The Killing

Having demanded that Mueller’s team submit all of their questions for Trump in advance of their interview with him, Trump’s not-so-stellar legal team today leaked the questions to the press. While I know I should be writing about it, I’ve decided instead to take the evening off to watch Sterling Hayden, Timothy Carey, Elisha Cook, and Marie Windsor in Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 film, The Killing. [I never get tired of exploring the courageous, inspired and insane acting choices made by Timothy Carey.] If you haven’t seen it, you really should.

update: In spite of the fact that the questions where leaked by his legal team, Trump is blaming Mueller, calling the leak “disgraceful.” Also of interest, he says there are no questions concerning collusion, when, in fact, there are many. I’m particularly fond of this one: “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?

update: It turns out that the questions noted above didn’t come directly from Mueller, but from Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. According to individuals interviewed by the Washington Post, Sekulow “compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked.” So, not only was Mueller not the leaker, but these questions didn’t even come from the Mueller team. “Disgraceful,” indeed.

Posted in Art and Culture, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Trump, hiding from Michelle Wolf in Michigan, promises to “close down the country” if he doesn’t get his ridiculous, racist wall

Judging from Twitter right now, I think I should probably be writing about Michelle Wolf’s set at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the comments she directed at Trump propagandist Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and how she’s now getting eviscerated by some members of the press for being “unnecessarily cruel.” [Wolf, it would seem, crossed some sort of decorum threshold by noting Sanders’ distinctive eye makeup.] As time is precious, though, I’d rather focus on what Donald Trump said at a rally here in Michigan at roughly the same time Wolf was laying waste to his administration in DC. [Being too thin-skinned to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Trump fled to Washington Township, Michigan, where he found a friendly crowd of white people in MAGA hats to clap on cue as he ranted about immigrants, and join him in his unhinged condemnation of the lying press.

[note: One wonders if the folks at the White House Correspondents Association who, instead of defending Wolf’s first amendment rights, are now saying that her comments were “not in the spirit” of the the organization’s mission, can remember back, during the election, when Donald Trump, upon being asked about Putin’s history of murdering journalists, essentially said that it didn’t bother him, responding casually that our government kills people too. While I can certainly understand, given the rhetoric coming from their White House, their fear of being seeing as less than objective, I would argue that they’re naive if they think throwing Wolf under the bus will help them. Trump will continue to berate them, call them liars, and encourage hostility toward them. And Trump’s supporters, like the man at the Michigan rally who was screaming the press, calling them “degenerate liars,” aren’t likely to change their opinions based on the fact that journalists are now condemning Wolf. That train left the station over a year ago, and it’s not coming back.]

There’s a lot that we could talk about… like Trump’s false claim that he had 8 times as many people at a pre-election rally in Michigan than would have fit in the venue, or his repeated comments about the “phony” White House Correspondents’ Dinner that he’d come to Michigan to avoid, or the fact that he got a big laugh when he asked “Any Hispanics in the room?”… but, as I don’t have a ton of time, there are two things that I’d like to focus on.

First, Trump threatened to “close down the country” if he doesn’t get his border wall funded in September… Again, I don’t know how much we need to get into it here, but this wall, according to experts who study such things, would accomplish next to nothing. Not only is it thought that the wall will not decrease the flow of drugs from Mexico, but fewer people are crossing the border now than any time over the past four and a half decades. As we know, though, it was never about that. The wall was always just racist code — a shorthand way to talk about the changing demographics of America, and the desire to preserve a white majority. And the folks at the Michigan rally, for what it’s worth, ate it up. Of course, I doubt they’re aware that we’re talking about building this expensive, unnecessary wall at the same time Republicans in Congress are talking about cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Second, Trump commented on the fact that Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who met with senior members of the Trump campaign in New York City prior to the election, just recanted her earlier statement about how she wasn’t an agent of Kremlin. So, for those of you taking notes at home, we now know that, when Donald Trump Jr. received that email on June 3, 2016 from Rob Goldstone promising dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” and responded “If it’s what you say I love it,” the woman he subsequently met with was, in fact, an agent of the Kremlin. Donald Trump, however, told those in attendance at his Michigan rally not to worry. This most recent admission by Veselnitskaya, he said, was just proof of how hard he’d been on Putin. She’s just saying this now, Trump told the crowd, because Putin wants to get back at him for being so tough. Of course, in saying this, Trump is also confirming that Veselnitskaya is now taking direct orders from Putin… but I doubt he thought it through.

As for Wolf, I didn’t love her set. There were good moments, but, generally speaking, I prefer my comedic assassins to wield stilettos, not clubs. But, with that said, I don’t think she crossed any lines. I think, when you’re going up against an administration led by a man who has referred to individual women as “pigs” and “slobs” with “fat ugly faces,” I think you’re well within your rights to make a comment about a press secretary’s not-so-artful application of the “smokey eye,” at least within the context which Wolf provided. [Wolf said that Sanders burned facts, and applied the ashes to her eyes.] But, like I said, I think the whole conversation about Sanders’ feelings being hurt is a distraction. The big news yesterday wasn’t that Michelle Wolf made a propagandist feel sad, but that a U.S. president, terrified to face the members of the press that he attacks on a daily basis, ran off to the white suburbs of Michigan to rant about racist walls and how we shouldn’t read too much into the fact that the Russian woman who met with his son during the election to discuss illegally acquired dirt on Hillary Clinton just outed herself as an agent of the Kremlin. That, it seems to me, is a bigger deal than anything Wolf might have said.

And, for what it’s worth, I do think history will judge the members of the White House Correspondents Association poorly for attempting to curry favor with an authoritarian regime when they should be speaking truth to power.

One last thing… This comes from our “What a Difference a Day Makes” file.

