Keep Mike Eller off City Council…. tell your friends!

Yesterday, shortly after I announced that I’d be hosting a fundraiser for FLY Children’s Art Center at Woodruff’s on September 8, someone left a comment on the site, alerting me to the fact that the Katie Whitehouse, the director of FLY, had a Mike Eller sign in her front yard. “I can’t believe the head of this organization endorses Eller,” said the commenter. “It makes me sick.” Thankfully, others in the audience weren’t so quick to condemn Katie. Someone pointed out that the sign could have been put there by a landlord, and another reader suggested that she might not be aware of Eller’s history as the head of the far right wing John Birch Society front group, the America First Party of Michigan. The comment I liked best, though, said that it shouldn’t matter who she supports. I’m paraphrasing, but the person said something like, “How would we like it, if people singled us out for condemnation based upon which candidates that we supported?” When I returned from work, and read through the thread, I sent Katie the following note.

Katie, it’s completely unrelated (to the event on September 8), but I wanted to let you know that your name came up on my site today in reference to Mike Eller’s campaign for City Council. (Someone pointed out that you had one of his signs in your yard.) I just wanted to let you know that your politics don’t matter to me, regardless of who you support. I support FLY, and, from everything that I’ve seen, you’re doing great work for the organization. And I’m happy to host this fundraiser and contribute toward the cause, whatever the outcome of this exchange. If you are a supporter of Eller’s, though, and want to talk about some of his beliefs, as he’s stated them over the years, I’d be happy to chat with you. I find his views on homosexuality, AIDS, social security, the civil rights movement, and any number of other things, extremely concerning, and, if you aren’t aware of them, I can send you details… Regardless, though, I’m happy to see you at the fundraiser on the 8th.

As it turns out, Katie wasn’t aware of Eller’s history, or the fact that he hasn’t recanted the statements that he’s made in the past concerning homosexuals, among others. For those of you unfamiliar with Eller’s politics, here are a few highlights, taken from the 2008 America First Party of Michigan platform, which he authored.

• Affirmative Action is… enforced discrimination against white males.

• “WOMEN’S LIB” – Probably the most destructive “movement” in the history of the country. Having its roots in classical Communism (“The women’s liberation movement is a central part of the American socialist revolution in the making” – Leon Trotsky, 1917), it has destroyed the American family, marriage, created the pro – “choice” (read: abortion) movement, blurred the distinction between the sexes, destroyed sexual identity, legitimitized sodomy, all under the usual phony mantra of “equality”. Jesus picked 12 male apostles, not 6 males and 6 females.

• The two chief methods of abolishing property rights in this country today are: “environmentalism”, and “anti–discrimination” laws. Both are smokescreens for the abolition of private property and the rights that go with it. If individual Americans want to control their own property, which they have worked for and earned, they should repeal any legislation which infringes upon that right. Anything less takes power over private property from the individual, whose property it is, and gives it to the State. As a consequence of this proposed policy, all zoning “laws”, as well as state and federal laws, which violate private property rights, should be abolished.

• (T)he entire “environmental” Agenda, since Day 1 (April 22, 1970 – “Earth Day” – also Vladimir Lenin’s Birthday), is, and has been driven by, one over-riding motive: the destruction of Capitalism.

• AIDS: The first Politically – Protected disease. The Cure: Not one Dime (from Government). That would cure it in a hurry.

• We call for an end to all unconstitutional Governmental regulatory agencies, such as the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency); OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)…

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The document in question ends with a rambling stream of consciousness rant against everything from “political correctness” to “car pooling,” which he identifies as evidence of an “apocalyptic vortex of Domestic Communism.” Also on this list are: handicap bathrooms, affirmative action, feminism, “Civil Rights,” sustainability, humanism, multiculturalism, secularism, regional government, national health care, the prescription drug benefit for seniors, mass transit, gun control laws, the abolition of capital punishment, the Clean Water Act, efforts to curb global warming, warning labels on cigarettes and other items, the emasculation of the American male, men wearing necklaces, men wearing earrings, mandatory recycling, Mr. Rogers, PBS, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, easy divorce, unwed couples living together, solar power, jogging, the Paul Robeson “Black Heritage” postage stamp, sexual harassment laws, and calling secretaries “administrative professionals.” (I’m not making any of this up, by the way. Each of those items was cut and pasted directly from Eller’s 2008 platform statement.)

At any rate, Katie, when she learned all of this, recoiled in horror and embarrassment, as most people would. She then promptly removed the sign from her yard, and took to Facebook, letting others know that she’d been “duped.” Here, with her permission, is one of her posts, which beings with a reference to a comment left on this site by one of her neighbors. (He’d said that he’d tried to tell her about Eller previously, but that she hadn’t listened.)

