Is it possible that our local white supremacists don’t realize that not all Civil War memorials celebrate the Confederacy?

Earlier today, the following social media post was forwarded to a reader of this site, who, in turn, shared it with me. It apparently shows white supremacist literature at the base of Ypsilanti’s Civil War memorial in Highland Cemetery.

At the bottom of the above image, you’ll notice one of the comments that was left in response to the post by a member of the white supremacist group that left the literature. “As a Michigander,” the man writes next to his profile photo of Hitler, “this photo brings me great joy.” He then goes on to say, “Hail our People!”

OK, so I’m not so sure how to tell you this, but… if you’re the white supremacist to came out this morning to visit our Civil War memorial… you should probably know that not all Civil War memorials glorify the Confederacy. In fact, some, like this one that you left your lovely bouquet on, actually memorialize the men who gave their lives to stop the traitors against America, like Robert E. Lee, who you so admire. I know it’s a subtle difference, but it’s one that I think you should probably be aware of.

That’s right, the “heritage” you’re “honoring,” when you lay your flowers at this particular monument, isn’t one of racism, but of free black men, and escaped black slaves, joining together with white Michiganders to save the Republic and free those in bondage. And, in fact, this monument marks where many of these men, both black and white, lie buried together… So, yes, by all means, let’s honor the heritage of those men who lay beneath the marker you found in Ypsilanti today that says “They Died To Make Their Country Free.” They were good men, and they died for a noble cause.

You might also be interested to know that this monument, where you decided to share your literature today, was erected in 1895, not just with funds collected from Ypsilanti’s vibrant abolitionist community, but with a contribution from the all-black “John Brown Post” of the Grand Army of the Republic in Detroit. [John Brown, for those who may not recognize the name, was executed in 1859 for his attempt to incite a slave insurrection in Virginia.] I suspect, wherever the spirits of these men may be right now, they’d be happy to know that you’re helping to bring recognition to their heroic work to “make America great.”

I think I probably already made it clear, but it’s worth repeating… Just because a monument mentions the Civil War, doesn’t mean it acknowledges, even just a little bit, the validity of the Confederate cause. As Ypsilanti historian Matt Siegfried mentioned to me this evening, “13,000 Michiganders died fighting the Confederacy, and I don’t know of a single one that died fighting for it.” This monument, in other words, is explicitly, without question, a Union monument… Siegfried went on to say that this section of Highland Cemetery was almost surely “sacred space for the generation of local activists that fought against slavery.” Near this monument, he told me, leading local abolitionist Helen McAndrew is also buried, as well as white officers who fought in the Colored Troops regiments.

So, yeah, you really couldn’t have picked a worse place to make your statement about how we need to remember the Civil War and what our ancestors fought for.

Oh, and that reader of mine who found out about this on social media earlier today, went right to Highland Cemetery and tore up the racist literature that had been left at the base of the monument. Because, as much as some things may change in Ypsi, there’s one thing that will always remain constant… We won’t tolerate shit like this.

Posted in History, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

If only all the MAGA hats were manufactured by Silver Shamrock Inc.

I know I said that I’d be taking a little time away from the blog to think, but I need to ask you all something… I thought I posted something really good on Twitter earlier this evening, and, as no one seemed to care for it, I’m curious as to what might have gone wrong. Could it be that people just don’t appreciate references to Halloween III: Season of the Witch the way they used to? Or is it maybe that I crossed some kind of line, like Kathy Griffin, by suggesting that MAGA hats might contain microchips that, when activated by the right television commercial, could summon a swarm of flesh-eating snakes and insects to completely consume the head of whichever Trump supporter might be wearing the hat? Or is it just that I took a truly brilliant idea and just delivered it poorly? Should I have, instead, said something like, “Put on your Silver Shamrock MAGA hats tonight at 9:00 and tune in to FOX News to catch the new NRA ad. I hear it’s going to be huge!”? Or, does the idea just kind of suck? What do you think? I need your help.

