Trump, from the comfort of his New Jersey golf club, calls out the men and women of Puerto Rico for being lazy and ungrateful as they fight for their lives

Yesterday, a full 10 days after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, the Mayor of San Juan, unsatisfied by the response of the United States government to the crisis being faced by her constituents, made the decision to go on the offensive. Calling out the “inefficiency” and “bureaucracy” that was preventing aid from reaching those in need, Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz declared, “I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell.” And, shortly thereafter, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase, “Help us, We are dying,” Yulin Cruz went on CNN to both challenge the positive assessment by Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, who had referred to the government’s response thus far as a “good news story,” and demand that more be done for the people of Puerto Rico, who are still very much at risk.

Well, as you might imagine, this didn’t sit well with Donald Trump, who, as we know, tends to get angry when not being praised. And, this morning, he went on the attack, talking about himself in the third-person, and ranting about how ungrateful and lazy the people of Puerto Rico are, and how terrible a leader Yulin Cruz is. He sent these tweets out, it should be noted, from the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where, it would seem, he’d gone to do a little golfing, and relax after spending a grueling few days lying to the American people about how the proposed Republican tax reform plan would “protect low-income and middle-income households, not the wealthy and well-connected”, when, in fact, it would actually do the exact opposite, raising taxes on the middle class, and putting trillions of dollars into the pockets of the 1%… Here, if you can stomach it, are a few of Trump’s tweets directed at the Mayor of San Juan and the people of Puerto Rico.

First, though, you should know that, as of right now, at least 16 people are known to be dead in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria, and the subsequent losses of power, water, etc. According to a report just issued by CNN, now 11 days since Hurricane Maria hit, 95% of people are still without regular electrical service, only 10.7% of the island’s cell towers are operational, some communities are still completely cut off, and the likelihood of a full-blown public health crisis is growing rapidly. It’s also worth noting that the entire island is under a flash flood watch until late tomorrow, as yet another 2 to 4 inches of rain could fall, according to the National Weather Service.

So, yes, our President, when confronted by a humanitarian crisis impacting the lives of some 3.4 million tax-paying American citizens, chose to respond by saying that they should essentially pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and stop looking to the federal government for help. [Puerto Rico, for those of you who might not be aware, is an American territory, and the people who live there are American citizens.] And, as if that weren’t enough, he chose to attack the Mayor of San Juan for her “poor leadership.”

Can you just imagine what the response would be if Trump had said the same thing to the people of say, Connecticut, which is approximately the same size as Puerto Rico, after a natural disaster… if he’d told the people looking for the bodies of their loved ones that they should stop complaining about not having food and clean drinking water, and instead be more self-reliant?

I can’t wait to see what kind of greeting he and the First Lady receive on Tuesday, when they’re expected to visit Puerto Rico and assess the damage.

Here, for those of you who might be interested, is a photo of Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. In it, you can see her walking through the flooded streets of San Juan, checking on the health and safety of her constituents… And, yes, this is the woman who Trump attacked from his private golf club for having “poor leadership” during this crisis.

Russel L. Honoré, the retired lieutenant general who assumed command of the Hurricane Katrina response in 2005 after the initial federal effort proved inadequate, had the following to say earlier today on CNN… “The mayor’s living on a cot, and I hope the president has a good day at golf.”

But, this is how Trump responds to criticism, and he apparently didn’t like seeing the Mayor on CNN, telling Anderson Cooper, that, 10 days after the storm, there are people “drinking out of creeks in San Juan” and old, retired people “caged in their own buildings,” because Trump, for a week, refused to act, choosing instead to focus his attention on the fact that several NFL players had chosen to kneel for the national anthem.

Trump, in his defense, has explained that it’s not a trivial task to get aid to the island, due to the fact that it’s surrounded by “big water… ocean water.”

