Monthly Archives: August 2017

Aziz Ansari Tackles Religion In A Way Only A Child Of Immigrants Could

[WARNING: Spoilers for the second season of ?Master of None? ahead.]

Religion is more than just a path to salvation for Indian immigrants to America. For many immigrant families, religion is a concrete and crucial source of cultural identity ? something that sounds, smells, and feels familiar in a country where everything is foreign. The Indian temples, mosques, gurdwaras, and churches that dot America?s religious landscape are a testament to how important that identity is to the first generation ? and how desperately those immigrants would like to pass their religion on to their children. 

That?s why, when their kids begin to doubt, it?s a heartbreaking, painful situation all around. 

Watching Ansari?s character gave me flashbacks to discussions with my own parents about religion, culture and doubt. I don?t think I?ve ever seen those conversations reflected on television in this way.

The third episode of Indian American actor Aziz Ansari?s ?Master of None? explores this tension through film in an incredibly poignant way. As the child of Indian immigrants myself, watching Ansari?s character gave me flashbacks to discussions with my own parents about religion, culture and doubt. I don?t think I?ve ever seen those conversations reflected on television in this way.

The episode, titled ?Religion,? explores how the main character?s doubts about the religion he was born into affects his relationship to his parents. Dev (played by Ansari) has long been told by his parents that he?s not allowed to eat pork simply because ?that?s our religion.?

But after being introduced to it by a white friend, Dev starts eating pork in secret. And later on as an adult, he drinks wine, doesn?t fast for Ramadan, avoids reading a copy of the Quran his mother gave him, and eventually, just stops believing in the way that his parents believe.

In the episode, Dev?s parents are visited by a few religious relatives and his father asks him to play the part of a good Muslim boy to keep up appearances. So, he pretends to fast, go to the mosque, and follow Islam?s dietary restrictions, just for his parents. 

Lena Waithe?s character in the show, Denise, is confused by this. After finding out that Dev?s parents don?t know the he eats pork, she asks Dev and his young cousin, ?Wait, aren?t ya?ll two grown-ass men?? 

?Yeah,? Dev responds cheekily. ?But we?re scared of our parents.?

Like many children of immigrants, Dev can see both sides of the cultural gap.

To an outsider, Dev?s actions may seem like lies. It may even look like Dev is leading a double life. How could he have lived like this for decades? Why doesn?t he just man up and tell his parents what he really thinks?

But I don?t think Dev?s action should be taken negatively. I think these are just some of ways that children who doubt try to demonstrate love to their parents, especially those who may have difficulty receiving that love in any other way.

Later on in the episode, during a impetuous dinner party announcement, Dev decides to reveal the truth. He tells his parents (and his religious relatives) that he does eat pork and that he?s not particularly religious. 

?But it?s okay. Because I?m a good person,? he said. 

Predictably, it doesn?t go over well. 

His parents sit him down in their house and tell him how disappointed they are in him. His mom doesn?t talk to him for two weeks. 

Like many children of immigrants, Dev can see both sides of the cultural gap. He says, ?Look, I get it. For you guys, religion has this cultural value. It?s not like that for me.? 

Second-generation immigrants who doubt their religions are very familiar with balancing two cultures. Living with Indian parents teaches us how important it is to love and serve our families. But living in America has taught us the value of seeking our own truth, including when it comes to religion.

Studies conducted by the Pew Research Center show that more Americans than ever are switching their religions. If the three major Protestant traditions are considered as separate categories, a 2014 survey found that a full 42 percent of American adults have left their childhood faith, either for a different religion or to become unaffiliated with any religion. 

Pew doesn?t offer data on how Asian-Americans immigrants fare against this backdrop of immense religious churning. But of those raised in accordance with a specific religion, Hindus and Muslims retain the largest shares of adherents.

We are burdened by two heavy things ? our own consciences, which may be instructing us to question or leave our childhood faiths, and the immeasurable and fierce love of parents who crossed oceans to give us a better life.

The children of Indian immigrants navigate this complex cultural milieu by finding creative ways to compromise. This happens because we are burdened by two heavy things ? our own consciences, which may be instructing us to question or leave our childhood faiths, and the immeasurable and fierce love of parents who crossed oceans to give us a better life.

In ?Master of None,? Dev?s dad puts this inter-generational clash into words near the end of the episode.

?It?s not about eating pork. It?s not about religion. It?s about you ignoring us, not realizing who you are … When you act like this, we feel like we failed you,? he says. ?Look man, you can drink. you can eat pork, you can smoke mary jane. That?s your business. But when you do it in front of Mom, it hurts her feelings.?

