans to come.

While candidates on both sides were steadily stacking paper and building on their bonafides, Morgan deftly danced around the issue like a b-boy on bath salts. Actually, it's been more like a classic fan dance, albeit with much bigger fans. He shows them a little, then pulls back, smiling amidst a chorus of wolf-whistles, while liberal eyes bug out, their tongues wagging like a Tex Avery cartoon. In this case, however, the full reveal was not to be, as Morgan used his Black Friday to darken the mood by declaring that he would not stand for office in 2018-maybe. Always with the maybes, this guy.

Much like the president, Morgan chose Twitter as the ideal vehicle for breaking hearts on a mass scale by not only quashing hopes for his campaign (maybe), but also launching a fusillade of verbal bombs against the state's Democratic party, which is already under siege following the resignations of Stephen Bittel and Sally Boynton Brown. These losses left the party undermanned and underfunded as it enters an epochal 2018 race that will define Florida politics for the next decade, maybe.

Morgan went a step further, though, by suggesting that Bill Nelson essentially concede his place in the Senate to current governor Rick Scott and put his energy into running for governor himself, which would torpedo the chances of actual candidates like Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Chris King. "In the …   More

the flog

SHORTCHANGED

Governor Scott claimed "record spending" for education in Florida when he signed last year's (2017-'18) state budget, and he's claiming he's proposed "record spending" for next year, as well.

"We're going to have historic funding, for the sixth year in a row, for our education system across this state," Gov. Scott said Nov. 14 at his appearance at Northern Tool Company, where he was stumping for his next, and last, budget.

Are we really making "record investments" in K-12 education in Florida?

The answer depends on whether we are looking at "nominal dollars" or "real dollars." Nominally speaking, it's true that both the aggregate education budget and per pupil spending figures for 2017-'18 are bigger than the previous year's numbers. News reports indicate that the budget Gov. Scott signed on June 26 includes $100 more per student, bringing the base allocation or FEFP figure up from $7,196 last year to $7,296 for the upcoming year.

But does the $100 per pupil boost represent a significant increase for students? In real dollars, the answer is no.

In order to cover the costs associated with inflation, which are computed using the Consumer Price Index calculator from the U.S. Department of Labor, Florida would have had to have dedicated $7,313 per pupil in order to merely keep pace with last year.

It's bad enough that we've failed to maintain spending levels, in real dollars, over the course of one year. But the news gets much worse when we consider the entire past decade of per-pupil education spending.

In 2007, former governor Charlie Crist's education budget allotted $7,126 per pupil. According to the CPI calculator, it would cost $8,377.89 today to buy the same value that $7,126 bought in 2007. In real dollars, we're falling short of 2007 levels by $1,082.

In real dollars, Florida is going backwards in terms of education funding-and it's hurting our students.   More

Group HEALING Under the Roof of Yellow House

It is truly satisfying to see people find camaraderie in spaces dedicated to artistic expression. While attending the opening of Yellow House’s second exhibition, Life Under Construction, people conversed freely as they viewed the paintings by artists Princess Simpson Rashid and Keith Doles. With the overarching theme of the show centered around physical and emotional healing through art, the bonding occurring on that night added to the entire experience.

The journey of recovery can often seem like a lonesome voyage, yet Life Under Construction affirms that regaining peace of mind and body can genuinely be a communal experience.

Because the gallery is a converted bungalow, the viewer can be anywhere in Yellow House and be able to see other rooms or halls that contain pieces of art. It encourages moving through the space, and much of the artwork can be seen from multiple vantage points. This sense of connectedness deepens the nature of the exhibition as the embodiment of public healing and renewal through creative means. Moreover, this welcoming atmosphere is epitomized by the open office area; Yellow House itself effectively bares its soul to visitors.

The art of Rashid and Doles harmonizes well on a conceptual level. Their work illustrates the figurative highs and lows of regaining wellness in the midst of illness. Princess Simpson Rashid is a cancer survivor who is mourning the loss of her father. Keith Doles is caring for his ailing mother and is struggling with his own well-being. Both artists are trying to resolve their internal and external turmoil through their art.

For Rashid, the limited color palette utilized in her paintings (red, yellow, black and white) symbolize the chaotic or joyful elements of her life. One of her largest paintings in the exhibition, Cosmos, the overbearing and intense irregular structures of red epitomize “chaos that was growing in [her] body.”