In conclusion, I’m sorry if it comes across as offensive, but, if, either by not voting, or voting for any candidate other than Hillary Clinton, you helped put this unstable, cruel and hateful monster of a man into power, fuck you. You have not only made our nation a laughing stock, and considerably weakened our democratic institutions, but you have put your fellow citizens in grave danger, and one can only hope that, one day, you are paid back in full for what you’ve done. This moment in history that we’re living through is not only terrifyingly awful, but it was also absolutely foreseeable. And, if you played any part in making this happen, especially if you still refuse to publicly accept responsibility, and actively join the resistance, you’re just a much a part of the problem as Donald Trump. The time to sit on the sidelines and hope that he evolves into a legitimate president, is over. We have all the evidence that we need.

Posted in Environment, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 130 Comments

Who really paid for Ypsilanti city officials to visit China?

While I suspect there’s still more to come out, it would appear as though the trip to China that Ypsilanti’s Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, Police Chief and Economic Development Director are currently on, may not have been paid for by the Wayne State University Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA), as we had been told, but by the Chinese government. Whether or not this constitutes a violation of City statute remains to be seen, but, given how this all went down, it certainly doesn’t look good for any of the parties involved.

Here, based largely on social medias posts, what I picked up during the last City Council meeting, and reporting by Tom Perkins for the Detroit Metro Times, is my understanding of how we got to where we are today, and the situation as it currently stands.

1. At some point this past fall, Troy-based, Chinese-American developer Amy Xue Foster, after making a formal bid to purchase Ypsilanti’s 38-acre Water Street property, offered to take a local delegation to China, ostensibly to discuss Chinese architecture, help sell the idea of an Ypsilanti development to Chinese investors, and meet the other members of the Xue Foster’s team that would be working to help bring her 1,600 unit “International Village” concept to reality. This offer, according to a May 24 email by City Attorney John Barr, as reported by the Detroit Metro Times, would have been both unethical and illegal under city statue. “Members of city council have traveled overseas in the past, but only at their own cost,” Barr’s email said. “If a city employee or mayor or council member wanted to go to China, it would be OK if they paid for it themselves, but if the developer paid, it would be unethical and illegal under the city code.” Council Member Dan Vogt, according to the Metro Times, then wrote in response, “I agree it would not be ethical if they or someone on their behalf paid. I also am not clear why it would be useful.”

2. Fortunately for the developer, and the four individuals who would be taking the trip to China, though, an alternate source of funding emerged. On September 11, Ypsilanti Economic Development Director Beth Ernat sent an email to members of City Council, alerting them to the fact that the Wayne State University Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA) had come forward with the funds necessary to send the entire Ypsilanti delegation to China. This, as you might imagine, raised some questions, as it didn’t seem to make much sense that a student group would have that kind of money, or, for that matter, an interest in a Ypsilanti real estate, but the trip was booked. And, now, as I’m writing this, Mayor Amanda Edmonds, Mayor Pro Tem Nicole Brown, Police Chief Tony DeGiusti, and Economic Development Director Beth Ernat are in Beijing. [They left on September 21, and are scheduled to return October 2.]

3. Today, the Metro Times published a story in which a representative of the the Wayne State University Chinese Student and Scholar Association, through a WSU press officer, confirmed that the money used to fund the trip wasn’t theirs, but had been given to them by a representative of Amy Xue Foster’s International Village, LLC. This, if true, would indicate, of course, that the developer, perhaps with the knowledge of Ypsilanti officials, deliberately misled the public in order to circumvent the ethics rules noted above… As it turns out, though, things may not be that cut and dry. According to Ypsilanti City Council Member Pete Murdock, the money given to the Wayne State student group by representatives of International Village, LLC, may not have been the development group’s money after all, but money secured from the Chinese government through the Chinese consulate in Chicago. And, if that’s the case, I’m not certain what the legal implications might be. If I had to guess, I’d say that a trip like this, if funded by a foreign government, wouldn’t look as bad as a trip funded by the developer, who, in this case, would have a great deal to gain from wining and dining those members of City Council who would later be voting to sell the property and sign-off on the development plans, but I’m no lawyer. Either way, though, I think we’d probably all agree that it doesn’t look good.

