International Village

Yesterday, someone on Twitter called me out for being silent on the subject of International Village, the multimillion dollar retail and housing development being proposed for Ypsilanti’s 38-acre Water Street property. According to this person, who was posting under a pseudonym, my silence on the matter was “deafening.” It’s something I’ve heard several times, albeit is somewhat less dramatic language, over the past week or so. A lot of people have asked me to weigh in on the proposed $350+ million development, which, according to representatives of the Troy-based development team, is going to be largely funded through Chinese investment. And some, it would seem, have begun to speculate on why it is that I’ve been silent… So, after last night’s marathon City Council meeting, during which our elected representatives agreed to move forward with the purchase agreement, I thought that I should probably say something, even if it comes across as unsatisfying, which I’m sure that it will to many of you reading this.

For what it’s worth, my silence on the matter this far hasn’t been due to lack of caring. As I think I’ve demonstrated over the past 15 years, my interest in the property is enormous. Not only have I posted several dozen articles and in-depth interviews here about Water Street, it’s history, and the various twists and turns the development has taken over the years, but I’ve also personally adopted acres of the property to start a native plant flower garden, and I’ve worked, along with others, to construct what was a thriving public sculpture garden on the site. And, even though digging in the contaminated soil may end up taking years off my life, it’s still one of my favorite places in the entire world. So, no, my silence isn’t because I don’t care. I just haven’t said anything because I’m not sure what to say.

On one hand, I don’t want to contribute toward thwarting what could be our last, best hope to see the toxins on Water Street dealt with, and put the City back on solid financial footing. And, on the other, I don’t want to come out in favor of a plan that I have real and serious concerns about.

And then there’s the fact that, as some of you may know, I have a competing interest in Water Street. Or, at least I did… Long before International Village came to the table, you see, I’d expressed an interest in acquiring a parcel along the river for a project of my own, which I’d rather not get into here at the moment. All you really need to know is that, while I’d been getting some decent traction with the idea, things pretty much stopped with the announcement that the Country Parks Department had pulled the plug on the idea of building a recreation center on the site, which I’d been depending on to bring roads, water and electricity to the site. None-the-less, though, I still have architectural plans and a business plan that I’m excited about. So I suspect that, at least in part, that’s yet one more reason why I’ve been quiet, in addition to just being confused. I don’t want anyone to think that, by raising questions about this development, I’m somehow attempting to manipulate things in my own favor.

And, then there are my feelings about Chinese investment in the United States, which according to Fortune, “soared to $45.6 billion (in 2016),” tripling what it was the year before. While I don’t have a problem with investment, even foreign investment, in general, there’s something about China’s bold push to acquire companies and land in the United States that concerns me. And, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s xenophobia. I think it’s just that I’ve had the occasion to know several brilliant, young students from China, many of whom have relayed the same story about the environmental and moral sacrifices that have been made in their country in the name of growth and prosperity. And I think that’s perhaps given me a little different perspective on those wealthy Chinese business owners who are now so anxious to purchase citizenship, through mechanisms like the EB-5 visa system those behind International Village say they’ll be employing.

Let’s just say that, when you have a friend tell you that she has to send respirators back home to Beijing so that her parents can breathe, you have a different appreciation for the sacrifices that are being made in order to produce both cheap goods and untold wealth… wealth that, for obvious reasons, people want to get out of the country, and into more stable investments. [The friend I’m thinking of has to send respirators back because the ones her family can buy in China are invariably cheap knock-offs that don’t work as advertised.] And I’ve been hearing from Chinese friends for over a decade now, about how everyone with money, either in government, or in industry, moves their families and their wealth, out of the country, leaving the others behind to deal with the consequences of unfettered capitalism. And, I’ll be honest, I have a hard time looking at anything related to the EB-5 visa system objectively, for this very reason. So, that’s one more reason I’ve been reluctant to speak up. I don’t want to contribute toward tanking a development that could be good for our community, just because I harbor a deep dislike of the EB-5 system, which, by the way, Vox recently described as, “riddled with scandal.”

And, lastly, I probably haven’t spoken up because I actually like members of our Planning Department and City Council, and I sympathize with them. As “Councilman Vogt” pointed out last night, it’s not easy to say “no” to a credible developer, especially when the citizens of Ypsilanti, in good faith, just voted to raise taxes on themselves to pay the debt associated with Water Street, with the understanding that our elected officials would do their best to bring in a developer as soon as possible, so that the millage could be gotten rid of. [To those in the audience who were talking about how International Village could force rental rates up across the city, Vogt responded by point out that homeowners were suffering too, paying higher taxes, and, in some cases, forgoing medication to do so. I don’t know how accurate of a comparison that it is, as I suspect, in most cases, homeowners are more secure than renters, but, as it was something that I hadn’t thought of before, I thought that I’d include it here.] And I know that City staff, which has been overworked and underappreciated for several years now, is doing their best to make something positive happen for Ypsilanti. Whether or not you agree that International Village, as explained to us last night, would be a positive for the community, I think you’ve got to admit that our folks have been working their asses off to find something that will see the toxins dealt with, create jobs, and increase the tax base, so that we no longer have to cut city services and contemplate the prospect of receivership, which would truly decimate this city that we love.

So, yeah, for all of those reasons, I’ve been quiet… Like many of you, I’m confused and frustrated. And, without a solution to suggest, I’ve felt it best that I just stay out of it, and watch how things unfold from afar.

But, then, last night, after spending about five-and-a-half hours watching community members address City Council, Council members discuss the terms of the deal, and representatives of International Village discuss what they had in mind, I decided that I might as well put in my ten cents and ask, as many did last night, that we slow things down.

I won’t belabor the point, but I saw and heard several things last night that concerned me, and I’m not just talking about the fact that the International Village construction manager described their proposed architecture as “softer… like a woman.”

OK, so here are just a few rough notes. Please take them for what their worth, and in the spirit in which they’re given.

1. Like I said above, this could be coming from my anti EB-5 bias, but I worry that that primary business of International Village may not to run a successful business in Ypsilanti, but instead to facilitate the purchase of visas by wealthy Chinese individuals. I think this fact may have been overlooked by many, but, during the entire presentation, the representatives of the company did not mention their justification for building 1,100 units, which would include 150 hotel rooms and 110 condominiums. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed as though, the whole thing was approached backwards, starting with the fact that they intent to raise $250 million by essentially selling 500 EB-5 visas, and then working from there, instead of looking at what we actually needed, and what this city that we love would support. And, as someone in business, that concerns me. So, if they have a true business justification for what they’re building, I’d love to see it. I know, because I just called, that the Peninsular Place student housing complex is at capacity, so there may be need for student housing, but how much? And what evidence do that have that people will be willing to pay the rates that they alluded to last night, which they suspect will be as high as $2.15 a square foot per month in some units.