Sighing deeply, Dev says, ?I get it.? 

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Federal Bureau of Prisons Fires Head Of An Obama-Era Education Effort, Putting Reform Under Trump In Doubt

WASHINGTON ? The federal Bureau of Prisons has quietly fired an education specialist the Justice Department hired to serve as the first ?superintendent? of the educational system within federal prisons, HuffPost has learned.

The Obama administration brought on Amy Lopez last year to overhaul educational programs for federal prisoners, with the hope of easing their re-entry into society and reducing recidivism. Lopez was fired last week ? leaving the future of the reform efforts under President Donald Trump in doubt.

?They?re shitcanning it,? a person who worked on the prison reform efforts disclosed to HuffPost this week. ?It?s tragic. This is really tragic.? Another person familiar with the status of the program said the initiatives had been ?canned or placed on hold? covertly.

Lopez declined to comment on Thursday, saying she needed to speak with a lawyer before she could talk to a reporter. A Justice Department spokeswoman said Thursday she was not aware of Lopez?s firing or broader changes to the prison reform plans the Obama administration put in place, and referred questions to the Bureau of Prisons. A BOP spokeswoman said Friday morning that the agency had ?no announcements or updates regarding our programs at this time.? The BOP spokeswoman did not respond to questions about Lopez?s firing or the status of some prison reform initiatives.

Lopez ?uprooted her whole life? to take the job as superintendent of the BOP?s education, according to a person who worked on the efforts. In November, Lopez left a job in Texas, where she had worked as an educator in the prison system. The job she accepted under former President Barack Obama would have put her in charge of what DOJ called a ?semi-autonomous school district within the federal prison system,? with the goal of giving prisoners the opportunity to earn their high school diploma and pursue post-secondary studies.

Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who was largely driving the prison reform initiative, said in a press release in November that the changes would ?make our prisons more effective? and reduce recidivism ? and therefore prevent crime ? by ?equipping inmates with the tools they need to successfully reenter society.? The plan also included more opportunities for inmates with learning disabilities and a pilot program in which inmates would be given customized tablets for online education.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to disagree with efforts to expand educational opportunities for inmates. In a 2015 congressional hearing, then-senator Sessions said that education and programs for inmates did not ?seem to have much benefit.? On prison and criminal justice issues more broadly, he?s broken with the Obama administration. Shortly after taking over the DOJ, he reversed a policy Yates had put in place that would have curtailed BOP?s use of private prisons. And Lopez was fired the same week that Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to take an aggressive approach to federal crimes in all instances, including drug offenses, which will almost certainly lead to an expansion of the federal prison population.

There?s no clear indication at this point that either Sessions or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ordered Lopez?s firing or a suspension of the reform initiatives more broadly. A Justice Department spokeswoman said it ?was a purely BOP thing,? and a former senior DOJ official familiar with the status of the BOP initiatives said they were told there had not been any formal directive from current DOJ leadership. The former official said the reform plan hadn?t been a major topic during transition meetings between Obama and Trump administration officials, and they had hoped the new DOJ leadership would recognize the programs contributed to public safety.

?The thing that really drove all of these education reforms was not ?Let?s all provide warm and fuzzy services to prisoners.? It was hard recidivism data which shows that education ? specifically high school diplomas ? has enormous impact on recidivism,? said the former senior DOJ  official. 

Thomas R. Kane is currently the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, a role he has filled since January 2016. He?s been with BOP since 1977, and had previously served stints as acting director. While it was Yates who pushed for the prison reform efforts, Kane had been supportive of the initiative, according to the former senior DOJ official.

But Kane isn?t the permanent director, and finding someone to head the massive organization has been a challenge. Current BOP staff interested in potentially landing the top job likely have an interest in pleasing the new DOJ leadership, even if there isn?t an express directive to kill Obama-era prison reform efforts at this point. There?s also skepticism from the BOP?s powerful union, and outside pressure to kill various Obama administration reform initiatives from conservative groups like Judicial Watch.

A BOP spokesperson declined to answer specific questions about the status of several components of the reform initiatives, though they did say that prison staffers currently assist federal prisoners re-entering society in obtaining state identification ?when feasible.? (That initiative began under Obama.) But a webpage referring to those programs is marked as ?archived content? on the Justice Department site, with a disclaimer stating that the ?information here may be outdated.?