All I can say is that, I hope, for the sake of my friends in Ypsi city government, that they were unaware of how all of this came to pass, and really believed that their tickets for China, accommodations, food and drink, etc, had been purchased by the Wayne State student group, as they told us at that late-night City Council meeting just before they left for Beijing. If not, I’m afraid this might not just kill the International Village development, but severely damage the City’s credibility with its citizens, and possibly even cut short a few careers.

Regardless of who knew, and when they knew it, can we all agree that this doesn’t look good for the developer, who clearly made the decision to deceive the public about the source of the funds, instead of just coming forward and saying that they had been secured from the Chinese consulate?

OK, so let’s assume that members of our City Council didn’t know that this Chinese student group was just being used as a front organization to pass funds though to the City in hopes of skirting ethics laws. I mean, I suppose it’s possible that they suspected something wasn’t right, and just chose to ignore the warning signs, as they didn’t want to offend the developer, and possibly jeopardize the project, but I can’t believe that they would have gone on the trip if they’d known for certain, especially considering that the Metro Times was already asking questions about the source of the funds before the plane even took off for China. So, assuming that they didn’t know, is it likely that anyone on City Council would now agree to move forward with this project, knowing that they’d been purposefully misled? As I said a few weeks ago, when we first discussed the possibility that we could have been lied to about the source of these funds, I’m thinking that “(this should) be enough to kill the deal outright.” I mean, I can’t imagine anyone on Council could cast their vote for the project after this, right?

OK, so that’s where we are as of right now… According to Tom Perkins, he’s reached out to the developer, and our city leaders currently in China, but none of them have yet come forward with comments. Let’s hope that, when they do, this doesn’t get even worse.

Here, for those of you who might still want more, is the Facebook post just shared by Pete Murdock.

And, here is a clip from the Metro Times about how they tracked down the finances of the Wayne State student group.

…That prompted a Sept. 18 email from Metro Times to WSU press officer Matt Lockwood. It inquired about the CSSA’s status and how it receives funds. Lockwood says that the CSSA is a university-sanctioned group, and it has two bank accounts, both of which are and have been nearly empty for several years.

During a Sept. 20 phone call, David Strauss, WSU’s dean of students, confirmed that the CSSA had no money in its accounts.

“We checked both accounts for this organization. They do not have the funds that they would have to have to pay for this kind of travel. Historically… there wasn’t a big deposit, or withdrawal, either,” he told Metro Times.

Strauss adds that student groups aren’t required to keep all funds in university accounts, and the university doesn’t closely monitor groups’ financial activities…

Metro Times then asked Lockwood to connect us with the student group because there is no contact information for it on WSU’s website or elsewhere. He wrote in a Sept. 22 email to Metro Times that a representative of the CSSA explained to him that the CSSA “was approached by International Village, LLC to help with a cultural exchange.”

“The student group agreed to purchase airline tickets for the trip with money from the company, and assist in providing some volunteers to help with the cultural exchange because the group’s goal is to teach people about Chinese culture,” Lockwood wrote in the email. “He said at the time they were approached that they were not aware of the [International Village] project in Ypsilanti.”…

And, if you still want more, you can check out my post from last week, where I laid out my major concerns about the International Village development.

Posted in Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 74 Comments

Paul Ryan justifies lower taxes on America’s most wealthy by reminding us that, contrary to what we might think, the Bangles are no longer culturally relevant

This week, the Republicans are supposed to be sharing the long-awaited details of their tax reform plan, which, according to those in the know, will likely be ‘a massive windfall’ for Americans most wealthy. And, in advance of the announcement, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has apparently been given the task of convincing us that drastic reform [AKA a massive tax giveaway to the rich] is needed, in spite of the fact that corporate profits are at near record highs, and the wealth gap between the rich and poor in America is growing, all while worker pay has grown stagnant.