2. As they say that this development, although funded by Chinese investors, will be equally welcoming to non-Asians, I’m having trouble understanding the Chinese design sensibility described by International Village’s construction manager. Again, it seems to me, it has less to do with what would actually work here, on Water Street, over the long term, and more to do with what would resonate with Chinese investors. I know it may seem like a small thing, but it signals to me, again, that the long term viability of this development may be secondary to other, more immediate objectives.

3. There seemed to still be a number of significant unanswered questions… As Councilman Robb pointed out, while these developers have given us their word that they won’t come back to the City, requesting that we give the millions of dollars in tax credits to deal with the remediation of Water Street, there’s really no way to be sure that they won’t, at a later date, essentially try to extort said tax credits from us, threating to walk away if we don’t give in. [There would be a small financial penalty as outlined in the current purchase agreement, but it’s just a fraction of what they could ask the City for.] And, after listening for over five hours, it’s still unclear to me how jobs are counted. [I should have mentioned it earlier, but, for these Chinese investors to receive their visas, International Village first has to demonstrate significant job creation. No one, however, as far as I could tell, know what kind of jobs counted, or how many jobs would need to be created.]

4. While I don’t want to name individual members of Council, I was surprised by what, at least to me, appeared to be a significant misunderstanding of the EB-5 program, with at least one councilmember seeming to believe that these wealthy Chinese investors would be moving to Ypsilanti once their visas were granted. [That isn’t how it works. Once they have their visas, they can go anywhere, and it likely won’t be Ypsilanti. In fact, the only reason this development, as far as I can tell, is being discussed in Ypsilanti, instead on either the east or west coast, is because, under the rules of the EB-5 program, investors only need to $500K per visa here, where it would be $1M in a more financially stable area.]

5. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear that this Troy-based development group had done anything even remotely like this anywhere else. If they have, I’d like to know how it went, how many jobs were created, etc.

6. The discussion on gentrification and affordable housing was great. There is a lot of passion in this community, and it was good to hear. I don’t know that it makes sense to hold the eventual Water Street developer responsible for solving our affordable housing issues, but I do think that any development of this size should have within in an integrated affordable housing component, not unlike the Veridian project planned for Ann Arbor’s County Farm Park. And, as long as we’re on the subject, I think that we need a comprehensive countywide plan to address the fact that we live in the 8th most economically segregated region in the country thanks in large part to the rapidly rising housing costs in Ann Arbor, and their refusal to build sufficient affordable housing.

I could go on. There was lot that was observed last night, and many pages of notes were taken. I suspect, however, that’s probably sufficient for now… In closing, however, I’d like to say that, even though this is messy and ugly, I’m very happy to be having this conversation. In most cities I’m aware of, it seems like, by the time people start talking about things like these, it’s too late. Here, though, it feels like we might still have time to work together to plot a course forward that we’re all happy with… one which, while receptive to creative ideas for growth, is also sensitive to the needs of all citizens, and not just those of us who are fortunate enough to own homes.

I think I speak for a lot of folks when I say that I moved to Ypsilanti not just because it was cheaper than Ann Arbor, but because it had more heart. I’ve loved this community since I first came here in the early ‘90s, and I knew early on that this is where I wanted to put down roots and start a family. I know change is necessary, but there’s smart change, and there’s the kind of change that takes generations to undo. I know it’s a difficult thing to accomplish, but I have to think that we have enough smart, dedicated people here to find a way that we can all advance together, and still retain what it is that we value most, learning from the mistakes of others, and always challenging ourselves to do better.

And I do think, in the case of International Village, we can do better. Maybe, however, that’s with these same developers. It seems to me that they, after all, have a credible team. And I have to believe there’s a chance that they might actually want to be here bad enough to take the time to know who we are, what we value, and what our history has told us might work on Water Street. Now that Council has voted to move forward with the purchase agreement, I’d just advise that we move slow and steady, bringing more people into the mix, and asking more questions. And, personally, if I hear anyone again suggest that we have to move faster, I’d be happy to have them walk, even if it means paying more in taxes. This is just too important to the future of our City to fuck up.

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The final push to kill Obamacare is underway. We need to mobilize.

I know it sucks. I know we shouldn’t have to defend the America Cares Act again, after having successfully defeated repeal efforts several times already, but the Republicans have apparently reneged on their promise to move forward with a bipartisan process, instead opting to try one last time to repeal Obamacare outright, without debate, or even input from Democrats. And, it would appear, they’re throwing everything they’ve got it at this time, as they know this is their last chance. Under the rules of the reconciliation process, they have until the end of this month to repeal Obamacare with just 50 votes, and it would appear they’ve decided to go for it. [If they were to wait until October, the bar would go back to 60.]

So we all need to get involved ASAP, and start making calls. And, for those of us who know people in Alaska, Maine, and Arizona, we need to get them calling the offices of Murkowski, Collins and McCain, the three Republicans who did the right thing last time out, and helped defeat the last American Cares Act repeal effort. Here are the numbers for their offices. Please share them online. And please, if you have a moment, call your Senators, even if they’re Democrats, and demand that they they vote against the Graham-Cassidy bill, which, according to economist Paul Krugman, would, among other things, “eliminate the individual mandate, undermine if not effectively eliminate protection for people with pre-existing conditions, and slash funding for subsidies and Medicaid.”

Unfortunately, we aren’t certain that Murkowski, Collins and McCain will vote the same way this time, even though the Graham-Cassidy bill isn’t significantly different from the bill they voted against last time. [All that’s really changed is the amount of political pressure being exerted by donors and party officials, who desperately want the tax breaks on the wealthy that would come with a repeal.] Murkowski reportedly said today that she’s still undecided. And McCain, although telling reporters, “I’m not supportive of the bill, yet,” indicated that he might “reluctantly” vote for the bill if his governor, Doug Ducey, asked him to — something which Ducey then promptly did. As McCain said that he voted against the last repeal effort because it violated Senate procedures, you would think that he’d vote against this bill, which won’t even have a proper CBO score by the time of the vote, but we have no way of knowing what McCain might have been offered in return for his support.