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Hurricane Harvey has taken me to a dark place

I think I’m suffering from outrage overload. I just don’t want to write about anything anymore. There’s too much that needs to be said, and I have too little time, energy and talent to do it justice. I find myself just sitting here, staring at my screen, paralyzed by the thought that, as soon as I hit “publish,” there will be ten other things that deserve more attention than whatever it was that I just wrote about. And, really, if we’re being completely honest, what good does posting here even do? Maybe, if I’m lucky, 1,000 people read something that I’ve written, 50 of whom “like” it on Facebook, and maybe 3 or 4 share it on Twitter, where it quickly gets lost in the ocean of memes.

Today, I found myself wondering, if, in the whole scheme of things, I would have had more of a positive impact in the world, if, 15 years ago, instead of starting this blog, I’d started working a part-time night job, donating whatever I’d made to an organization, like the ACLU, that could have put it to good use. I mean, I know some people out there find value in what I write here, and I know that some positive things have happened as a result of this blog over the years, but, looking at it objectively, I’m tempted to say that I could have accomplished more if I’d taken the 25 hours or so a week that I’ve worked on this site, spent that time instead working behind the counter at Starbucks, and funneled whatever I made into something more impactful. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I could find a second job that would pay $10 a hour, and worked 25 hours a week – that’s $13,00 a year before taxes. And just think how many copies of Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny I could buy for that and leave on city busses with that, or how many scholarships I could help fund for promising young journalists. But, instead, I choose to spend my time, like I am right now, thinking about clever ways to twist a serious post about global climate change so that I can work in a mention of Donald Trump’ new baseball cap or our First Lady’s inappropriate choice for flood zone footwear

[above: While Trump, during his brief stop in Texas today, didn’t mention the fact that over a dozen Americans thus far had lost their lives as a result of Hurricane Harvey, did take the opportunity to introduce a new hat, which is available through his website for $40, the proceeds from which will not go to charity, but to him directly.]

Sorry to drag you into this. I guess I’m just feeling a bit defeated at the moment, like nothing really matters. I think it’s Hurricane Harvey’s fault… Apparently, I can handle the idea that Trump conspired with the Russians to steal the presidency, but I can’t handle images of American highways under 20 feet of water. I guess it’s because, in the case of Trump, there might still be a real, tangible solution available to us. Robert Mueller, assuming he can prove there were crimes committed, could theoretically set in motion a chain of events that not only drives Trump from the White House in disgrace, but puts him in prison. In the case of the so-called “500-year storm” that just hit the Texas coast, though, what is there that we can really do? We’ve allowed ourselves to be lied to over the past 30 years about global climate change, and now we really don’t have much choice, as far as I can tell, but to accept the consequences. I suppose, if we acted quickly, and decisively, we might avoid the worst of it, but there’s not really any turning back now, is there? We’re well down the path to extinction, and there’s no sign that our leaders want to even try to change course, despite what we’re seeing unfold… Trump is still telling us that he intends to open more coal mines, and his fellow Republicans continue to question climate science, even as these “once in a lifetime” events keep happening, and more people keep losing their lives.

So, yeah, I feel a bit defeated by the collective stupidity of the American people at the moment… those people who chose to elect a man completely devoid of empathy to be our leader… a man who, instead of comforting those who have lost everything, chose today to note the size of the crowd that had come out in the rain to see him.

[above: “What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump declares triumphantly in Texas, as though he’s on the campaign trail, and not standing in a state where some have lost everything.]

It’s not just Trump, though. It’s everything that made Trump possible. All the years spent convincing the American people that laws protecting their clean drinking water were somehow anti-American. The fake news networks suggesting that our first black president wasn’t an American at all, but a Kenyan marxist who had been programmed from birth to destroy our country. The defunding of public education. The acceptance of corporate dollars as free speech. The false equivalency between what scientists say on one side of a debate, and what lobbyists say on the other… We’ve spent decades chipping away at the very foundation of America, and this is what we’re left with. Trump isn’t an aberration. Trump, I’d argue, is a perfect reflection of America as it exists today.

And yet we keep telling ourselves that all of this might somehow change. The New York Times asked today, if Hurricane Harvey offered Trump “an opportunity to recapture some of the unifying power of his office. The answer, of course, is an emphatic “no.” It just gave Trump an opportunity to model a new “USA” baseball cap, which, by the way, you can purchase for $40 on his website, and talk excitedly about how this “record breaking” flood was making members of his administration “famous on television,” all while absolutely ignoring the dead and the suffering.