Doles envisions his work and creative process as …   More

the flog

White Nationalists and Thanksgiving

It's been a busy week at good ol' UNF. Apart from the usual, students running around like headless chickens, scrambling, with lukewarm coffee and stale bagel in hand, to get those last few assignments in before Thanksgiving, some more racist shmucks have to go and gum up the works. As we head out of the library and various classes for the final time before we return from Thanksgiving break, a wonderful surprise awaits us on Monday, Nov. 20 at 8:30 a.m.-a possible White Nationalist rally. *a collective groan registers on a Richter Scale in California*

Self-proclaimed White Nationalist and former KKK member Ken Parker (a UNF student) was  officially suspended from all school activities earlier this week. In support of their fallen brother-isn't it nice seeing friends come together for a cause? Just warms the heart-White Nationalist supporters are calling for a march on campus. Gene Thorson, a known supporter of the White Nationalist movement-put up the call to action on his own Facebook page following the suspension; in his own words:

One of our brothers in Florida is under attack by the leftist scum. He us [sic] currently suspended from the school he was attending and come Monday morning he may not be a student at university of northern [sic] Florida because of his affiliations in the white nationalist. There will be a protest/rally on Monday @0830 at UNF...show them that we stand UNITED!!!

The suspension in question came as a response to Parker's posting a comment and selfie to UNF's Spinnaker News Facebook page. In the selfie, he's seen holding a large rifle and sporting Nazi/Klan tattoos-seems like a swell, level-headed guy. The official letter from UNF President John Delaney states that Parker was suspended due to the fact that he had caused a disturbance within the university community.

At least one class had been cancelled because students and faculty felt threatened by Parker's comments and picture. Parker responded to that action, saying, …   More

What Is NEO Yokio?

Neo Yokio (2017) is a production with some striking ideas embedded in its premise. Directed by Ezra Koenig (the lead singer of Vampire Weekend), the Netflix adult cartoon follows the life of "magistocrat" Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith) as he balances being a demon slayer and a socialite in the affluent titular city. At a glance, the series seemingly satirizes the vapid excesses of high society in Neo Yokio, which is itself a bourgeois-centric version of New York City. On inspection, Neo Yokio's supposed poignant social commentary and satirical jests are severely lacking. While the show has gained somewhat of a cult following on social media platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr, there is a reason for the cartoon's generally poor reception from other audience members and critics alike.

NEO YOKIO ISN'T FUNNY
: One of the more pressing failures of Neo Yokio is rooted in its comedy. Very little humor or intrigue stems from Kaz's extermination of anti-capitalist demons, and  virtually all the cartoon's hijinks spawn from the luxury obsessed denizens of NYC. When taken out of context, some jokes are funny. Numerous clips, gif sets, and screencaps of scenes extracted from the cartoon are floating around on the Internet and heralded as proof that Neo Yokio is indeed comedy gold. A bejeweled sinister skull saying, "I see you, bitch," does seem funny [and like a snarky wave to 'ol Damian Hirst]. However, the same episode contains an overly long gag about Kaz accidently picking a midnight-blue suit to wear to a Black and White Ball. Within the parameters of the series, when each comedic antic is strung together one after another, the result is ham-fisted, repetitious and dead on arrival, jokes.

Much of the humor relies on the viewer to be acquainted with knowledge that only a New Yorker, or specifically, a wealthy New Yorker would be privy to. Mentions of the Hamptons, bespoke attire, 14th St., squash, field hockey, and the Eastside require …   More

JaxbyJAX

The be-all-end-all gathering of Jacksonville's literary minds. The JaxbyJax Literary Arts Festival is setting up to be an event that shan't be missed by the many beloved bibliophiles throughout the Northeast Florida community.

Set to take place across 13 venues throughout Riverside, JaxbyJax is celebrating the written talents of 28 of Jacksonville's best writers, along with a showcasing of local student writers.

All sorts of literature, ranging from novel excerpts to poetry and everything in between, will be on display and imparted to the listening audiences as a new writer will hit the stage every half-hour at each venue. With free admission (no tickets), there's nothing preventing the audience from floating among the sites as the event progresses.

Apart from being simply a showcase for eloquently written words, founder of JaxbyJax and writer Tim Gilmore says it serves as a way to "introduce Jacksonville to its own literary voice." As Gilmore puts it, the strength of Jacksonville's literary arts culture has long been underestimated and the area itself has been "perceived as a blue-collar town without many artistic and educational possibilities." Now, as Jacksonville's writers have started to come to terms with their city's past and current affairs, a true freedom to draw from and "hold a mirror to" the city has been realized-call it a literary system of checks and balances. JaxbyJax is shining a light on those dark recesses that are often forgotten, ignored or overlooked.

A featured writer at this year's JaxbyJax and Folio Weekly alum Tricia Booker says she hopes to bring a new perspective, as well as entertain. Booker's reading will focus on the decision to get a service dog for their son who suffers from an attachment disorder that is related to his adoption. "I would love for people to walk away from the event with a better appreciation for how dogs can help us with our emotional and mental well-being, as well as a more compassionate way of thinking …   More

the flog

No Greater Love: Treating the wounds of war

Armed with nothing but a camera, Army chaplain Justin Roberts deployed to the Kunar Province in Afghanistan with the 327th Infantry Regiment 2nd Battalion, called "No Slack" Company-part of the famed 101st Airborne-in 2010. Even though making a film wasn't exactly his initial intention, Roberts would go on to document No Slack's time in Afghanistan as they fought for control within the Kunar Province. The culmination of Roberts' video documentation, No Greater Love-as the first documentary to be filmed by an active duty soldier-depicts the harrowing actions of No Slack as they struggle to not only survive the war, but to reintegrate themselves back into civilian life when they return home.