So, that’s what we have to work with. Of all 52 Republicans in the Senate, we’ve got four who might vote no — Rand Paul, who has said that the proposed legislation does not go far enough, and the three mentioned above, who have shown in the not too distant past both the courage to stand strong in the face of threats and the capacity for independent thought.

So, can we count on you to make a few calls?

The Senate Dems, who held the floor of the Senate for four hours last night, are doing their part to get the word out about this most recent threat, but we need to do our part as well. We need to call them, and tell them to keep it up. And we need to call their Republican counterparts and demand that they vote against this last-ditch, poorly thought-out repeal offer. [How anyone calling themselves a conservative could vote to support a bill that will effect one-sixth of the economy without a score from the Congressional Budget Office is absolutely beyond me.]

OK, if you still haven’t picked up your phone, here’s one last thing, from the Washington Post.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who had delivered an impassioned speech on health care after his own son was born with a heart defect, he would only support a bill that would make sure that a child like Kimmel’s would not lack health coverage. Cassidy later articulated his “Jimmy Kimmel test“: “Would the child born with a congenital heart disease be able to get everything she or he would need in that first year of life … even if they go over a certain amount?”

Lo and behold, in the final days of the fiscal year (ending Sept. 30), Cassidy and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) are pushing a health-care bill that doesn’t remotely pass that test…

I know we shouldn’t be surprised, given the track record of Republicans in Congress, but we cannot allow them to get away with lying to us like this. I know it’s exhausting, but we need to keep fighting back. They will keep lying, and they will keep trying to take health care away from the American people, and we need to keep standing up to them. We cannot allow them to win. We owe it to our kids.

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Having failed miserably as Attorney General, Schuette sets his sights on the Governor’s office

Last winter, as you may recall, Donald Trump didn’t have a lot of friends inside the Michigan GOP. Governor Snyder, in a rare show of moral courage, refused to endorse the real estate developer turned reality television celebrity, and Lieutenant Governor Calley, who had endorsed him earlier in the campaign, withdrew his endorsement, once the Trump’s hot mic confession about grabbing women “by the pussy” without consent become public. There was, however, one prominent Michigan Republican who stood firm in his support… Bill Schutte. While, among other things, calling Trump’s comments about Mexicans “deplorable,” our long-time Attorney General said he was, “going to support the nominee.”

Schuette, of course, was rewarded for his loyalty; first being given a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention, and then, after the election, being brought to the White House to meet with Trump and Pence. And, this weekend, Donald Trump repaid Schuette in full by endorsing his recently announced run for the governorship of the Michigan… Here’s Trump’s endorsement via Twitter, which was sent out just before he tweeted out an animated video of himself striking Hillary Clinton with a golfball, knocking her to the ground. Be sure to notice the fact that he misspelled Schutte’s name.

[Trump retweeted the endorsement 12 hours later, correcting the spelling.]

And, that’s not all. Schuette, having announced his candidacy just five days ago, has already apparently… at least judging from Twitter… picked up the endorsement of performance artist Bob Ritchie’s unashamedly loud, white and drunk “Kid Rock” character. Here’s a photo of the two men together in Detroit, either just before, or just after, the show where Rock declared from the stage, “I don’t believe you should save, sacrifice, do things by the book and then have to take care of some deadbeat, milking the system, lazy ass mother-fucking man,” to the wild applause of his unapologetically “redneck” fans, many of whom, I suspect, receive government assistance in some form.

So, yes, Bill Schuette, who wasted nearly $2 million of our tax dollars fighting against gay marriage, fought to kill a medical marijuana law supported by 63% of Michigan voters, and attempted to kill “straight-ticket” voting, before being stopped by the Supreme Court, is running for Governor, and has our President’s support… Yes, it’s true that he looses at almost everything he puts his mind to, but, given the polling, I don’t think we can afford to just assume that he’ll come up short this time out, like he’s done so many times before. As Congressman Dan Kildee said not too long ago, Schuette’s “losing court cases waste Michigan tax payer dollars and are attacks on our entire democracy,” and, for this reason, we cannot allow him to take the Governor’s office.

Fortunately for us, we have a good alternative in former Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, who, according to the polls is running neck and neck with Schuette, with 37% of registered voters saying they support each of the two candidates. [26% of those polled were either undecided and refused to say which of the two they intended to vote for in a head-to-head race.]

While I don’t know about Whitmer’s fundraising to date, the Detroit News is reporting that Schuette has already raised nearly $2 million, and I have to think that high net worth donors will be flocking to his campaign, given that he’s talking about cutting taxes even further and ending Obamacare… So, if you’d like to help level the playing field a bit, give a few bucks to Gretchen Whitmer.

OK, I’m a bit hesitant to do this, as I know that a good number of you are of the opinion that we shouldn’t discuss Bob “Kid Rock” Ritchie’s threatened run against Debbie Stabenow for the U.S. Senate, but, seeing as how we’ve already brought him up in relation to Schuette’s run for governor, I can’t help myself. And, honestly, I don’t agree that people like Ritchie will stop being a threat to democracy if those of us on the informed left just ignore them. And, while I’m fully aware of the fact that free media coverage, to the tune of nearly $5 billion, helped put Donald Trump in office, I suspect there’s a difference between networks running softball interviews for ratings and some local folks on this site discussing what it would mean to our state if we were to allow this Trumpian trickle-down to continue unchecked.

I should add that I’m almost certain that Ritchie has no interest in the position, and only floated the idea as a way to get himself in the media, and build some kind of buzz around the series of shows he’s currently doing in Detroit, at the new Redwings’ arena, but I think I probably said the same thing about Trump during his campaign… that there’s no way that he’d want to do the work required of the position, and the he was likely just doing it to sell t-shirts and hats. But, as we now know all to well, we have to be prepared for anything, especially in the age of Trump. I’m sure there are people out there, who really think that Ritchie, with his appeal to the “don’t give a flying hillbilly fuck” crowd, might have a shot at taking down Debbie Stabenow. And I’m sure there are people telling him that, if he were to do it, they could make the work easy for him, and ensure that he’d make a lot more money than he currently does selling piss-yellow beer, tickets to hillbilly cruises and shirts that say “_onald Trump, the D is missing because it’s in every hater’s mouth”

If you haven’t heard his “campaign” speech yet, here’s a clip from his appearance a few days ago in Detroit. It’s really fascinating… kind of like a perfect mashup of Donald Trump, Lonesome Rhodes, and Idiocracy’s President Camacho.