Before the reform project, funds dedicated to educating inmates were allocated to each federal prison to spend as they saw fit. There was no standardization of the education programs, said a person who worked on the reform project. But most prisons focused on helping prisoners pass the General Education Development test, or GED, which was less useful for inmates re-entering society than an actual high school diploma. Special education, post-secondary and English-as-a-second-language classes were not available in every facility or, if they were, they were not up to standards.

The source who worked on the project said they had visited prisons all over the country in preparation for creating the new Bureau of Prisons education department and implementing the reforms. The plans included creating a reorganized central office that would mimic a normal school district, as well as forming partnerships with local community colleges. The source recounted visiting one maximum-security prison that was ?very disorganized,? with very few online learning options; a room meant to host ESL classes instead housed a pile of old, dusty computers.

The person who worked on the project said the lack of up-to-date equipment left inmates who had a desire to learn with barely any options to do so.

?These are human beings that are just sitting here with nothing but time,? the person said.

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Trevor Noah: So Many Screw Ups, So Little Time To Cover Them All

Trevor Noah didn?t quite know where to begin Thursday night to cover all the gaffes, corruption and intrigue around the world on ?The Daily Show.? He took a stab at the latest illegal payment corruption allegation against Brazil?s president and the king of the Netherlands? long-time secret gig as an airline pilot. But the best, as always, was Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin?s ?toss rabbit,? Noah chortled.

The top story should have been Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan?s goons beating up Americans protesting Turkish policy in Washington, D.C., said Noah. ?Sweet Jesus. Do you understand how insane this is?? asked Noah. So far, though, nada from Trump, who has business interests in Turkey.

But how could anyone ignore the special prosecutor named to investigate Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, and a possible connection to the Trump campaign?

?Oh damn, people,? preened Noah. ?A special counsel is going to be investigating Trump. He?s going to serve two terms probably … two terms in prison.?

Check it out above.

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related coverage articlesList=591bd119e4b041db8965534f,591cbfa2e4b03b485cae5465

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Elizabeth Warren Would ‘Absolutely’ Back Impeachment If Trump Really Obstructed Justice

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) signaled her support for impeaching President Donald Trump if evidence emerges confirming the worst accusations against him.

In an interview with Jezebel published on Thursday, Warren emphasized that she is awaiting the results of a thorough inquiry into Trump?s conduct.

?We absolutely need to get a hold of [former FBI director] Comey?s notes, any other written papers, any tapes that may have been made, and we need to get witnesses in here under oath,? she told Jezebel. ?Let?s do our fact gathering so we?ve got all of the facts on the table in front of us and then evaluate whether or not those facts lead to a charge of impeachment.?

But in the event that there is proof Trump pressured the FBI to drop its investigation into the Russia ties of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, or discussed classified information with top Russian officials, as has been reported, Warren would support impeaching the president wholeheartedly.

?Absolutely. You know, how could we not?? Warren said.

?Let?s be clear: In the past, there has been strong bipartisan agreement that obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense,? she added. ?That?s not a Democratic position or a Republican conviction, it is a bipartisan position. And if the facts that are currently alleged are proven, then we should take the next step.?

Warren, one of the country?s leading progressive lawmakers, has good company in Congress. Counting Warren, 26 members of Congress have now mentioned the prospect of impeaching Trump, according to a CNN tally. In the Senate, Warren joins Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

Two House Republicans, Carlos Curbelo of Florida and Justin Amash of Michigan, have even mentioned impeachment as a possibility.

Although some Democrats, like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), have long backed impeachment, discussion of the process accelerated after Trump fired FBI director James Comey last week. The decision to dismiss Comey just days after he testified before Congress about the FBI?s investigation into the Russia ties of Trump campaign associates led to allegations that Trump tried to silence the inquiry.

The White House?s shifting justifications for Comey?s firing, and a steady stream of revelations about Trump?s private comments to Comey in the subsequent days, have effectively plunged Trump?s presidency into a crisis. Comey wrote in a private memo that Trump asked him in February to stop investigating Flynn and to consider pursuing journalists who publish classified information, according to a report in the New York Times.

Still, many Democratic lawmakers are reluctant to get on the impeachment bandwagon too soon. 

?I?m not there,? Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told reporters Wednesday. ?I just want to get the information.?

The Constitution grants Congress broad discretion to impeach the president for ?high crimes and misdemeanors.?

But it is not possible for Democrats to initiate impeachment proceedings without the backing of Republicans who control the House of Representatives. Then, even if a majority of the House votes to impeach the president, a two-thirds majority in the Senate is needed to remove him from office.

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