As servicemembers are back on friendly soil, often they have to deal with a host of physical injuries as well as mental ones, often buried, unseen by those around them. These mental distressors come in many forms; PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) are the two most common. These afflictions can lead to depression and mood swings-described as deep, dark places by the film's featured veterans-and affect the soldier, as well as their friends, family and even colleagues.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that between 20 and 22 servicemembers-active duty and retired-commit suicide every day. Roberts' intriguing documentary acts not only as a memorial to those who have died in the line of duty and by their own hand-many of whom he personally knew and served with-but also as a platform to educate all of us about the often-forgotten plight and silent suffering of military veterans.

No Greater Love opens in Jacksonville at Regency AMC Theater (first show is 11:35 a.m.) on Friday, Nov. 10, on the eve of Veterans Day. There are screenings daily through Thursday, Nov. 16.

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Learn more about the film and watch a trailer here.

    More

the flog

IKEA's Island

It began innocuously enough, with an emailed invitation for a media-only event. But I knew that this was no ordinary press conference. This was Ikea.

Years of headlines ran through my mind: Oct. 2015: "Ikea announces plan to open Jacksonville store in 2017" -WJCT; May 2016: "Ikea buys land for $13 million to build mega store in Jacksonville" -Jacksonville Business Journal; March 2017: "You can see Ikea now, and it's big" -Financial News & Daily Record. All leading up to this subject line: "Invitation: New Ikea Jacksonville Press Preview, November 2."

I quickly assembled the courage to skip a meeting and clicked 'reply' to RSVP to a once-in-a-lifetime retail experience that I'd surely be bragging about many days hence. The reply came quickly. YES! I was in.

All that was left to do was wait for The Big Day.

Finally, it came. Visions of meatballs and ambient lighting dancing in my head, I entered a pleasing café where scads of eager media had already gathered, hungrily eyeing cakes and potato pancakes with fancy names that none dared try pronounce. Enormous signs tantalized of the adventure to come, foretelling speeches about tree hugging and solar panels and--the mind reels--composting. Yes, composting, at this, the 46th U.S. location of a treasured international company.

It soon became clear that this was not to be an in-and-out quote and photo grab for a noon turnaround. Nay, this was to be the most epic three-hour tour in the history of Jacksonville.

Excited chatter rang through the air as one after another peeked into the enormous 290,000 square foot space, eager to enter. One mentioned that it was eerie to see the store so empty; that from this day forward, it could only be experienced teeming with throngs of the faithful. This added reverence that increased as we breakfasted on delicacies worthy of the makers of the world famous ready-to-assemble furniture for the chic, modern urban dwellers and those who aspire to such.

Next …   More

the flog

BLACKFACE Costume Sparks Protests

St. George Street, in the heart of downtown St. Augustine, was ready for Halloween.

Spider webs and pumpkins decorated the windows along the street. Store employees in costumes walked the streets. But there was something different this year. A chant rang out:

"No blackface, no KKK, no racist USA."

From late morning until around 4 p.m., Flagler College students crowded outside The Bunnery Bakery & Café, holding signs and protesting the business.

The controversy was set in motion early Tuesday morning when a Flagler College student walked into The Bunnery on St. George Street and was shocked by what she saw behind the counter: a white woman dressed as Aunt Jemima, wearing an apron and a bandana wrapped around her head. But that's not what shocked the student. She was stunned to see that the white woman was in blackface, her face smeared with brown paint, as she baked in front of a window that faced the street.

The student, Courtney Olson, asked the woman to remove her makeup. She says that she was told that the costume wasn't racist, and she would not take the makeup off.

After the confrontation, Olson alerted another student, Hasani Malone, vice president of the Flagler College Black Student Association. Together, they went into the business and demanded the woman remove her makeup.

"She had blackface, which is a stereotype. It was used to mimic and mock black people," Malone said. "They said, 'No, [she wasn't] going to take it off.' They said, 'It's not racist, it's Halloween.'"

When the two refused to leave until the woman removed her makeup, they say the owner of the restaurant called the police, who escorted the young women out.

After being removed from the premises, Malone and Olson took to social media. Soon protestors began to arrive. Over the course of five hours, the group of protestors swelled until eventually St. Augustine police officers arrived to keep an eye on the protests.

"Hey, hey, ho, ho, racism has got …   More