Oh, and I don’t know how much it helps his chances, but Ritchie now has the endorsement of Sarah Palin… so, just to be safe, while you’re giving to Whitmer, maybe also give something to Stabenow too.

In conclusion, as Kid Rock said so eloquently yesterday in Detroit, “Please, almighty Jesus, if you’re looking down on us tonight, please guide us with your wisdom and give us strength to fight.”

Posted in Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Untold History of Zines… John Marr on Murder Can Be Fun

In an attempt to better understand the sharp, rusty sliver of the American underground that worked its way into my cold and slowly-beating heart about a quarter century ago, I’ve given myself the task of tracking down and interviewing all of my heros in the world of zines. Today’s interview is with John Marr, the man behind Murder Can Be Fun, who I tracked down in San Francisco.

[above: A young John Marr can be seen in the audience of a punk show at San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens in the early 1980s. Photo courtesy of The SF Chronicle/Examiner’s “pink section.”]

MARK: As I know very little about you, let’s start at the very beginning… Do you know the circumstances of your birth?

JOHN: Nothing too startling there. Like most kids of my vintage/class, I was born in a hospital.

MARK: Where abouts?

JOHN: Oakland, California, I’m proud to say, unlike most kids of my vintage/class.

MARK: And what do you think of Oakland today compared to the Oakland of your youth.

JOHN: I’ve always loved Oakland. I am sufficiently old to remember Oakland when not only were there stores–big stores!–downtown, but the merchants decorated the (crowded) streets for Christmas! Unfortunately, the one-two punch of white flight and the construction of BART sent the downtown area into a tailspin in the ‘70s from which it didn’t emerge until well into this century. Not that it stopped me–through the ‘80s and ‘90s I loved to go thrifting and used book shopping downtown, and I loved gawking at all the old, almost empty and unloved buildings and all the weird stuff down there, the taxi dance hall, the sleazy movie theater (now a Goodwill), the trashy bars…. One grimy used bookstore run by an insane woman had fewer books than I did. I even worked for a time in college at an absolutely wonderful used bookstore downtown, the Holmes Book Company. It may not have been the best used bookstore, but it definitely had the best used book store atmosphere.

MARK: I’ve heard it said that the Holmes Book Company building is haunted. Did you ever have any ghostly encounters while there?

JOHN: No, I think the ghost story is a lot of nonsense. Yes, I did see a few flying books–but all originated in the the hands of me or one of my fellow shelvers. The only weird thing I remember is the manager’s bicycle somehow disappearing from the basement. Perhaps the ghost rode away?

MARK: Back to the Oakland of today… I believe we were talking about how the city today is different than it was in your youth….

JOHN: Downtown, and much of Oakland, for that matter, is getting gentrified now. The city is overrun with hipsters. And I’m fine with that. Oakland deserves the love, and I’d rather see people sitting on the sidewalks at night eating overpriced cheese than the empty streets of the old days. But I miss the old stuff, too, especially the Doggie Diner. And I love doing things like telling the manager of the cool punk rock/heavy metal club that I used to eat dinner with my family there in 1965, or inform the owner of the hip radical bookstore that his space used to be occupied by Billy Graham Bible Books.

[above: Marr with the Doggie Diner dog heads in 2000.]

MARK: I know it’s kind of off topic, as we’re supposed to be talking about death, disaster and zines, but, having never eaten at the Doggie Diner, I’m curious is you could tell me what made the place so special. I’ve heard about the chain for years, and I’ve seen the iconic, giant doggie heads, but I’m curious as to what you liked about the place.

JOHN: To be honest, the dog heads were the only thing special about the place–but they were really, really special! I don’t recall anything special about the food, certainly nothing that you couldn’t get at other equally classic, if dog-less, local hamburger stands, like Kwik Way, or Space Burgers. I hadn’t eaten at a Doggie Diner for many years until I went to one of the last ones (in Alameda) in the mid-80s. At that point, I can vouch for the fact that the food was terrible, salty enough to kill snails.

[above: Marr with the doggies again, 17 years later, in 2017.]

MARK: So, what did your parents do, back in the day, when you were all eating together at what’s now the cool Oakland punk club?

JOHN: My father was a cop, and my mother was primarily what we called a “homemaker” in those days, although she did have various part-time jobs over the years.

MARK: So your dad would have been a cop in the Bay Area around the time of the Zodiac Killer?

JOHN: Yes. He was even mentioned in Graysmith’s book, albeit not by name, due to his tangential connection to a dead end… The Zodiac stayed out of Oakland, though.

MARK: What, if you don’t mind my asking, was the tangential connection?

JOHN: He did some questioned document examination that, like all trails in the case, went nowhere.

MARK: What kinds of documents are we talking about?

JOHN: That, I can’t say.

MARK: Do you think your interest in homicide perhaps has its roots in your dad’s profession? Did your family talk murder around the kitchen table?

JOHN: No, not at all. For most of my childhood, my father was on the motorcycles, duty he dearly loved. He later went plainclothes, working burglary and forgery, among other things. He never worked homicide, though. He was pretty good about leaving the job at work, save for the occasional tale of a grisly accident. OK, and we did play a car game called “Spot the Hooker,” which I understand was unique to my family. If I picked up anything, it was a black sense of humor. But I suspect it was innate.

MARK: How does one play “Spot the Hooker”? Is there some kind of point system… I might want to play with my kids sometime.

JOHN: Sorry, it was more of a casual observational activity than a structured game. But I did learn to tell the difference between people working the corner, and people waiting at the corner.

MARK: Have you ever lived outside of California?

JOHN: No, I’ve lived my entire life in the central Bay Area; San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Contra Costa County.

MARK: What’s your first memory?

JOHN: In a crib, I kid you not.

MARK: Mine too. I have this distinct memory of laying in my crib, watching a yellow curtain flutter in the breeze on a warm summer day… What do you remember about your crib?

JOHN: I have multiple memories of lying there, looking up at my parents, being unable to adjust the pillow to my satisfaction, being slightly annoyed at being caged…

MARK: What were you like as a kid, once you emerged from your crib/cage?

JOHN: I was very bookish. I remember being very upset on Sunday mornings, walking into the living room room, where my parents and older sister were all reading the Oakland Tribune, and not being able to join them, as I was only four or so. I can recall my mother at times literally ordering me to go outside to play, and it wasn’t because I was watching TV. (I was never a big fan of television.) My parents didn’t really push me, so I wasn’t an early reader. Once I hit school, and got promoted into the fast reader group, I made up for lost time.

