Ypsilanti’s Jermaine Dickerson wins the Ann Arbor Arts Alliance’s 2018 Tamara Real Emerging Leader Award

I didn’t know this about myself until just a few evenings ago, but apparently I really enjoy seeing my lovely and brilliant wife, Linette, bestow awards upon our deserving friends… Here, for those of you who would like to see what it was that caused me to learn this about myself, is video of Linette awarding Jermaine Dickerson, the founder of Hero Nation, the 2018 Tamara Real Emerging Leader Award on behalf of the Ann Arbor Arts Alliance. I could ramble on about what makes Jermaine such a terrific young man, and asset to our community, but, really, you should just listen to what Linette says about him, and what he says upon receiving the award. It’s good stuff. I promise.

I know I said above that I wouldn’t ramble on, and that you should just watch the video, but I do have something brief to add… If, like me, you ever find yourself feeling down about the state of our country, there’s really no better cure than finding young people in your community that inspire you. What we’re living through right now, as terrible as it is, won’t last forever. It’ll end. And the future will belong to people like Jermaine, the bright, young folks, who, right now, are doing the hard work in the streets, getting people organized, creatively solving problems, and fighting to make a better, more inclusive America, where every kid has an opportunity to reach their full potential. And that thought makes me happy.

[I apologize for the shaky camera work. I tried my best.]

Posted in Ann Arbor, Art and Culture, Mark's Life, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

President Trump chooses not to pursue the sanctions against Russia demanded by Congress… We are officially in crisis…

Back in July, in the words of Senator Nancy Pelosi, “Congress passed a bill on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis requiring the Administration to impose defense and intelligence sanctions on entities purchasing Russian military equipment.” This legislation, we were told at the time, was necessary, among other things, to both punish the Russians for having meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, and to ensure that they never do it again. The legislation, which was titled the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, moved through both houses of Congress with overwhelming majorities, passing the House on July 25, 2017 in a 419 to 3 vote, and then passing the Senate two days later in a 98 to 2 vote. Trump, who had lobbied against the bill, said that it would “(encroach) on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate” and “(make) it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people.” In spite of his objections, however, he went ahead and signed the bill into law. As of yesterday, though, the President had yet to put any of the Russian sanctions outlined in the bill into effect. And, yesterday, for those of you who didn’t have it marked on your calendars, was the deadline placed on him by Congress… the date by which the Trump administration was to have taken action.

As the deadline approached last night, the Trump administration, through a State Department spokesperson, offered the following explanation for their inaction.

You read that right. The statement actually said, “Sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.” So the threat of the legislation was so effective, in the opinion of the Trump administration, that, really, we don’t even have to act on it… which I might be able to accept, if not for the fact that Russia, even in the estimation of Trump appointees, remains a very serious threat. Take, for instance, this new headline from Time.

So CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a Trump appointee, says he “fully expects” Russia to attempt to interfere with U.S. midterm elections, and yet Donald Trump has decided not to take action to prevent it from happening… Trump, for all intents and purposes, is essentially inviting the Russians to do it again, without fear of consequence.

Here, from around the internet, are just a few responses.

Senator Claire McCaskill‏: “Congress voted 517-5 to impose sanctions on Russia. The President decides to ignore that law. Folks that is a constitutional crisis. There should be outrage in every corner of this country.”

Congressman Eliot Engel‏: “I’m fed up waiting for this Administration to protect our country and our elections… They chose to let Russia off the hook yet again.”

Senator Nancy Pelosi‏: “Congress gave Donald Trump the tools to hold Russia accountable. He chose to reject implementing sanctions – showing brazen disregard for an action with overwhelming bipartisan support… Instead of holding Russia accountable for its attacks on our country undermining our elections, the President is waging an all-out attack on our patriotic intelligence and law enforcement communities making our country less safe. The White House’s repeated decisions to let Putin have a free pass make Americans question, what do the Russians have on the President, politically, financially and personally?”

Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov‏: “Incredible. Trump defies Congress to protect Putin, who attacked the US election to help Trump. Those are plain facts. Is is possible to believe he isn’t compromised?”

Russian state television host Olga Skabeeva‏: “Trump is ours again!”

Why would a man in Trump’s position refuse to act? Why would a president deny to follow though on legislation that almost unanimously passed through Congress? Or, more to the point, why would a president, besieged by rumors that he’s essentially being controlled by a hostile foreign power, not take the opportunity, when it’s offered to him, to stand up against said foreign power? As far as I can tell, there’s only one explanation, and it’s that Donald Trump really is under the complete and total control of Russia. I don’t see any other logical explanation as to why he wouldn’t act to protect our nation from such a clear and present danger.

In a more perfect world, Americans would be up in arms about this. Our Congress, almost unanimously, passed legislation to punish Russia for their election meddling in 2016 – election meddling which, by they way, everyone in the U.S. intelligence community agrees happened. And yet our President has chosen not only to stop these sanctions from moving forward, but to attempt the rollback of previous sanctions put in place by the Obama administration… This is really happening right now, in our country… Russia is a threat. And our President is unwilling to do what is necessary to safeguard the United States… This isn’t about 2016. This is about our future, and protecting the integrity of our democratic institutions. The first question asked of any member of Congress from this point forward should be, “What do you intend to do about President Trump’s refusal to act on the Russian sanctions demanded by Congress, and his refusal to deal with the real, ongoing threat posed by Russia?”