“I did try and talk to her, but she said Eller was a nice man, blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t get through to her. I was hoping someone closer to her could talk some sense into her.”

Umm, this NEVER happened. I have never had a conversation with ANYONE until today about my support of this candidate, who I only just met a week or two (ago) when he came to my door. When I met Eller and heard his platform it sounded reasonable. I had NO IDEA that he was formerly affiliated with AFP, and would NEVER knowingly endorse anyone with racist or anti-gay views. I really would have appreciated if this neighbor actually HAD approached me, rather than have an extensive conversation about me in a blog behind my back. In light of my informative conversation with Mark Maynard, I will NOT be supporting Eller for City Council. Not only am I disappointed in myself for having accepted his platform at face value without researching his past more carefully, in Eller himself for being so manipulative, but now I am also disappointed to find out that the friendly neighborhood that I thought I lived in really isn’t. Thanks, Mark, for giving me the benefit of the doubt, and taking the time to make sure I had all of the facts rather than passing judgement so quickly and so publicly.

And that’s why, as the Democratic primary is just a week away, I’ve decided to say something. I know that we’ve obliquely discussed Eller’s beliefs in the past, but, given that we don’t have a local paper to speak of, and that some folks still apparently don’t know his history, I feel obligated to speak up.

I should mention that I understand why, on the face of it, some people support Eller. I get that people are angry that sitting Ward 3 Councilman Pete Murdock lobbied on behalf of a city income tax at a time when many of us are hurting financially, and appreciate the work Eller did alongside Steve Pierce to stop it from happening. And, I understand why Eller, who presents himself as a successful businessman with a vision for our perpetually-stalled Water Street development project, might come across as an attractive alternative to the incumbent. What I don’t understand, however, is how some people who are aware of his history somehow seem willing to excuse it.

More than one person has told he something along the lines of, “Well, I wouldn’t vote for him to go to Congress, but this is only City Council, and we just need someone to balance the books and cut spending.” I’d argue, however, that his non-fiscal opinions do matter, very much. How can someone who doesn’t believe in zoning laws, for instance, be expected to make good decisions concerning Water Street? I know it’s an extreme scenario, but do we really want a hog rendering facility downtown, pumping toxins into our river? (Eller, as you’ll recall, also believes that we should destroy the Environmental Protection Agency, and roll back clean air and water legislation.) Or, how about his views on gay men, or, for that matter, women who wear pants? What can we expect from him when the time comes to hire new City employees? Will he give gay candidates, women, non-whites a fair shot, or will he only consider straight, white males for our available positions, in an attempt to end the “enforced discrimination against white males” that he sees all around us? I think that’s a legitimate question. (Not only would such behavior be morally reprehensible, in my opinion, but it would put our City at risk for numerous lawsuits.) And I think there are several other scenarios where his personal positions on such topics would negatively impact the City.

And, let’s say you’re OK with all of that. Let’s say that you share his belief that MLK and FDR are “traitors” to our country, that there should be no separation between church and state, and that we, as a country, should stop funding public education with our tax dollars… What do you make of his running in the Democratic primary? How do you reconcile his claim to be a man of integrity, when he’s running on the same ticket alongside folks he clearly detests, like Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren? Or doesn’t honesty really matter to you? (Personally, I have no problem with him running, but I think that he should tell the truth, and not try to present himself as something that he isn’t, just to get elected. I can deal with people who have crazy beliefs, as evidenced by my friends. I cannot, however, tolerate liars and people who seek to manipulate those around them for personal advantage.)

The good news is, in spite of the Eller signs that are sprouting up around town, the word is getting out. I just received another email from Katie, letting me know that she was going to talk with a woman down the street from her, who has an Eller sign in front of her house. As she has a gay family member, Katie thinks it unlikely that she’d support a man who says that we should “cure” AIDS by cutting off research funding, and allowing everyone with the disease to die.

And I guess that’s my message tonight. Instead of leaving anonymous comments online about neighbors who have Eller signs in front of their houses, go over and talk with them. Engage them in conversation. And don’t just assume that they know what the man is about. Like Katie, they may well have been “duped.”

Oh, and to those of you who wrote in and said that you’d no longer support FLY, when you thought that Katie was an Eller supporter, how about doing the right thing and making a donation now that you know how she really feels? (They just needs $165 to make their current fundraising goal, and you could really help.)