MARK: What were your folks like?

JOHN: Very normal, very middle class, except for a little more black humor and a lot more books. I was routinely shocked at how few books were in the homes of my friends.

MARK: Is it just your interest in murder that makes you different, or is there more to it?

JOHN: My tastes and tendencies have always been a bit offbeat. I think I had accumulated a library of 500 or 600 books by the time I was 10 years old, which was about 495 more books than were in the homes of most of my schoolmates. And, even the ones that were standard kid stuff, weren’t. Like some of my peers, I really got into the Hardy Boys. But unlike everyone else, I didn’t like the series that was rewritten in the 1950s. I preferred the original volumes, which I picked up at library sales, where Frank and Joe cruised around in roadsters and coupes, and sometimes carried guns, and people got killed! My father was always bewildered by the fact that, as a teenager, I preferred rummaging through used bookstores to working on cars.

MARK: Did you share Murder can Be Fun with your folks? If so, what did they make of it?

JOHN: Yes. They both like it, although my mother would prefer I wrote about more light-hearted subjects.

MARK: What was your first job?

JOHN: Outside of a stint delivering newspapers, and the usual assortment of odd jobs available to kids in my suburb, like doing yard work and collecting recycling, my first job was as an office flunky in a retirement account management company when I was 16… Was it a coincidence that one of my co-workers wound up on the wrong end of a murder suicide that summer? Perhaps.

MARK: Were you close with the person in question?

JOHN: Not especially, I can’t even remember her name. But I do remember her boyfriend’s car. It was a Camaro-like muscle car, and it had a license plate that said something like “8INCHES.” He was a total creep, as only existed in the 1970s.

MARK: So he killed her, and then himself? Or was it the other way around?

JOHN: He did all the work, in the classic manner.

MARK: Were there other murders in your youth?

JOHN: Well, I did grow up with two murderers! One was the kid of family friends. I played with her as a small child. She grew up to shoot up a shopping mall. The other one was in my kindergarten class, we were friends. He came to my birthday party!. Years later, when we were in high school, he smashed an old lady’s head in with a brick. We had long since drifted into different social circles, though. And it came out many years later there was a serial killer preying on the children of my suburb. He only killed a kid every few years, though, so the serial killer thing wasn’t really noticed at the time. The term “serial killer” hadn’t even been invented yet… One of my friends was even briefly suspected of having committed one of the murders.

MARK: What was the name of that serial killer, and did you ever write about him in Murder Can Be Fun?

JOHN: At first, most of the killings were attributed to Phillip Hughes. But subsequent cold case DNA work pinned some of his victims on Charles “Junior” Jackson and Daryl King. I never wrote about any of these cases for Murder Can Be Fun, though.

MARK: It’s probably worth noting at this point that Murder Can Be Fun was about more than just murder, right? I mean, you also touched on your share of disasters…

JOHN: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, I think I preferred to write about accidents and disasters. So many of my favorite stories — the Disney deaths, the zoo deaths, the Boston Molasses Flood, the football/glass factory collapse — weren’t murder stories. At least not in the traditional sense!

MARK: How did you go about picking which cases you’d write about? Did you have specific criteria?

JOHN: The overwhelming criteria, of course, was that it had to pique my interest. Some ironic or darkly humorous element would help, but often sheer strangeness would suffice. And then it had to be somewhat obscure. I wanted to write about stuff most people had never heard of, for marketing reasons, as well as to satisfy my own curiosity. I’ve often thought one of my motivations was to rationalize some of these enormous and time-consuming research jobs.

[above: Photo of a hard-at-work John Marr by Bobby Waldman from Re/Search Zines vol. 2. Photo of the photo by Jeremy Bridges.]

MARK: Do you recall when you first became aware of the concept of murder?

JOHN: I remember being particularly impressed with Bluebeard at a very young age. The Brothers Grimm and their rivals were staples of my elementary school literary life. Some of the things Hans Christian Anderson had his characters do with nettles were creepy! When I was older, there were those great kiddy anthologies “edited” by Alfred Hitchcock for young readers. Straight up my alley!

MARK: What was it about Bluebeard specifically that made an impression on you?

JOHN: Although the stacks of decapitated bodies neatly stored in the closet was memorable, I don’t think it was any special element about the Bluebeard story beyond the fact it was the first one really horrific murder tale I was exposed to. The thumb-sucker in Heinrich Hoffman’s “Slovenly Peter” was also great preschool favorite, but I guess it doesn’t count since it’s only about mutilation, not murder.

MARK: Do you recall when you first became aware of zine culture, and the fact that people were out there in the world self-publishing?

JOHN: I first heard of zines in the early 1970s. One of the Tarzan paperbacks that I so eagerly devoured in those days included a few mostly out-dated addresses for Edgar Rice Burroughs zines. I eventually wound up subscribing to a series of these and other book-related zines, which in those dark pre-internet days was the only way to get any information about something that wasn’t absolutely mainstream. The ads were frequently more important than content–there was no other way to get this stuff! I eventually became a regular reader/subscriber of early paperback collecting zines.

I remember the first real “zine” zine I ever got, as opposed to a traditional fanzine devoted to fannish fawning over some aspect of media. It was in 1976 or so. I think it was called something like “The Bridge.” It was about the Brooklyn Bridge, very handsomely typeset and offset printed. Readers were encouraged to take photos of their foot the first time they stepped on the bridge. I think it was published by a Dutch guy — perhaps Piet Schreuders — who sent out a bunch of free copies to a list I happened to be on. I remember I couldn’t figure out what in the hell it was. Wished I’d saved it.

MARK: Could that zine you remember have possibly been the The Brooklyn Bridge Bulletin?

JOHN: It could have been. Was it based in Holland in 1976?

MARK: I’m not certain, but, in reading about it, I’m finding a lot of references to the Dutch, so I suspect there’s a connection… So, how did Murder Can Be Fun come about? Do you recall when you first had the idea?

JOHN: It’s a long and convoluted story. Like all persons of taste in the late ‘70s, I got involved in punk rock. After a few years of avid gig attendance, I became one of the early “shitworkers” on Maximum Rock n Roll. I strictly did grunt work that never went any further than editing some of the more mediocre scene reports. But I did learn some basic layout skills, and, more importantly, I got exposed to the world of punk rock zines… I remember Tim at one point throwing out two 6-foot tall stacks of zines people had sent him. This was about 1982! I discovered most of them sucked — not even Cometbus was very good back then! And I discovered that there were a lot of zines that would review other zines, most notably Factsheet Five. I thought I could do better, and had found an outlet. When I was in college, I working at that wonderful used bookstore in Oakland, and I remember the manager telling me, “Anyone can publish a book. The hard part is distributing a book.” These review zines, I thought, were the doorway to distribution!

