The generals who serve Trump, why they do it, and at what cost

An interesting question was posed in the Washington Post today… “Is it still possible to honorably serve in the Trump administration?

The article was inspired in large part by a recent profile of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in the New Yorker, which included the following passage.

…When Mattis asked Michèle Flournoy, the former Undersecretary of Defense under Obama, to consider becoming his deputy, she was torn between her admiration for Mattis and her discomfort with the Trump Administration. “I lost a lot of sleep and felt sick to my stomach,” she told me. At Trump Tower, she was interviewed by a group of aides with no national-security experience. Among their first questions was “What would it take for you to resign?” Flournoy, alarmed, told Mattis that she couldn’t take the job.

Three months into the new Administration, the Pentagon is being run by a skeleton crew; career officers and civil servants are doing jobs that are supposed to be performed by political appointees. “It’s like going to work on a Sunday — there’s no one there,” the former defense official told me. “If my printer doesn’t work on Sunday, I’m screwed. That’s what the Pentagon’s like every day.”

Leon Panetta said that in normal times the Pentagon could probably carry on without a full complement of senior leaders — but, if there was a prolonged international incident, it would come under severe strain. “I’m worried about a crisis,” he said. “Whenever I had a crisis, I would gather my senior people together. If you recommend military action, you’ve got to think, What forces, what targets, what consequences? That requires a lot of thinking and a lot of smart people. Mattis is basically by himself”…

It’s a complicated question that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately… whether or not, if asked, I could bring myself to serve this administration. Thankfully, it’s a question that I’ll never have to answer in the real world. Many, like Mattis, however, are being put in that unenviable position, and, while part of me wonders why in the hell they’d concede to do such a thing, I respect them for it. As the author of the piece in the Washington Post concludes, we need people like Mattis in the administration to ensure that Trump’s “bad rhetoric” doesn’t find itself translated into “bad actions.” And, for this reason, the author and I agree, we should hope that more competent people come forward to sacrifice themselves for the good of the country.

Which brings me to yesterday’s Fresh Air segment with author and former Pentagon corresponded Tom Ricks on the generals serving under Trump, which goes into some depth about the generals serving under Trump, why they’re doing it, and the clear toll it’s taking on them. Here’s the audio, which I’d encourage you to listen to in it entirety, followed by a clip I thought you might find of interest.

GROSS: So we have several generals now in major positions of power in the Trump administration. The first general we had was Michael Flynn. He was forced out. But now there’s James Mattis, who’s secretary of defense’ H.R. McMaster, national security adviser who replaced General Flynn; and General John Kelly, who’s the head of homeland security.

One way of looking at this is to say this is pretty worrisome because – you know that old adage about if you go to see a surgeon, he’s going to recommend surgery because that’s what surgeons do? And it’s easy to think, if you have generals in charge of major portions of the government, they’re going to take us to war because that’s what generals do. They fight wars. You know these guys. So do you think that’s a logical conclusion to jump to?

RICKS: I do know these guys. And as you listed them, what struck me as I envisioned each is what a diverse group they are. General Flynn, I think, rose to levels above his level of competence, is a very naive man, not well-informed about the world despite being an intelligence officer. And I wasn’t surprised to see him flame out very quickly.

General Mattis is almost the opposite of General Flynn. Mattis, who’s now the secretary of defense, is one of the more thoughtful people I’ve ever met in uniform or out. And he is an example that goes against your surgeon’s analogy. Mattis has publicly advocated in the past for a bigger budget for the State Department. In fact, he said to Congress once, look, you can either increase the State Department’s budget, or you can buy more bullets for me because if you don’t increase your diplomacy, we’re going to have more fighting. I would rather have more diplomacy. Mattis is a very thoughtful man, and I think he’s handled the job very well.

McMaster is from a generation after Mattis. McMaster was a captain in the 1991 Gulf War and actually led a cavalry troop in one of the key battles in the ’91 war, which was very short but did have some battles, called the Battle of 73 Easting in which his unit attacked a much larger group of Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles and trucks and utterly destroyed it in about 20 minutes of fighting. McMaster, again, years later, was a colonel in Iraq and did an extraordinarily good job in departing from this very clumsy, stalemated operation that the American military generally was enforcing and operating on in Iraq and instead took a new counterinsurgency approach that proved very successful and became the model for what General Petraeus tried to do a year later.