Also, it’s probably worth reiterating that, regardless of how I feel about Eller, I don’t like the idea of blacklisting people. I don’t think that we, as a community, should single out Eller supporters for our condemnation, stop patronizing their businesses, etc. While I have a great many problems with his politics, and feel as though he should have run a more honest campaign, I don’t believe we should seek to bully or shame anyone into changing their opinions. I do think, however, that we owe it to our neighbors to meet them half way, acknowledge that they may have valid reasons for supporting Eller, and then explain why, in our eyes, he’s not someone we’d like to see representing our beloved, diverse and resilient Ypsilanti.

Posted in Observations, Politics, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 92 Comments

Have to believe we are magic…

A year ago last week, I went out on a limb and declared Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street to be the best song ever written. It was a courageous stand, and I took a lot of heat for it, but it was the right thing to do… And, I’m about to do it again.

Today, I’d like to make an equally provocative, yet equally warranted, announcement concerning Olivia Newton John’s song Magic, from the Xanadu soundtrack. After a great deal of research and soul-searching, I hereby formally declare it to be the most unsettling song ever performed in the English language.

I started thinking about it a few days ago, as I was driving around by myself, just as the sun was coming up. The song came on the radio, and, for some reason, instead of just mindlessly singing along, like I’ve been doing since the song came out, when I was a kid, I actually listened to the words… I mean, I really listened to them. And they freaked me the fuck out… Admittedly, I was tired and hungry, and I was probably more susceptible to being freaked out than usual, but have you ever listened to the song? It’s like she’s talking right to you, telling you to do all of this stuff. It’s totally fucking creepy.

Here’s how it begins.

Come take my hand
You should know me
I’ve always been in your mind
You know I will be kind
I’ll be guiding you

Building your dream
Has to start now
There’s no other road to take
You won’t make a mistake
I’ll be guiding you

You have to believe
We are magic
Nothing can stand in our way
You have to believe
We are magic
Don’t let your aim ever stray
And if all your hopes survive
Destiny will arrive
I’ll bring all your dreams alive
For you
I’ll bring all your dreams alive
For you

From where I stand
You are home free
The planets align so rare
There’s promise in the air
And I’m guiding you

Through every turn
I’ll be near you
I’ll come any time you call
I’ll catch you when you fall
I’ll be guiding you…

How is it that we have crazy people all the time killing folks because of movies like Batman, or because they imagine that famous people, like Jodie Foster, are communicating with them trough hidden messages, but no one, to my knowledge, has ever done anything even remotely terrible as a result of this song, which is clearly urging listeners to act on ominous, unspecified plans, promising that, if they do, they’ll be looked after by magic forces?

Who the fuck needs to get messages from a talking dog when you have something like this in popular culture?

Here it is, for those of you who have never had the pleasure. Let me know if you agree.

[note: A close second on the all time most upsetting list would be Hellen Reddy’s Angie Baby, followed by something from the Throbbing Gristle catalog, like Hamburger Lady.]

Posted in Art and Culture, Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

“You bed-pissing rednecks are a fucking disgrace to this country”

I’ve spent the last few days among the fudgies of Mackinac Island, and I’m finding it difficult to transition back into the real world. While I’m trying to work things out, here’s something for you to discuss.

Speaking of Romney’s dancing horse, does anyone know when it’s scheduled to make its appearance at the Olympics? I want to show Clementine what we as a nation got for our $77,000 investment.

And, if you don’t want to talk about this letter, or about Romney’s dancing horse, feel free to leave a comment about Mackinac Island. I’d love to know your thoughts on why a small town that smells of horse shit and fudge is such a hit with successful old white men and their second families.

Posted in Other | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments 10th anniversary party September 8

As we discussed in January, the tenth anniversary of this site is fast approaching, and I’ve been thinking of constructive, creative ways to mark the occasion… Well, things are finally beginning to take shape, and I have a date for you to enter into your iPhones, carve into your thighs, shave into the fur of your pets, etc. The event will take place at Woodruff’s on the evening of Saturday, September 8. As of right now, I’m only at liberty to tell you that Minus9 will be performing, but I can assure you that the evening will be action packed. (If we play our cards right, I even think that a certain someone could be persuaded to come out of retirement for the night.)