So, let’s say it was you who had been given the task of selling a deal to the American people, which, according to reporting by the Washington Post, will likely “lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, and lower the top individual income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent.” How would you go about it? What facts would you use to make the case?

Well, here’s how the brilliant policy wonk Paul “I’d rather be watching myself lift weights” Ryan chose to go about it, once again demonstrating just how little he thinks for his constituents.

That’s right, he made the case that, “Well, of course the tax system needs to change, because, as you can clearly see, we once had the Bangles, and now we have Taylor Swift.”

It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Of course, it still doesn’t answer the question why the rich need billions of dollars back in taxes. I mean, let’s say that Ryan is right, and that Taylor Swift isn’t the Bangles, and let’s, for the sake of argument, accept the fact that this clearly demonstrates that drastic action has to be taken immediately for the good of the nation… why would that mean that we should cut taxes on the most wealthy? I mean, couldn’t this dramatic shift from the Bangles to Taylor Swift not just suggest, but, dare I say it, demand, that we institute at 90% tax rate on our most wealthy? Couldn’t that be the message the Bangles are trying to send us from beyond the grave?

Remind me the next time there’s a protest… I want to bring a, “Raise Taxes Now. Taylor Swift Is Not The Bangles.”

I don’t know that it’s a perfect analogy, but I started thinking about other major pieces of legislation that we could roll back, based on the fact that #1 songs in our country have changed. I chose the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as it’s one of my favorite pieces of legislation, and since I was curious as to who was at the top of the charts on July 2, 1964, when President Johnson signed it into law… Well, it was Peter and Gordon, with “A World Without Love.” And I don’t think I need to tell you that Peter and Gordon are no Cardi B. Therefore, it only stands to reason that we no longer need a Civil Rights Act, right?

Apparently this is how little the leaders of the GOP think of the American people. They think, just because they were able to stop much of Democratic agenda under Obama with memes, that they can lead the country in the same fashion, and it just won’t work, as we saw with their repeated failures to pass Trumpcare. It’s one thing to stir shit up, and make people angry by telling them lies, if you want to stop things from happening. It’s another altogether, however, to lie your way into coherent policy. But, as that’s all the Republican party has left at this point, they’ve apparently decided to keep at it, lying to the American people, and trying to push legislation through without really understanding what the ramifications of passage might be. And, sadly, when it comes to tax reform, they may actually have a shot at it, unless we organize to stop them…. After all, who are we to ignore the ghostly warnings of the Bangles?

And, I should add, this whole “Bangles v. Swift” thing isn’t the only message that Ryan has to work with. He’s also got a brilliant pitch about how, if you support the Republicans, you’re tax form will get a lot easier. And, according to Ryan, you may even save a few dollars. Of course, what he doesn’t tell you is that, while you might be paying a little less, America’s most wealthy will be paying a whole lot less, which will mean less well funded schools for your kids, fewer public parks, and an “every man for himself” health care system that will likely lower your lifespan, among other things. But, yeah, you’ll be able to pay your taxes with a postcard, and maybe get back an extra $5, which you can then promptly spend on a sack of leeches, or a secondhand cartridge for your respirator.

Thankfully, I’m getting the sense that the American people might finally be starting to figure out that the entire GOP is nothing more that a front organization being used by Trump, Ryan and others, to further the economic interests of our American oligarchs, like the Koch brothers and the Mercers. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

So, yeah, Ryan can keep standing in front of Harleys, like he just did in Wisconsin, and telling us that his tax plan is going to be good for the common man, but we know the truth. It’ll be the “Kimmel test” all over again, with them making promises, not living up to them, and getting caught. And, hopefully, when that happens, we’re ready to call them on it, and take the fight to the street.