It’s been sad for me to watch McMaster in recent weeks because he’s a thoughtful man as well – more emotional, more big and physical than Mattis but an intellectual himself. He wrote a very good book, called “Dereliction Of Duty,” about the Vietnam War and the failures of American generals to tell the truth to American politicians, especially President Lyndon Johnson. And so it’s almost Shakespearean to see McMaster in the White House as the national security adviser faced with the same situation, in many ways, that the Vietnam generals had. And when it’s his job to get up and speak truth to power, instead he appears, in recent days, to have stood up and shielded the president from the truth and dissembled about the truth rather than insisting on the truth. And I think that…

GROSS: Specifically, what are you referring to?

RICKS: I’m referring to after The Washington Post ran a story about a week ago saying that President Trump had blown an intelligence source in front of the Russians by talking about very secret intelligence on ISIS and about a very new thin bomb they had developed that could be put inside a laptop. And he had talked about the actual city where this information came from. McMaster got up and called the story false. And then the following day…

GROSS: He called the story that Trump had said this is false?

RICKS: Yeah. And then the next day, he got up, and he kind of quibbled on that a little bit. He said, well, he actually confirmed the facts of the story, but then said the premise of the story was false. I’d gone through the same situation with McMaster where I’d written a story about McMaster in Iraq in 2006 that put his unit in a very good light and him in a very good light about the work they had done in taking a new approach in fighting the war.

But there was one paragraph in it he disliked. He didn’t dispute the truth of it. He just disliked it, and so he called me and yelled at me for two days over the phone in Iraq to complain about it. And I heard that exact same tone when he got up at the White House and called the story false. He actually never said what he thought the wrong facts were, but he basically was saying I don’t like that story.

GROSS: Well, you wrote a column about this, and what he didn’t like about the article you wrote is that you criticized his unit for what it did before he took it over. So you weren’t criticizing him at all, but I – sounded to me like he didn’t like the idea of you criticizing, you know, the military. He didn’t want to break rank with that.

RICKS: That’s exactly right. He specifically wanted to defend his unit, his regiment and protect the morale of troops who he thought might be demoralized by seeing the previous tour of duty that they had criticized. I…

GROSS: And you think that’s what he’s doing now is trying to kind of protect the president or protect the morale of the administration.

RICKS: Yes. And I think he failed to see that his job is not to protect the president. It’s to protect the nation. And what I fear General McMaster has done in recent weeks by coming out and seeking to protect the president is not his job. He shouldn’t protect the president. He should protect the nation. And I fear that through his recent actions, he has enabled President Trump to continue to operate in this very reckless, ignorant way. Now, I think what McMaster thinks he’s doing is the best he can do in that situation. What I fear he doesn’t see is he’s enabling it to become worse.

GROSS: So you’ve written that you don’t think that McMaster will dutifully defend President Trump for long. Why do you think that?

RICKS: It’s a crushing burden to be in political power in Washington these days, and you see people almost lose their souls. I think Sean Spicer, the president’s spokesman in recent weeks has been pushed almost to the edge of a nervous breakdown from his public appearance. And he’s kind of lost a big part of his soul, and I think that’s true of some other people. And H.R. McMaster is a man of great soul, of great feeling. I remember talking to him in Iraq, and his voice would grow thick. And when he was kind of angry a little bit, he’d rolled his shoulders as he talked to you, almost as if to loosen up those back muscles.

And watching H.R. McMaster, an officer I do admire, over the last few weeks, I feel like I’ve seen him come out and give up a slice of his soul a few times. And I wonder how many more times he can do that before he just says I am becoming part of the problem, not part of the solution here…

Again, I’d encourage you to listen to the entire interview, as it’s absolutely fascinating. Ricks not only talks at length about these generals serving under Trump, but he also does a nice job of tying in Churchill and Orwell, who are the subjects of his new book, The Fight For Freedom… a book which, by the way, ends with the following, very timely passage: “The fundamental driver of Western civilization is the agreement that objective reality exists, that people of goodwill can perceive it, and that other people will change their views when presented with the facts of the matter.”