If you want, though, we can also talk about the State of the Union. Personally, I didn’t watch. From what I hear, though, some folks really liked it.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 257 Comments

The Dutch not only watched online as the Russians stole the DNC emails, but, thanks to a hacked security camera in the hallway outside the Cozy Bear office, they actually knew which Russian spies were in the room

I know it’s been a bit crazy this weekend, what with the news about Trump friend Steve Wynn having to step down as head of Finance for the Republican National Committee amid multiple horrifying allegations of sexual misconduct, and Vladimir Putin having his most prominent critic, Alexei Navalny, arrested in Moscow amid growing protests, but there’s something that I wanted to be sure to pass along. Late last week, news broke in the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant that, starting back in 2014, hackers working for the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD had penetrated the Red Square headquarters of the Russian hacking group Cozy Bear, allowing them to witness the 2016 theft of Democratic Party emails in real-time. And, that’s not all. Thanks to a hacked security camera in a hallway of the university building that Cozy Bear operates out of, the Dutch were able to identify the Russian spies who were actually in the room when the DNC hack took place. And all of this information, according to de Volkskrant, was promptly turned over to members of the American intelligence community.

[While this story out fo the Netherlands didn’t get much play in the United States, the Washington Post has a good piece, in case you find yourself wanting more.]

So, during that first presidential debate, when Donald Trump said that it could have been China, or “somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds,” who hacked the DNC, our intelligence community knew for a certainty, thanks to the Dutch, that it was Russia. And, assuming he was receiving security briefings at this point, as he was the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump knew this as well.

Here’s video of Dutch journalist Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal speaking with CNN affiliate NOS about the de Volkskrant exclusive.

[The Dutch, it should be noted, have reason to both loathe and be suspicious of the Russians. It was, after all, Russian sponsored troops in the Ukraine that shot down civilian flight MH17 on July 17, 2014, killing 193 Dutch passengers.]

So, for those of you keeping track at home, we now have yet one more independent data point. First, as you’ll recall, we heard about Australian diplomat Alexander Downer going to the American authorities when, at a London bar, he’d heard Trump national security advisor George Papadopoulos mention that the Russians had hacked DNC emails that would aid the Trump campaign. And, now, thanks to this report in de Volkskrant, we know that the Dutch not only knew about the hack, and told us about it, but actually watched the whole thing go down live, taking photos of the people entering and exiting the room using a hacked security camera. And, let’s not forget, we also know that, according to a source within the Russian government, Putin himself ordered the cyber campaign to disrupt our election in order to damage Hillary Clinton and aid Donald Trump.

So, really, regardless of what you might want to believe, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Putin interfered in our election in order to assist Trump, and we know that members of Trump’s campaign knew this was happening. And, furthermore, we know that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because he refused to stop the Russia investigation, indicating that he knew the danger that the investigation posed to his administration.

Oh, and, speaking of Russia, tomorrow is the deadline for Trump to implement those sanctions that overwhelmingly passed both the House (419-3) and Senate (8-2) last July… I wonder what he’ll do?

For what it’s worth, Fox News isn’t talking about any of this. Tonight, they’re airing a 2-hour special on the scandals of Bill Clinton. And that’s not all. They’ve also got Jeanine Pirro in the woods of Chappaqua, New York, searching for Hillary Clinton like she was a sasquatch.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 430 Comments

If this man should enter your bar, I would appreciate it if you would not serve him

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

Secret Societies inside the FBI

This is United States Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, in what should be a career ending move, warning the nation of a “secret society” within the FBI working behind the scenes to bring down Donald Trump.

I say “career ending,” as Johnson didn’t actually have an “informant,” so much as access to a text message that included the phrase “secret society,” which was used in a clearly joking manner.

“Are you even going to give out your calendars?,” FBI lawyer Lisa Page texted FBI agent Peter Strzok in a text message the day after the 2016 election. “Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society.”

Johnson, of course, didn’t share the context, at least at first, choosing instead to attribute the talk of a “secret society” to a confidential source within the FBI. And Fox News ate it up. Between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, the phrase “secret society” was used over 20 times on the “Fox and Friends” program alone.

Johnson, as you might imagine, started backtracking today, once his “informant” became known. According to NBC News, the Senator clarified that “he had merely ‘heard’ about the existence of a secret society, and did not have direct evidence of such an organization within the FBI.” But, before the news broke that it could all be tracked back to a simple joke in a text, the far right propaganda channel we know as Fox got a few good news cycles out of it.

As the real news entities reported yesterday on a fatal school shooting in Kentucky, and Russian efforts to promote online memes critical of the FBI, Fox went all-in on this new ‘evidence’ of a secret society working to undermine Donald Trump. It was sad and pathetic, but not altogether unexpected from the network that devoted hundreds of hours to the exploration of Obama’s birth certificate. As conservative columnist Bill Kristol said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier this morning, “What fringy websites once said is now said by Fox News hosts.” Here, from Mediate, is the rest of what Kristol had to say.

…“I mean, it’s funny but it’s sad,” Kristol replied, before concluding that this saga proves “Bannonism is winning.”

“Look a at the Hill Republicans, look at the conservative commentators, many of them” Kristol explained, “they are now in the possession of serious conspiracy theorizing, paranoia, hostility to basic American government institutions in a way that I would have a year ago would have been impossible.”

Kristol went on to note that while he places some blame on Roger Ailes for the current state of Fox News, “you’re in a different world with what’s happening now.”

“The degree to which this paranoia and conspiracy theorizing, demonizing of people has just become routine,” Kristol lamented. “Ron Johnson was a normal Republican senator.”

“What fringy websites once said is now said by Fox News hosts. What losing primary candidates who got 8% of the vote in some Republican primary somewhere once would have said is now being said by mainstream Republican senators,” Kristol continued. “So that is what is upsetting about it.”…

Oh, and, according to Alex “No Kids Died at Sandy Hook” Jones, our president keeps trying to call him.

We, my friends, are deep inside the post-truth shithole.

Here, if you need it, is one more datapoint.

Posted in Media, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 160 Comments

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