Posted in Economics, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Document Ypsi 2017 …next weekend

A few days ago, while walking aimlessly through downtown Ypsilanti, I found myself trying to remember what Pears, the men’s clothing store that used to be 100 West Michigan Avenue, in the space now occupied by Dalat, used to sell. All I can picture is a rack of very old, wide-collared “Playboy” brand pajamas, all packaged up in yellowing plastic, still waiting to be bought some 20 years after they’d first been shipped out for sale. I can’t remember anything else about the shop – just that one little, fleeting fragment of a memory – and there’s nothing at all available online, which I find odd, given that it held that space for about three decades. But it got me thinking about how poorly everyday life in our city is documented, and how, every day, things are being lost… especially the little things that make his place feel unique, and give it character. Sure, thanks to cell phone cameras, we might have a photo of a storefront, but what about the details of what goes on inside? What about the ice cream flavors being offed at Go Ice Cream, the happy hour drink menu at Haab’s, or the front window display at Black Stone Bookstore… the stuff behind the sign and the architecture, that lend context?

Maybe I’m thinking a lot about this right now because of our discussion concerning the evolution of Water Street. It bothers me that, for all the time I’ve spent on that property, I don’t really remember the industrial buildings that once stood there. I have a vague sense of them, and I’m sure I could find photos in the City files, but I can’t remember the little details, like how the lettering on the old cinderblock walls was chipping away, or the pieces of rusted metal that used to jut out of the ground everywhere on the site. Maybe it’s just because history interests me, but I feel like, as a community, we could probably do a better job of not just protecting what needs protecting, but also recording what we can, whether it be by way of photo, video, or audio recording. And that’s what I want to talk with you about today… a little experiment.

The weekend after this one coming up, I’m thinking of spending some time making my way around Ypsi with the kids, photographing stuff and uploading it to the tubes, where, if anyone wants to find it later, they can… And, maybe, to make things easier, I’m thinking that I’ll tag everything with something like #DocumentYpsi2017.

If you want to join me, I’d love to have your help. It’s going to be First Friday in Ypsilanti anyway, so I suspect that people will be out, and the weather should still be nice. So, I’m thinking that we could give it a shot… trying to document things about Ypsilanti that don’t normally get documented… the graffiti under the bridges, the fish being caught in the river, what the kids are wearing these days, how much things cost at the drugstore, etc. It would be like a little time capsule for future generations, showing them what our lives look like at this very moment in time.

If you do what to join me in doing this, just please do me a favor, and try, to the best of your ability, to respect people’s privacy. I’d hate to see people taking photos inside the windows of their neighbors, posted to the internet alongside captions like, “This is what Susan Smith and her family were eating for dinner in Ypsilanti on Friday, September 29, 2017.” But, I think any non-human thing in a public place should be fair game; garbage on the street, discarded mattresses, menus, bus stops, alleyways, your favorite shade trees, photos showing the condition of our bike lanes, anything at all. And, if you feel like sharing photos of yourself, doing whatever you’re doing this weekend, that would be awesome too. As I see it, the more, the better… And I’ll try to post some of the more interesting ones here.

As I said above, this is just the inkling of an idea. If you have any thoughts how to make it better, I’d love to hear them… Could we maybe get students involved in their schools? Could the downtown library, perhaps, offer to host the resulting images online? Might someone, if not this year, maybe next, figure out a way to fund and get disposable cameras into the hands of Ypsilanti citizens without access to smartphones? Might Riverside Arts Center agree to hold a exhibition of the work? Really, if folks are interested, the possibilities are endless… And what a cool way to get people involved in being a part of their city, right?

Posted in History, Photographs, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Has anyone seen Ann Coulter?

As very few people liked this on Twitter, I thought that I’d try it here, amongst friends.

The hat, by the way, turned out to say “Budweiser.” I’m still concerned, however, about the well-being of Ms. Coulter, who seems to have gone off the deep end since her beloved Trump apparently made that deal with Schumer and Pelosi on immigration.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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