When Gross asks Ricks to elaborate on this quote, he says the following. “That’s my conclusion – that this is the essence of Western society, and, at its best, how Western society operates,” Ricks says. “You can really reduce it to a formula. First of all, you need to have principles. You need to stand by those principles and remember them. Second, you need to look at reality, to observe facts, and not just have opinions, and to say, what are the facts of the matter? Third, you need to act upon those facts according to your principles.” That’s Western civilization in a nutshell, and that’s what’s we’re now watching disappear right before our very eyes.

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On the eve of Montana’s special election, the Republican candidate, tech millionaire Greg Gianforte, assaults a journalist on tape, throwing him to the ground and punching him in the face

Sadly, I suspect it could help him with some percentage of the Republican base, but, earlier this evening, Greg Gianforte, the tech millionaire running for Montana’s single House seat, literally attacked a reporter from the Guardian, throwing him to the ground and breaking his glasses in the process. Reports are sketchy, but it sounds as though Gianforte may have taken off before being questioned by police at the scene… Here’s the incredibly unsettling audio.

Yup, all the reporter asked was whether or not Gianforte would be supporting the President’s health care bill, which, according to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office today, would rob 23 million Americans of their health insurance coverage over the next decade. Apparently that question did’t sit so well with Gianforte, whose lead has been steadily shrinking over the past several weeks, in part because he refuses to state publicly where he stands on health care reform. [Behind closed doors, for what it’s worth, he’s praised the Trump plan.]

The following coverage of the assault comes from the Guardian.

…“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”

Jacobs subsequently reported the incident to the police. The Gallatin County sheriff’s office is investigating the incident.

A statement by campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon blamed Jacobs for the incident, saying that he “entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions”.

“Jacobs was asked to leave,” the statement reads. “After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground.”

“It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”…

That version of events, of course, doesn’t jive at all with the audio, or the firsthand accounts of the Fox News crew that witnessed the attack, saying that Gianforte not only bodyslammed the reporter, but actually punched him in the face. But who cares about facts, right?

I don’t know that it’ll do much good right now, seeing as how it’s the election is tomorrow, but, if you’d like to join me, I’ll be making one final donation to folksinger Rob Quist, Gianforte’s Democratic opponent, right now.

Here’s hoping the good people of Montana see this incident for what it is and do the right thing tomorrow… If you have friends or family in Montana, now might be a good time to call them.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, it was just a matter of time before something like this happened under the rule of Trump, a man who, much like Hitler, ascended to power by demonizing the “lying press”, even going so far as to excuse Putin’s murder of journalists.

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My last post on the hypocrisy and broken promises of Donald Trump

To quote John Lydon, “Did you ever get the feeling that you’ve been cheated?

I think, pretty soon, I’m going to stop talking about Trump’s hypocrisy, as I think it’s probably no longer all that effective as a tool to convince his supporters to rethink their alliances. Almost everyone capable of rational thought, I’m pretty sure, has already jumped ship by this point. And, for what it’s worth, a lot of folks, at least based on the most recent Fox News ratings and the polls we’re seeing out of Georgia, have already made the decision to walk away from Trump and the Republican party. I do, however, want to take one last crack at it, just in case anyone out there may still be on the fence.

Trump just released his budget, and, not surprisingly, he’s gone back on his campaign promise not to cut Medicaid. His new budget, if it passes the Republican Congress, would not just trim the health care program millions of Americans depend on, but slash it by a reported $800 billion. And, furthermore, Trump’s budget would cut $11 billion from public education, eliminating things like after-school programs that serve nearly 2 million children, most of whom are poor. And, not surprisingly, all these proposed cuts would land hardest on the working class men and women who put Trump into office.

Here, for those of you who are visual thinkers, is evidence of the above.

But, again, I don’t know that it really helps to point things like this out any more. I mean, we all know what’s happening by this point, right? We already have all of the evidence that we need. We’ve already seen Trump, who ran on the promise to provide health care for everyone, turn around and support a bill that would actually take health care from an estimated 24 million Americans. And that, as we all know, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his broken promises.

He promised to “drain the swamp” and purge lobbyists from the White House, but instead we’re reading today that he’s blocking an ethics probe into ex-lobbyists on his payroll. He told us that, if we elected him President, he’d be too busy working to play golf, and endlessly derided Obama for playing the game, but he took 16 trips to play golf in just his first 100 days in office, spending millions in tax payer money at his own resorts. And, of course, he said he’d share his tax returns with the American people, which he never did… The list goes on.