But, yes, some apparently thought that the man who, just a few years ago, said the following about his predecessor’s response to a natural disaster, might someone evolve into a better man… someone seeking to harness the “unifying power of his office.”

No, my friends, the world sucks, and we’re all going to die… Yes, I know that there was a lot of beauty to be seen in Houston, as individual Americans stepped forward to help one another, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re too short-sighted, stupid and fearful to deserve a big, beautiful planet like this one that we’ve been given.

[above: I want to believe that scenes, like this one above, reflect who we actually are as Americans more than the fact that we’ve chosen leaders like Trump, Cruz and Cornyn, but I don’t think it does. In response to accute emergencies, we tend to do the right thing as a nation, and I have no doubt there will be epic demonstrations of love and decency as we approach extinction, but we lack the ability in our daily lives to get beyond our fear and anger, and work together toward a better future. And that will be our undoing.]

Just two quick illustrations of how short-sighted and stupid we are, before I throw my laptop across the room and proceed to cry myself to sleep.

First, from Newsweek, we have a clip from an incredible piece about how freedom from regulation helped make the events unfolding in Houston today possible.

We do value our freedom here in Texas. As I write from soggy Central Texas, the cable news is showing people floating down Buffalo Bayou on their principles, proud residents of the largest city in these United States that did not grow in accordance with zoning ordinances.

The feeling there was that persons who own real estate should be free to develop it as they wish. Houston, also known as the Bayou City, is a great location because of its access to international shipping in the Gulf of Mexico. It is not a great location for building, though, because of all its impervious cover. If water could easily sink into the ground, there would be less of it ripping down Houston’s rivers that just a week ago were overcrowded streets…

Houston was built without regard for the carrying capacity of its roads, just as it was built without regulating the amount of impervious cover that would be shedding water into streets, storm sewers, rivers and Buffalo Bayou…

And, second, we have this from Vox about Trump’s recent rollback of Obama era flood preparedness standards.

Since 2015, infrastructure projects paid for by federal dollars have had to plan ahead for floods and water damage. But when Houston and surrounding towns start to rebuild after floodwaters recede from Tropical Storm Harvey, they won’t be required to plan ahead for the next big storm.

That’s because on August 15, President Trump rolled back the Federal Flood Risk Mitigation Standard, an Obama-era regulation. The 2015 directive, which never fully went into effect, required public infrastructure projects that received taxpayer dollars to do more planning for floods, including elevating their structures to avoid future water damage and alleviate the burden on taxpayers.

Trump characterized his move as repealing an onerous government regulation and streamlining the infrastructure approval process. But he was criticized by both environmental groups and conservatives, who said it made sense to try to protect federal investments.

…The federal government spent about $277 billion on relief aid from 2005 to 2014, responding to natural disasters like Harvey, according to a 2016 report from the federal Government Accountability Office.

Flood mitigation projects, however, got only a fraction of federal money — the same GAO report found that FEMA spent only about $600 million on mitigation efforts in the same time span.

The flood risk mitigation regulation was supposed to help reverse that trend. While elevating structures would cost more money upfront, the Obama administration reasoned they would save taxpayers more in the long run, so they wouldn’t have to keep shelling out money to rebuild destroyed buildings. Flood mitigation has a 4-1 payback, experts say.

So the Federal Flood Risk Mitigation Standard tried to reduce flood risk with a three-pronged approach:

– It encouraged new projects to be built on higher ground, away from flood-prone areas.

– New infrastructure projects also had to be flood-proofed — new roads and railways would have to be 2 feet above the 100-year flood elevation standard and new hospitals 3 feet above.

– Infrastructure projects also had the option to build to standards so they would be safe from a 500-year flood — an extreme but low-probability event on the scale of Hurricane Harvey.