As much as I loved punk rock, my primary interest remained weird books, especially those about strange murders and weird disasters. However, I did feel there were common themes between my literary and musical interests. Certainly people would be mildly interested when I would babble about this stuff at shows, and the RE/SEARCH books were touching on the same things. And then there was John Waters… After bending all my friend’s ears about the sicko Sylvia Likens murder, I was directed to check out the John Water’s book Shock Value. I knew, at that point, I was no longer alone.

I always wanted to write about this stuff. I couldn’t find any other zine that would publish it, so I figured I would have to do it myself. And I did.

MARK: I was just talking with author Phoebe Gloeckner not too long ago about her experience as a young punk of about 16 working for V Vale at Search and Destroy, and how influential that experience was for her, and it’s interesting to think that maybe, at roughly the same time, you were having a similar experience at Maximum Rock n Roll.

JOHN: Lucky Phoebe! I found a copy of the last S&D when I was 17 and absolutely worshipped it. One of the highlights of my life was when Vale called me up after reading an early issue of Murder Can Be Fun! I met Phoebe at a signing a few years ago, and we sort of bonded over our mutual affection for the works of Ira Lunan Ferguson. Ask her about Ferguson sometime, she has a great story about him!

MARK: OK, I’m making a note of it… Back to your life as a punk, I’m curious as to what specifically that attracted you to the scene?

JOHN: I mean, what was there not to like about punk in 1978? It was loud, fast, and new. It also incorporated a caustic, cynical world outlook with a heavy dose of black humor (the best kind!) and it was very much the antithesis of the oppressive 1970s suburban landscape that I was trapped in. I remember thinking, “The kind of people who would listen to this music would love to read Jim Thompson.” At least the ones who could read!

MARK: Did you ever try your hand at writing songs, performing, etc?

JOHN: Of course, I thought about it. What teenage music fan doesn’t think about being in a band? I made noises about learning bass. I even fiddled around on a friend’s bass a little bit. And I literally mean a little bit–I played Flipper’s “Sex Bomb” a few times. I quickly realized, though, that I had no ear, no sense of rhythm, and no other discernible musical ability, only a vague urge to participate and attract attention. Unlike so many others, I decided this meant I shouldn’t play music. I don’t regret it — we’ve all seen the sad results of those in similar situations who decided otherwise. This has not prevented me, though, from being the most important part of the music scene: the paying customer.

MARK: I seem to recall that Thrift Score publisher Al Hoff once told me that you and she met in college, well before the zines started. Is that correct?

JOHN: Yes. I was 20, she was 17, and we lived in the same dorm at UC Berkeley. We went thrift shopping together. Man, was she a monster thrifter! I also met Aaron Cometbus when I was living in Berkeley, although he of course was already publishing Cometbus (or, more accurately, the zine that would eventually be re-christened as Cometbus). I still remember being awed by his ability at PacMan pinball. We used to hang around this amazing second-floor pinball hall near campus that featured occasional punk rock shows and a guy at the change counter who would also sell you acid.

MARK: So how old were you when the first issue of Murder Can Be Fun came out? And how did you manage to get it printed?

JOHN: I was 24 or 25. It was no problem getting it printed, just go to the cheapest self-service copy place I could find and crank out 100 copies. I think it cost me $20 or something. The cover was so wretchedly laid out Factsheet Five thought the title was “Sex Drugs and Death” and reviewed it under that title.

MARK: And what kind of review did you get for that first issue? Do you remember?

JOHN: Fairly neutral, as I recall. Hey, it was my first issue–it sucked! I don’t think Gunderloy personally liked MCBF, as it wasn’t his kind of thing, but he was fair-minded enough to recognize that people who did like that sort of thing would like MCBF. I did get into the “top zines” feature once or twice during his tenure after I got better.

MARK: And where did the name Murder Can Be Fun come from?

JOHN: I had an absolutely brilliant title that I forgot! So I borrowed MCBF from a Fredric Brown novel, one of his lesser efforts (the novel, at least). But I think it encapsulated my sensibility, and it was short and memorable. And a good title will get you far in life!

MARK: Was there ever a point when murder stopped being fun for you?

JOHN: Although murder and disasters remain an interest, I think things sort of peaked with Jeffrey Dahmer. I mean, how could you top that?

MARK: So, no more true crime for you?

JOHN: No, it’s dropped off my person genre hit-parade. And I read very little of it these days. But I have developed an even more voracious appetite for fictional crime!

MARK: Not too long ago, at someone’s suggestion, I checked out a popular murder themed podcast, and I was struck by how little the hosts seemed to know about the cases they were discussing. They, for the most part, at least it seemed to me, just read whatever information was readily available on Wikipedia, while inserting the occasional witty comment. And it made me appreciate what you’d done with Murder Can Be Fun, which was, for the lack of a better term, kind of scholarly. Can you talk a little about how you approached the work, and the research that went into each issue?

JOHN: In defense of the podcast people, research is hard, and it takes time (even on the internet). If you’re cranking out quick podcasts, you simply don’t have it! I think I did four issues of MCBF my first year, and they were skinny issues with lame research. By the time I was doing a good job, I was lucky to do one issue per year. On the other hand, I do hate lazy people who don’t do their homework. I pride myself on always doing mine… My goal with Murder Can Be Fun was to write about interesting things that most people knew little or anything about, something that was much easier to do before the Internet!

MARK: So, let’s talk about your research…

JOHN: Well, I generally liked to approach things backwards–finding an obscure book or source about an interesting topic and taking it from there. For instance, my Jesse Pomeroy article (#17) was inspired by a footnote that lead me to what was then the most extensive treatment of the case published (for some odd reason) in a Maine medical journal. I discovered the Boston Molasses Flood (#11) in a general disaster book, but was able to flesh it out with great details from contemporary engineering magazines. The newspaper room at the UC Berkeley library turned out to be a huge resource! The details of “Death at Disneyland” (#13, #20) were extracted over several months of brutal microfilm viewing. (At one point, I was reduced to going through back issues of the Orange County Register day-by-day to track down some cases.) “The Great Glass Factory Disaster” (#18) had its genesis in an off-hand reference in a sports history book, but I was able to dig up tons of the contemporary newspaper coverage again thanks to UCB’s extensive collection of local newspapers.