Trump has, without exaggeration, lied more and broken more promises in just four months than any president in United States history.

But, for some reason, people continue hold on. Maybe they’re stupid. Or maybe they just don’t want to face the fact that they’ve been duped. Or maybe they don’t give a shit about the lies, just so long as Trump makes good on the underlying promise to deliver smaller government and tilt the playing field in favor of older white men like myself. And, that, sadly, is what I think most of this is about. Those who are still with Trump, in spite of all the evidence, I suspect, don’t give a shit about the facts, and they never did. They didn’t care that Trump’s “show us your birth certificate” campaign was bullshit, and they didn’t give a damn about what really happened in Benghazi. All they care about… all they ever cared about… was putting Obama and Clinton in their places, and, for a minute, feeling better about their lot in life. For lack of a better analogy, I suppose you could say their ongoing support of Trump is essentially an instance of jury nullification, a situation where people are knowingly doing something they know to be wrong, but they’re doing so in order to rebalance what they see as a system that’s dangerously out of line. Let’s call it Democracy nullification. [Democracy Nullification: when voters select and support a leader contrary to the weight of evidence for reasons of fear and anxiety.] They’re wrong, of course, but it makes sense, doesn’t it?

The good news is, we now know where the bottom is. Thanks to Trump, and everything he’s done thus far to show us what he truly is, we now know how significant the problem is. To borrow a phrase, as his more reasonable supporters have abandoned him, we’ve drained the swamp, and we’re now looking at the creatures that are left… the some 38% of American voters who, according to polls, still approve of his performance.

But, who knows. A few more may decide to defect. By the time Nixon resigned from office in 1974, his approval rating had dropped to 24%. So maybe there’s hope that, with the water level in the swamp dropping, more will pull themselves out from the muck… Regardless, though, we can move forward with the 62% of American voters who know what in the fuck is going on. And that, I think, will be my approach from now on. Yes, I think it’s finally time for me to rapture away, and leave some of you behind.

Oh, and one last thing. Trump’s proposed budget also cuts approximately $73 billion from Social Security, another program he assured us would be safe in his hands.

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Remembering Kim Demick

Last weekend, shortly after having returned home to Michigan from New Mexico, where she’d moved some six months earlier, Ypsilanti artist Kim Demick passed away. While I considered Kim a friend, the truth is I didn’t know her terribly well. I think we first met at the Shadow Art Fair about 10 years ago now, after which I’d commissioned her to make something for Linette. We’d see each other after that, and we’d talk, but I never really got to know Kim well, at least firsthand. For the most part, I knew Kim through Linette, who had grown closer with her over the past several years, since the cancer diagnosis. And it was through Linette’s eyes that I came to appreciate just what an incredible woman Kim was, how fully she lived her life, and just how much people truly cared for her. It’s difficult to articulate, but, watching the way her friends came through to support her over these past several years, has been an incredibly beautiful thing to witness, and I think it’s testament to the kind of person that Kim was, her ability to connect so deeply with people, and her refusal, in spite of everything she was facing, to live her life any less fully. So, when I leaned that she’d passed, I reached out to one of her friends and offered this space, in case she, or others, wanted to share their thoughts. Following are their responses. My hope is that they convey just what an incredible woman Kim was, and to what extent she impacted the lives of those in her orbit. While her time here was brief, she made tremendous use of it, and her presence here will reverberate for a long time to come.

Marti Gulkeisen:

Kim danced through life. Her eyes, her smile, her heart–they all danced constantly. She’d waltz with strangers in a generous 1-2-3-1-2-3 of conversation–deep, graceful, without expectation–leaving them pleasantly taken aback at the unexpected empathy.

She would leave a quick note about some mundane anything–like groceries or feeding the dog–and it would be more ornate than my best attempt at calligraphy, with each letter dancing on the page. She didn’t know how to not make things beautiful.

She would sew, and the cloth, the seams, the dyed indigo patterns–they would all dance, enchanted with her, like the rest of us. No beauty was ever lost on her. She saw in a glass, or flower, or bit of old wood or metal, what many overlooked. Then she’d set it just so, with some adornment, and show how it danced to everyone.