I’ve got a few ideas as to what we could do between bands, but I’d love to hear your thoughts as well… I don’t know if I could persuade any of them to come out, but I’m thinking, for instance, that it would be fun to get some of our more beloved trolls on stage to address the crowd. (A Troll Talent Show, maybe. Wouldn’t it be cool to see EOS singing Bohemian Rhapsody?) Or, if they refuse, maybe we could get a few folks to do dramatic readings of some of their more epic, hate-filled comments. (Do you have favorites to suggest?) And Linette was thinking that it would be fun if people brought interesting items with them, so that we could have a Community Show and Tell, which I think sounds promising. And, while I don’t think I’m qualified to receive the key to the city, I do think that it would be kind of cool if the Mayor would come out, with tears in his eyes, and say something heartfelt and beautiful about how much worse off the city would be without this blog.

Oh, and I’ve decided that, whatever we do, we’ll charge $5 at the door and give all of the money, at the end of the night, to Fly Chirldren’s Art Center to fund their work in Ypsi schools.

And, yes, this is what I’ve chosen to write about tonight, rather than Romney’s Israel trip.

[note: This is so serious of an undertaking, I’ve even made a Facebook event page for it.]

Posted in Mark's Life, Media, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

On once making eye contact with Sherman Hemsley, or some other short, balding, black man drinking wine

When I heard yesterday that Sherman Hemsley had died at the age of 74, I was reminded of an afternoon several years ago in Ann Arbor spent staring over a beer at a man I believed to the iconic character actor. He was sitting a few seats away, drinking by himself. I think I was at Old Town, but I can’t remember for sure. I know that the sun was up, though, and that he was sitting by a window, just kind of staring forward. (I can still picture the light on his face.) I made a mental note to go home and see if I could figure out what he was doing in town, but I don’t think I ever did anything about it. (I figured he must be doing dinner theater somewhere nearby… maybe a revival of Love Letters with Isabel Sanford, or something) As I don’t have a photo of him, I’m assuming it happened before I got my first good cell phone, with would have put it over a half dozen years ago. As for why I didn’t approach him, even though he looked as though he would have been totally receptive to it, I’m not sure. I’m inclined to say that I was just nervous and shy, as I’m always nervous and shy, but I think the possibility that it might not have been him, may have also factored into my decision. I can’t recall exactly, but I imagine it may have crossed my mind that a story about seeing someone who could have been Hemsley across the room, was better than a story about me asking a short, balding, non-famous black man for his autograph. Whatever the reason, I didn’t say anything to him. I just sat there, staring. And, right now, I find myself regretting it.

With that, I’d like to share the following 1981 episode of The Jeffersons, entitled “Sorry, Wrong Meeting.” (It’s the episode in which George saves the life of a Klansman.)

Speaking of Hemsley, if that was him in Ann Arbor, and I had it to do all over again, I’d sit down and ask him to explain the appeal of his favorite psychedelic rock band, Gong.

The following story comes by way of Gong’s Daevid Allen. (Allen was also in the band Soft Machine.) The rest of the story can be found in Magnet magazine.

It was 1978 or 1979, and Sherman Hemsley kept ringing me up. I didn’t know him from a bar of soap because we didn’t have television in Spain (where I was living). He called me from Hollywood saying, ‘I’m one of your biggest fans and I’m going to fly you here and put flying teapots all up and down the Sunset Strip.’ I thought, ‘This guy is a lunatic.’ He kept it up so I said, ‘Listen, can you get us tickets to L.A. via Jamaica? I want to go there to make a reggae track and have a honeymoon with my new girlfriend.’ He said, ‘Sure! I’ll get you two tickets.’

I thought, ‘Well, even if he’s a nut case at least he’s coming up with the goodies.’ The tickets arrived and we had this great honeymoon in Jamaica. Then we caught the plane across to L.A. We had heard Sherman was a big star, but we didn’t know the details. Coming down the corridor from the plane, I see this black guy with a whole bunch of people running after him trying to get autographs. Anyway, we get into this stretch limousine with Sherman and immediately there’s a big joint being passed around. I say, ‘Sorry man, I don’t smoke.’ Sherman says, ‘You don’t smoke and you’re from Gong?’

Inside the front door of Sherman’s house was a sign saying, ‘Don’t answer the door because it might be the man.’ There were two Puerto Ricans that had a LSD laboratory in his basement, so they were really paranoid. They also had little crack/freebase depots on every floor. Then Sherman says, ‘Come on upstairs and I’ll show you the Flying Teapot room.’ Sherman was very sweet but was surrounded by these really crazy people…

Sadly, I don’t think any current sitcom stars are fans of my band.

Oh, and if you want to honor Hemsley’s memory today, how about listening to a few of his old All in the Family rants over a soundtrack of Gong’s Flying Teapot? And, if you really want to have a good time, how about watching him dance on Soul Train at the same time? I think he’d like that.

Posted in Ann Arbor, Art and Culture, Monkey Power Trio, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments


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