But sometimes, you just have to use brute force. For both “Please Mr. Postman…Don’t Shoot” and “Zoo Deaths,” I started with the idea and just dug and dug through the library to uncover the stories. Anyone could have done it… if they were insane!

MARK: As Murder Can Be Fun grew, and you started interacting with readers, did you find yourself relying on them at all for story ideas, research, etc? I’m just curious if a kind of ecosystem emerged over time that helped move the Murder Can Be Fun agenda forward.

JOHN: For the most part, I’ve always been a jump or two ahead of readers when it comes to story ideas–with one important exception. Back in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, the editor of a zine called Sound Choice suggested I look into Disneyland deaths. I still have the letter. I may have thought about it earlier, but that letter crystallized the subject for me. Good thing, because it was the best thing I’ve ever done.

But one thing I’ve always said (no doubt paraphrased from someone much wiser) is that ideas are cheap, execution is expensive.

MARK: Can you give us an example of someone that you met through the zine?

JOHN: So so many people! V. Vale, Lynn Peril, Roman Mars, Paul Lukas, Jack Boulware, Annalee Newitz, Charlie Anders, Erin Smith, I could go on for hours….

MARK: What about just regular readers? We had one character, for instance, that used to write us at Crimewave. His name was John Coffin. He was an old man who would write to us from his local library. He carried a pistol in an old coffee can he wore around his neck, and actually used an ear trumpet to hear. He was eventually arrested. But he used to write us long letters about the Charlie McCarthy, the sidekick of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen… Would I be right to assume that some interesting characters found their way to Murder Can Be Fun as well?

JOHN: My nut file was surprisingly small. There were the self-styled “serious” serial killer fans, the people who wanted me to write about Charles Manson every issue, and the people convinced there were “transgressive” because they made bad collages out of porn. In other words, posers. I did receive a few abusive letters from boobs appalled by the content, but the best was one from one of the Mormon killers who “rebuked” me for my lies.

MARK: So a killer that you’d written about actually wrote back to complain?

JOHN: Yes! I was so rebuked. But, just for the record, he actually was responding to a reprint of the article in San Francisco’s late, great, and much lamented satirical publication, The Nose. I have had problems getting MCBF past the censors of more than one lock-up.

MARK: Who was the Mormon killer in question, and what was his specific issue with what you’d written? Was he claiming innocence? Or was he just contesting specific elements of your story?

JOHN: I forgot which one it was, and I’m too lazy to dig through the files. I do recall he primarily objected to the smutty contents of the magazine. He also said that he had merely been defending himself from the authorities.

MARK: I read in an interview that you did several years ago that someone had once sent you “a photo of a very pregnant woman with a rash on her stomach sleeping in a motel room”. Do you still have the photo?

JOHN: Yes. I should frame it.

MARK: Were you ever tempted to write to interview killers, or the people involved in these incidents that you were writing about?

JOHN: Not really. Although I recognize the value of this, I never felt I had the educational or interviewing skills to really get something good, and, if you’re not doing something good, you’re straying into the realm of the murder junkies. Although I do own an original John Gacy painting, I’ve never had a desire to make him (or anyone similar) my pen pal. Even his art dealer wound up thinking he was a jerk. And you know what? He probably was.

MARK: How did you happen to come by your Gacy painting? And, was it a painting of Pogo the Clown?

JOHN: Back in the 1990s, someone put together a “Death Row Art Show” up in Seattle. They invited me to be one of the exhibitors. Having plenty of vacation time on the books, I combined it with a tour of the used bookstores of the Northwest, a most productive outing! The show itself was kind of a flop. It was during the day, in some space on Pioneer Square. And the few people who wandered in mainly seemed to be confused. I don’t think anyone sold much of anything!

My Gacy painting is of Pogo, and it came complete with a signed polaroid of Gacy, in mufti, looking as if he hoped I’d enjoy the painting. I think it’s one he actually painted. I understand he set up an assembly line on death row to crank them out! I do regret not buying more. There was something undeniably garish and sinister about his work. And it certainly would have been a great investment!

MARK: Back to the Death at Disneyland issue, I’ve always wondered if the folks at Disney ever reached out to you about it.

JOHN: Of course not. I did give them a call when I was doing the research. Some sweet young bubbly PR person took the call and told me, “Oh, we’ll have to get back to you on that.” It’s been 20 years and I’m still waiting.

Incidentally, the Disney piece is a perfect illustration how the world of research has changed. When I wrote the original piece in the early 90s, it took me months of digging through the newspaper files at Berkeley to pin down the details.

When I updated the piece in 2007, for my final issue, the research took me less than an hour searching through the OC Register’s on-line archive and coughing up $20 for download fees.

MARK: Just to be clear, when I said that I wondered if the folks at Disney ever reached out to you, I didn’t mean in a good way… I was wondering if perhaps they tried to get you to stop you from selling that issue.

JOHN: Nope. How could they? Why would they? Disney PR people are pros. And one of the tenets of PR is not to suppress bad stuff–when it gets out, as it almost inevitably will, you just look that much worse. You can control the narrative, but you can’t quash it. Reading the original news stories, you can see the Disney spokespersons acting completely open about the accidents, and being very forthcoming in their answers to the reporter’s questions. As for keeping me from publishing, I was very scrupulous about accuracy and avoiding reproduction of any trademarked images. I even avoided using any trademarked character names, which I felt gave the article an even more sinister atmosphere! I don’t see how they could stop me, but I do see how they could get a lot of bad publicity if they tried.

Whenever I hear someone claim such and such a big organization is suppressing something, I turn on my bullshit detector. It can happen–but it’s way harder than most people think. I’ve had people who should know better ask me about the “people who were frightened to death in the Haunted House” and “the kids who were kidnapped in the park” whose stories were suppressed because the park wanted to avoid the publicity. The answer is–nope, never happened, nothing to hide. The kidnapping one is really rich–the molesters drag their victims into the bathroom to forcibly disguise them with a quick hair dye job. As though no one will notice in a crowded bathroom in the middle of some of the most policed real estate in the world.

MARK: What are you most proud of having accomplished with Murder Can Be Fun?

JOHN: Of course, I’m proud to take a zine from 100 photocopied copies to 5,000 offset copies with a readership that still remembers. But less obviously, I’m also proud of not doing the classic zine move of just never publishing a final issue (and keeping the subscription money). When I was a kid subscribing to zines, they would always fall into limbo as soon as they got my subscription check. “Hey, that was money I earned mowing lawns and pulling weeds!” I vowed if I ever did a zine, I’d bring things to a definite close. And I did. After my final issue, I sent everyone a refund.