She danced with the desert. They were both so warm, so unobviously rich–a natural pair once you see it. The Southwest was her secret darling, her mistress away from Michigan. A conflicted place where she felt at once connected with the majesty of the earth and isolated from the hearth and home up north that fed her soul.

She danced for the earth, her hands deep in the soil, and it fed her, until nothing would. Heirloom tomatoes and leafy things, and herbs I’d never heard of–they’d all dance for Kim. First as happy growing things, then on the lucky palettes of those she cared for. She would cook with amaranth or coconut or fennel and serve you a dance. Your nose would catch the tune first, then you’d watch the dishes sashay onto the table, then finally your mouth would join in and dance, too, until it grew too tired and sated to go on.

She was a darling all dolled up and would dance through the room. She was made for galas and conversation about art, music, good food and culture. And she’d shake it all night on the dance floor. She was so skilled at true dancing–not the precise steps or technique that imply dance–but the essence of moving musically and deliberately, without hesitation or self-consciousness.

She loved to move and to laugh and was so full of happiness. She’d flop her arms wild as we clomped an awkward dance in the driveway and sang to the full moon, full of joy with no need for sense. She’d sway a solemn slow dance with me when my heart was broken. Even when her heart was broken, she would be grateful and unselfish and dance through her grief with love for those around her.

Thank you, Kim Demick, for dancing with me, and with all of us. I’m so sad it’s over, but also feel so lucky to have had a spot on your dance card. I know you’re dancing with your mom now, and that she left when she did, so she’d be there for you now. I hope your soul keeps dancing now and ever after, just like it always has. I love you. I miss you.

Helen Harding:

I feel so lucky to have known Kim. I got to wear her clothes and eat her food and dance with her. I’m so thankful I got to see her amazing outfits and read her beautiful letters and listen to her describe a salad (or piece of cake or glass of wine) with such intense description. We shared plenty of meals and conversations, but what we did most together was work. You can learn a lot about a person while working side by side. We took turns being each other’s bosses—she was mine at Jefferson Market and I was hers at Eat. But no matter who was in charge, it always felt collaborative. I loved watching her move through a room. I could see how her brain worked, and it was so different from mine. She was detail oriented, but noticed and focused on things that I wouldn’t have noticed or focused on. She had an amazing amount of empathy that, I think, was rooted in the knowledge that true connection was possible in every interaction. She was exceptional with challenging catering clients. She knew how to help people feel at ease, to feel heard, to feel love even in the most mundane interaction. This made her a pretty rad co-worker as well. I met Kim when I was 15. She has been a huge influence ever since. And she will continue to be so— She’ll remind me to operate from a place of kindness and beauty and creativity and strength. She will be missed. That is certain.

David Ketchens:

Hair. For the past 15 years I had the honor of being Kim Demick’s personal hairstylist. Our first collaboration took me from simple cutter to artist. We spent hours in my apartment pouring through vintage fashion magazines combing the pages for inspiration. We settled on a cut known as the Vogue. How fitting. It’s the bubble back brought up to the nape with the sides angling longer. We would cut, sip wine, analyze in the mirror, and cut more. We didn’t stop until we knew we had a winner. Kim looked amazing. For a year after not a week passed without someone coming to my salon saying they’d seen Kim somewhere in the world and asked who cut her hair. A whole year!!!! No cut since has resonated so strongly in the world. The ladies didn’t want just her hair; they admired the whole package: Kim in her endless layers of scarves, bangles, patterned fabrics, and shiny accessories. We did many cuts through the years, but we both agreed that the Vogue was our favorite. Right after entering hospice, Kim reached out for one last cut. Her hair was tangled from lying in bed. I gently brushed out the snarls and cut a version of the Vogue for old times sake. Sadly, it was to be our final collaboration. We had come full circle. Back to the start. Hair. Just like life.

Dan Hussong:

The obvious things that we know about Kim Demick are these. She was unselfish. She was dedicated to peace and respect. She was curious. She retained knowledge. She applied and shared her knowledge.

She was healthy.

Kim Demick was open minded to all forms of artistic expression. Life excited her.

She had dreams,

yes.

She knew the meaning of a

Good connection.

Between tar –

Asphalt-

And rubber!

I have buckets of walnuts that she collected.

We all know Kim’s love.

Kim Demick hated

The television show “Everyone Loves Raymond”.