So, yeah, that’s where we are today… pushing fossil fuels over renewables, cutting regulations in the name of freedom without any thought as to the ramifications, and rolling back legislation intended to mitigate the effects of global warming… And, for what it’s worth, none of this has anything to do with Donald Trump. We started down this path a long, long time ago, and it doesn’t look as though we’ll be leaving it any time soon.

Posted in Mark's Life, Politics, Rants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 78 Comments

Our word of the day is “leverage”

A few days ago, I suggested on this site that Donald Trump, by pardoning Joe Arpaio, was signaling that he wouldn’t leave office willingly, like Nixon, but instead intended to fight, even if it meant fracturing the GOP, and perhaps the entire country, beyond repair. By rewarding Arpaio for his blatant contempt for civil rights law and the U.S. justice system, and, on the same day, signing a directive illegally banning transgender military recruits from the U.S. armed services as a gift to the anti-LGBTQ community, I suggested that Trump was readying his base for war. And, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think that’s probably the case. There’s simply no other reason why Trump would be holding rallies now, and going out of his way to give the impression that he shares common cause with America’s white supremacists. It certainly doesn’t serve any legislative agenda. It doesn’t help with the repeal of Obamacare. And it doesn’t help pass tax reform. It only serves one purpose, and that is to remind McConnell and Ryan that he still has over 20% of the electorate in his pocket, hyped up, and ready to make their lives a living hell if they should, say, initiate impeachment proceedings against him. It’s a straight-up intimidation play on the part of Trump… If you listen closely, he’s not threatening Democrats. He’s threatening people like McConnell and Flake… members of his own party.

Well, as all of this was swirling around in my head today, I started listening to the most recent episode of Pod Save America, in which former White House Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau and Obama administration Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer discuss in some length the appeal Trump has over his base, and, in turn, the hold Trump has over the GOP. It’s incredibly interesting stuff, and, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put quite so simply, or as well, I thought that I’d share some of it here… To listen to the whole episode, just follow the link above. Here, however, is a brief audio clip, as well as a partial transcript of what Dan Pfeiffer had to say about the dynamics at play between Trump, his supporters, and the GOP establishment.

…Here’s what (Trump) gives his voters. A voice. They believe no one speaks for them, and that Trump is the first person to do that. And that’s a whole array of things; their hatred of elites, racial animus, economics, trade… a whole host of things. It’s identity, not ideology. And he speaks to that identity. He speaks to white victimization among a certain subset of the population. And they believe no other Republican does that. And they are accurate in that, because most of these other Republicans are most comfortable negotiating tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street. That’s their ideology. And they love trade. They are a Wall Street party with a working class voter base. But if you are Trump, and you look at the world, you’re like, “These Congressional Republicans do not like me. They did not want me. They are looking at Russia. They already screwed me on this Russia sanctions bill. The Democrats hate me. What is my one piece of leverage?” Why is it that Mitch McConnell, who is a pretty tough SOB, basically just bends at the knee for Tump (in response to his) attacks, and just doesn’t respond? It’s because Trump’s leverage is his voters. And as long as he holds those voters, they can’t do anything to him. That’s why Paul Ryan will attack neo-Nazis, but never say Trump’s name. He’s afraid to say Trump’s name because he’s afraid of the voters. Now, I would argue that’s not a great strategy to get reelected (if you’re Trump). A pure base strategy is not a great strategy to get reelected in 2020, but it may be a good way to survive the next four years. Because it’s what he holds over the Republicans… Trump’s strategy, I think, is instinctual, not intellectual. I don’t think he has thought this through in any real way. But I do think he sort of gets negotiation and leverage… Everything with Trump is a negotiation over marble countertops, you know, “How much it going to cost for granite counters in a new apartment building?” He’s negotiating with contractors. So his strategy is leverage… Trump only wants to remain in power and be applauded for being in power…

And there you have it. What we recently saw in Phoenix was nothing more than the opening salvo in a high-stakes negotiation over granite countertops… only, instead of countertops, it’s the future of humanity in the balance.

Oh, and speaking of white victimization, here’s a example of some propaganda currently being distributed in Iowa and Illinois… This, my friends, is what we’re up against. And we can’t count on our president to fight alongside us, as he needs these people.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Good luck ever attracting another Hispanic voter to the GOP

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

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