MARK: Oh, I almost forgot to ask you about cover art…

JOHN: The first 13 issues featured mediocre appropriated imagery assembled (like everything else) by yours truly. I didn’t even do real half tones on the photos. For #14 (Mailroom Mayhem), I hired a local artist named Maxwell Malice. For the Morman issue (#15) I just grabbed some graphics. The next four (#16, #17, #18, and #19) were done by Chuck Sperry, one of the Firehouse rock poster guys. (He also made a nice silkscreen poster of the #18 cover that still pops up from time to time on Ebay.) He was going to do #20, but there was a fire in his shop, so, to my eternal regret, I resorted to my old tricks.

MARK: So, what are you up to these days? Is life OK?

JOHN: All is well. My life has only changed in magnitude since I started MCBF. I now live in a bigger place with room for more books! But I’m still in San Francisco and even have the same job. I’m doing a lot of reading, and starting to do a little bit of writing. Due to my housing situation over the past several years I’d been unable to commit to any long-term projects, but now that I’ve resolved everything permanently in my favor, I’m looking to do something again. I just wrote a little bit for the Harry Stephen Keeler Society, and I’m looking to re-boot my blog. (So cutting edge!) And I’ve been doing a lot of zine fests, which have been cropping up like weeds all over the country!

MARK: When you say you still have the same job, do you mean that you’re still at the retirement account management company that you were working at when you were 16?

JOHN: Oh, no, thank god. I’m sure they went under many years ago. I am a humble civil servant for a local government agency. I’ve been here to help you for the last 33 years.

MARK: Well, on behalf of everyone, thank you… When you’re not helping others, though, is murder still part of your life?

JOHN: Although I’m no longer as interested in factual murders, I still avidly peruse the fictional variety. I’ve recently expanded my focus from midcentury hardboiled/noir to include some Edwardian stuff. I’m not writing right now, partially due to laziness, but primarily due to lack of outlets. However, I am looking to get back in the game. I’ve been hearing wonderful things about this newfangled thing called the Internet….

MARK: Well, given your background, I can’t help but think you might have a few good ideas when it comes to killing people off on the written page.

JOHN: I wrote a “confession” story back in the early 1990s that was published in True Confessions, although all the characters survived. I’ve always regretted not following up on that; there’s always been a soft spot in my heart for that type of hackdom. I would like to try my hand at more violent literary forms, but with the collapse of professional markets, who knows? I’m so old school I expect to get paid for writing.

MARK: And you did, if I’m not mistaken, branch out once or twice, didn’t you? At least I seem to recall a Murder Can Be Fun Presents: Anti-Sex Tips for Teens, right?

JOHN: I did two unnumbered issues, the Anti-Sex Tips (devoted to all those super-sqaure teen advice books) and Obscure Crime Books (reviews of some of the gems of my collection). The latter is probably my rarest issue; it had a relatively low press run and I never reprinted it.

MARK: Can you maybe pass along one anti-sex tip, as I’m sure some reading this would appreciate it?

JOHN: Always sleep with the windows open. And no novel reading for you ladies, lest you become “sexually infirm.”

MARK: And there was also a comic anthology, right? How’d that come about?

JOHN: An editor of Slave Labor Graphics approached me and I agreed on the condition that they do all the work–because I know nothing about comic books. And, except for a short prose piece I contributed to each issue, they kept their word! Some of the stories were adapted directly from MCBF, others were originals that shared the theme.

MARK: Are back issues of Murder Can Be Fun still available?

JOHN: I still have copies of #11, #12, #16, and #18 through #20, along with the 1994, 95, 96, and 97 Datebooks. It’s a good thing so many issues have gone out of print because I was evicted from my storage space last year!

MARK: One last question… What was your favorite murder, and why?

JOHN: That’s like asking Octomom who her favorite kid is! So many interesting cases, so little time….

[note: If you like what you’ve read and want more about the American underground press and the people behind it, be sure to check the other interviews in the History of Zines series.]

Posted in Art and Culture, History, Special Projects, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I’m too busy to blog properly tonight, but can someone please explain to me how lowering taxes prevents hurricanes?

Yes, in case you missed it, the top tweet, minus my suggested edits, of course, really was sent out by Donald Trump today. Apparently, what we all saw play out across the Texas and Florida over the past several weeks wasn’t a climate change wake-up call, as many of us had thought, but, instead, a reminder that America desperately needs to lower taxes on the super-wealthy.

Speaking of taxes, did you also happen to see a few days ago that Trump was raving on social media about how America has the highest tax rate in the world? [See his tweet below.] Well, I know this will likely come as a shock to many of you, but he apparently had his facts wrong. In fact, America is actually one of the lowest taxed countries in the so-called ‘developed’ world, well below the likes of England, Canada, France and Japan. In fact, the only advanced nations with lower taxes than the United States are Mexico, Chile and Korea. And that’s out of all 35 nations that make up OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).

Here’s Trump’s tweet.

Oh, and, for what it worth, Trump has yet to remove the above tweet, even after being told by virtually every economist in the world that it’s not only wrong, but almost the complete inverse of reality.

But, yeah, I guess there are some who, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, still believe him. And there are probably even some who think that, somehow, lowering taxes on the wealthy really will help us fend off these 500-year weather events that we’re now dealing with on a weekly basis, or at least better care for those in communities that have lost everything.

If we truly wanted to deal with the consequences of storms like these, I would think, we would, if anything, be talking about raising taxes right now, so that we could invest more in entities like FEMA. Instead, however, here we are, talking about cutting their budgets, in order to better line the pockets of America’s super-wealthy.

To believe Trump on this is to believe that the Koch brothers and the Mercers, if only they had a few billion dollars more, might be out there right now, aggressively helping those without insurance rebuild after Hurricane Harvey.

Excuse me for bing cynical, but I don’t see that happening. What do I know, though? Maybe these folks really are out there right now, on their private country estates, just praying for a tax break so that they can do more to help those in need. Maybe the Koch brothers already have one of their yachts ready to start cruising around the Florida Keys, looking for survivors of Hurricane Irma, but they’re just waiting on a tax break so that they can afford the gas… I can picture them now, crying, with life preservers in their hands, so desperate to help, but being held back by “big government.”

Posted in Education, energy, Environment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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