Repeat: Kim Demick hated “Everyone Loves Raymond”.

There was a point in time where Kim and I would watch the late night television programs with Gisele on crowded couch. (Jimmy Fallon, etc.)

On a long thin couch and sometimes the floor.

We would pass out next to the remarkable indulgence of television.

At 1 a.m. the theme song to “Everyone Loves Raymond”

-(JUMP FROM SLEEP NOW!)-

Would come on (END IT NOW) and it was like watching a wild woman put out a stove fire!

Without her contact lenses Kim Demick would search all of the buttons near the t.v.

In darkness and urgency -half asleep- to

Turn off the television.

She really hated “Everyone Loves Raymond”.

She, Kim Demick, said, ”Everyone Loves Raymond” made her “brain hurt.”

Her “hate” for that show got us all off of the couch and into bed at a consistent hour.

You are special to have been in contact with Kim Demick.

Margot Finn:

Two years ago, after a tough winter spent in and out of the hospital, Kim and I took a road trip to Chicago to see Sleater-Kinney. The night we arrived, we drove past a comic/zine shop she recognized and spent over an hour there, pouring over weird, wonderful artwork. At the Little Goat diner, she ordered a chocolate malt, even though she worried that it might upset her guts. She was so delighted by it, she kept insisting that I taste it again. The next day, we mapped out a route that would enable us to hit a half a dozen bakeries selling packzi. She started conversations with the other people in line and behind the counter about how ‘you think this is crazy, you should see it at the holidays because really they’re known for their raisin bread and people line up around the block’ or ‘I guess my favorite is the passion fruit, but actually we have this raspberry mazurka and if you’ve never tried it, well.’ We marveled at the mosaics at the L stop near our hotel. Even though we were running a little late to the concert, and she really needed to find a place to sit, she insisted on stopping by the merch table first to pick out a shirt for a friend who couldn’t be there. The next day, as we were packing up to leave, she said she felt like she’d been shut up in an attic and being on this trip was like someone throwing open a window. It was such a departure from the punishing routines of being sick. As we were checking out of the hotel, she tried to microwave some tea for the road in a travel mug made of metal, and flames shot out. The desk clerk who had to leap over the counter with a fire extinguisher wasn’t even mad. He apologized for her tea being unsalvageable. She tried to insist on paying for gas and apologized for every time we had to stop, as if she were some kind of burden. She was so good at finding, creating, and bestowing beautiful objects and delicious food on people, and I loved the way I experienced the world when I was around her.

Blake Reetz:

Listening to this as I think about our dear friend Kim, and the impact she made on our community. She once thanked me for never looking at her with “sad eyes” and forcing a moment. I just talked and hung out with her as I always had. That’s all I knew how to do, really. And I’m so glad she was grateful for that. I’m eternally grateful for the hours spent vibing about food trends, fashion, music, art. She knew it all, and knew it well. She hand stitched the tie I wore for my wedding out of vintage Art Deco silk, because of course she had it just laying around. She impacted so many and I’m lucky to be one of them. Hope I see you next time around, Kim.

Donald Harrison:

I met Kim in the summer of 2007 when I moved back to Ann Arbor after living away for 10 years. I didn’t know anyone anymore. I needed a sublet so I had somewhere to stay and figure things out. When I went to check out this house on Sheehan, there were a few of my potential housemates to greet me with a candlelit spread of cheeses and bread and olives and wine. And there was Kim, leading the way and welcoming me like it was already my home. I hadn’t even had a tour of the place yet, and already I knew I was going to take it. We were kindred spirits and quickly became friends. Over the subsequent years, I saw this generous, bright and kind soul in action often. Add to that mix her fierce, creative force and she’s been one of the most indelible individuals I’ve ever known. Namaste, KD.

Amanda Edmonds:

So much love and light for my dear, dear friend Kimberly A Demick who we lost from this world Saturday morning after the most courageous battle, fought with love and fortitude, and defying so many odds for so long. I was devastated to not be home in time for a final goodbye in person, though we were able to to FaceTime earlier in my trip and have a beautiful conversation. I had planned to go straight to see her from the flight yesterday… But I tried to see Europe, especially Paris—where I was in her last and most peaceful days— through her eyes. I said my own goodbye from afar on Saturday afternoon while at the American cemetery at Normandy, breathing in a beautiful view of the sea and the sky, and learned on the train back that she had just peacefully slipped away. My friend, we so miss you already and will for all time, taking solace only in remembering to see beauty and make art and love the people in our lives so, so hard as you did.

Jean Henry:

Kim first presented herself to me at the end of the Jefferson Market’s first anniversary party by handing me a paper plate. She was dressed to the nines in a neighborhood where no one dressed up… ever. I remember flamenco shoes and a twirling red skirt, dangling earrings and a head scarf. She had shiny ebony hair and black cat eye liner. I don’t know if she was glittery or sequined, but she seemed to be. She was spectacular. That ordinary paper plate had been festooned in a curlicue calligraphy and small drawings that expressed her love for our place and her desire to be a part of it somehow… but things were complicated, and then, her number.

This is what Kim did. She waltzed into your life and made it immediately better— more colorful and open and generous than you ever thought it could be— and then she told you that you were great. And how were you doing? And would you like to try a bite of this?

I hired her. Temporarily at first, and then, after a failed attempt to move west with her boyfriend, permanently, as manager. She had come back, broken-hearted, with no housing and no money, and she went to work rebuilding. She was unbelievably resilient. Her generosity of spirit arose from hardship, not ease. Like her advocacy, her work ethic and her creative drive, Kim’s love was a survival tool. I suggested house sitting through the summer as a way to save money. She house sat serially for two straight years, living out of a suitcase and a car, moving from house to house, bringing with her that same magic. They would all come back, begging her to house sit again. They raved about Kim. Everyone did. It was then she told me that she was part Romani — aka Gypsy. This came as no surprise.

Kim magnified the lives of those she encountered. She worked her magic on my business. When people talk about the Jefferson Market with starry eyes, they are talking about the Kim effect— nothing I brought to the table. We were running a little business. She made it magic… Every. Damn. Day. She would do whatever it took to make people happy. She cared about you. She knew your dog and your children by their first names. She had private conversations with them. She never talked down to anyone ever. Once I bought some brightly colored Mexican cut paper flowers and banners to sell and asked Kim to display some. She used them all. The entire place became a fiesta. The staff and guests loved it. And I loved it. What was not to love? Selling things was secondary to the magic making. That’s what Kim brought. She made the market a place worthy of shameless devotion.

I once had a nightmare about Kim. We closed the market for one week each year between Christmas and New Years. Those were peaceful weeks filled with annual inventory and repairs and no customer service. I dreamed that i walked in one of those mornings, and Kim had opened the place up and was hurriedly baking pastries and brewing coffee. A line was forming. Some neighbors had come knocking, and she couldn’t turn them away. When I recalled the dream to Kim, she laughed and said, “That sounds like me.”

When she left to pursue custom seamstress work full time, the neighborhood was bereft. They were hard on the new staff for months. No one could compare. Kim and I have remained friends all these years later, because, like everyone else she touched, I did not want to let her go.

For a little while, we were both sick at the same time. My then 5 year old son and I joined Kim for a dog walk in Eberwhite woods. My son wanted me to chase after him. I could not. So Kim ran with him and played with him, dodging in and out of trees gleefully like some kind of woodland sprite. That’s the Kim he remembers still. It’s likely she was sicker than I was that day. Kim’s strategy throughout her illness, as in the rest of her life, was to grab as many good days as she could. She defied every doctor’s expectation. They knew her body but underestimated her spirit.

Kim was always planning something new. She would be hooked up to machines in the hospital and still be thinking abut a new business, or buying a house someday, or moving to New Mexico and falling in love again. The last two she accomplished, against all odds, in this last year. She had many dreams unfulfilled too. We all do. But she left a profound legacy that goes well beyond anyone’s standard list of worldly accomplishments. A legacy that is hard to enumerate. Her accomplishments do not fit on a CV. They fit better on a paper plate, an intricately draped frock or a chuppah made for a friend of salvaged curly willow. Her community supported her through illness in ways that were remarkable, but we’ll leave those stories for later. She earned our devotion. She was the fierce advocate, the help mate, the magic maker. When, through considerable effort, we managed to finally get her back to Michigan from New Mexico a few weeks ago, I walked into her hospital room and hugged her. She touched my face and asked, “How are you feeling?”… I replied, ‘I am feeling that I love you.’ We all do.

Grab the good days.

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” ― Walt Whitman

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

In epic asshole fashion, Lindsey Graham promises to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email

I could write about any mumber of things right now, like the long overdue passing of Fox News founder Roger Ailes, or the fact that Trump and DeVos are pushing for deep cuts to public school programs, but I keep coming back to this bewildering clip of Senator Lindsey Graham on Fox News talking about how, since we now have a special prosecutor looking into charges of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians, Congress can once again turn its full attention toward what really matters…. the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email.

Yup, as we discussed might happen yesterday, now that it’s been announced that former FBI Director Mueller will be heading an independent Russia investigation on behalf of the Justice Department, the Republicans are attempting to scurry away from the whole mess as fast as humanly possible. And, I guess, as Graham sees it, going back after Clinton will not only give the impression of equivalency, which as we know, is absolute bullshit, but also allow him the opportunity to look like a badass investigator looking out for the welfare of the nation, instead of as a bootlicking coward who doesn’t have the courage to stand up to what is likely a criminal conspiracy that extends all the way to the Oval Office… So, yes, while Mueller looks into the real threats facing our country, it looks as though Graham and company will be delving into Clinton’s server security, and theorizing as to how, hypothetically, a handful of marginally classified documents could have fallen into the hands of our enemies… completely ignoring the fact that, just a few days ago, in the real world, our sitting President snuck a Russian agent into the White House and gave him the identity of an Israeli asset undercover in ISIS, jeopardizing both that man’s life, as well as our intelligence relationship with a trusted ally.

Any last remaining shred of respect I may have had for Lindsey Graham is now completely gone. This is beyond disgraceful. But, sadly, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Once it became clear that they couldn’t stop the Russia investigation, we knew this would happen. We know they would do anything in their power not only to slow the investigation, but to muddy the waters, leaving people confused as to what’s really going on, further sewing seeds of distrust in American institutions. And what’s really going on is that, in spite of the fact that we know with some degree of certainty that our Republican President is a corrupt, lying, conman, who, in all likelihood, corroborated with the Russians to tip the election in his favor, the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress have made the decision that they’re not only going to continue standing by his side, but that they’re going to aid him in his efforts, just so long as they feel he’s able to push forward their agenda of shuttering public schools, privatizing social security, rolling back environmental protections, and pushing deregulation across every sector. They know what Trump is, and it doesn’t matter to them. They bought their tickets, and they’re on the ride, and they’re going to see it through to the bitter end. And it’s our job to make sure that, when the ride ends, so too do their tenures in DC.

Here, for those of you who didn’t watch the video above, is a bit of the transcript from the folks at Think Progress.

…“I don’t know what caused the appointment. I haven’t seen any evidence of a crime yet. The bottom line is I respect the decision, but this pretty much shuts Congress down,” Graham said. “Democrats, you got what you wanted. You got a special counsel. Now we’ll just move on. We’re not prosecutors.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that Graham thinks all of Congress’ investigations should stop.

“There’s a new front opening here. I have reason to believe that there are emails between Clinton campaign officials, democratic operatives to the Department of Justice regarding the Clinton email investigation that happened on Obama’s watch. I have reason to believe those emails exist,” Graham said. “I’m on the Judiciary Committee. And I think it’s important that the Judiciary Committee be given any emails that were directed to the Department of Justice by Clinton campaign officials or operatives because we have jurisdiction over the Department of Justice.”

Graham added that he had not seen the emails, and did not elaborate on why he said he had “reason to believe” they exist…

If you’re looking to send a signal today, illustrating to the Republicans just how bloody it’s going to get for them come November 2018, please join me in making a contribution to the campaign of Rob Quist, the white cowboy hat-wearing folk singer going up against Republican tech billionaire Greg Gianforte for the Montana House seat recently vacated by Ryan Zinke, Trump’s new Secretary of the Interior. It’s a long shot to be sure, but, according to the polling, Quist is now down by just single digits, and Democratic money is starting to flow into the state in unprecedented amounts. And I know it could be wishful thinking, but I can’t help but think Quist might have a shot on May 25, when the special election is scheduled to take place… So, what do you say? Shall we send a message to Republicans like Graham who, as least so far, have shown us that they’re willing to place partisan politics over the wellbeing of the nation?

Posted in Politics, Rants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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