Posted in Michigan, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 72 Comments

“A Catholic Speaker of the House fires a Catholic chaplain for praying for the poor.”

As we talk quite a bit here about the hypocrisy of the so-called “Christian” right, I wanted to be sure to at least note the fact that, a little over a week ago now, when Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced that U.S. House of Representatives chaplain Patrick Conroy would be stepping down, he wasn’t exactly telling the whole truth. No, Ryan, we now know, had fired the Catholic priest. And, what’s worse, according to several Washington insiders, it was political — payback for Father Conroy having the audacity, as the Republicans were passing tax cuts for the rich last November, to delivered a prayer urging lawmakers to remember the poor.

Ryan, hoping to quash the story, was scrambling yesterday to suggest that Conroy had failed to meet the “pastoral needs” of House members, but that excuse, according to many, including members of the Speaker’s own party, seems suspect. Republican Congressman Peter King, for instance, told reporters yesterday, after meeting with Ryan, that he had “never heard any of these complaints before” about Conroy, who, he went on to say, could always be seen sitting down and talking with members of Congress. [Ryan has since come out and said that it was just “time for a change.”]

As for what it was that Conroy said on November 6 of last year that might have gotten him fired, here it is. “May all Members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great Nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle,” said Father Conroy. “May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

It was shortly after that, according to Conroy, that Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.” And now he’s been fired.

The following excerpt comes by way of the New York Times.

So let this be a lesson to the next person to serve as U.S. House of Representatives chaplain (who you can be damn sure won’t be Muslim)… You can talk about Ayn Rand as much as you want, but don’t talk about Jesus, at least not as we know him through the New Testament. Don’t mention the plight of the poor. And, whatever you do, don’t make those conservative members of the House, who like to think of themselves as “good Christians,” feel the least bit guilty about supporting legislation in-line with the corporatist agenda of their largest donors.

Oh, and here’s my favorite quote about all of this. It comes from Father James Martin, a Jesuit writer and editor. If this is, in fact what happened, he said, “then a Catholic Speaker of the House fired a Catholic chaplain for praying for the poor.”

But, really, what can we expect when we live in a country where a large number of people see Donald Tump as a noble, courageous Christian warrior, in spite of the draft dodging, the porn actresses, the mocking of the disabled, and everything else?

As terrible as it is, this world we now inhabit is also kind of wonderful. All of the lies we’ve lived with for years are being stripped away. The “family values” charade is over. These people on the far right, who, for decades, have told us of their moral superiority, have, by supporting Trump, let the truth be known. Their movement, from the start, was a movement of charlatans and con men, supported by weak-minded fools who, more than anything else, wanted to feel some sense of superiority. But Trump brought it all to an end, just like he’s destroyed everything else that he’s come in contact with. By publicly supporting a self-described “pussy grabber” who urged the people of Alabama to vote for a pedophile and talked of there being “fine people” among the white supremacists of Charlottesville, America’s evangelicals have essentially been forced to admit that their movement was never about anything more than tribal warfare and power. They never wanted leaders who emulated Christ. They wanted leaders who told them that they were better than everyone else for identifying as Christian conservatives. They wanted to own the moral high ground without actually having to do the difficult work of following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. They just wanted to win. And, now, it’s all over. Their moral high ground, for all that they talked about it, never really existed, and we all know it.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

At Cobo Hall for a photo op, Betsy DeVos dismisses the idea of visiting nearby Detroit public schools

The national championships of the FIRST Robotics Competition were just held in Detroit, and Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration’s completely unqualified Secretary of Education, having successfully started the process of dismantling the Department of Education’s civil rights infrastructure, was on hand to have her photo taken with the participating high school students… Well, to their credit, the folks at our local NBC affiliate sent a news crew to ask the anti-public education zealot about her disastrous appearance on 60 Minutes, where she admitted to having never so much as visited an underperforming school in her home state of Michigan, to see firsthand what she, as Secretary of Education, might be able to do to help. DeVos, as you might expect, had someone jump in to kill the line of questioning, but not before telling the NBC reporter that she had no intention of walking to one of the nearby Detroit public schools… Here, for those of you with strong stomaches, is the video.

And, here, by way of context, are my notes from this past March, on the exchange on 60 Minutes between Leslie Stahl and Betsy DeVos.

Stahl, noting the work that DeVos has done over the past several decades to increase the proliferation of unaccountable, for-profit charter schools across our state, asked, “Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?,” to which DeVos replied, “I don’t know, overall, I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.” Our least qualified Secretary of Education in American history then went on to say that she hasn’t visited the “really bad schools” in Michigan, or, for that matter, given much thought as to how to improve them. Stahl, hearing this, replied, “Maybe you should,” to which a clearly overwhelmed DeVos responded, “Maybe I should, yes.”

So, a few days ago, in Detroit, DeVos had a perfect opportunity to visit underperforming Michigan schools, and make good on her quasi-promise. She, however, chose not to. It’s not a surprise. [If I’d overseen the dismantling of public education in Michigan, I don’t think I’d want to directly confront the reality of it either.] But I think it’s important to note.

Here, for those of you who might not appreciate just how terrible DeVos is, and how much damage she’s doing as Secretary of Education, are excerpts from two of my past posts about her.


On behalf of the people of Michigan, I apologize… Not only were we one of three states credited with making Donald Trump, the least qualified presidential candidate in American history, our President-elect, but, as it turns out, we might also be responsible for ending public education as we know it. You see, we, the people of Michigan, had a chance to stop Amway billionaire Betsy DeVos from dismantling our public schools, but we didn’t do it. And, now, unless something unexpected happens, it looks as though she’s going to be replicating the failed policies that she championed in Michigan across the entire nation as our next Secretary of Education.

While DeVos has absolutely no qualifications for the job, she does have money, and she’s proven again and again that she’ll use it to get what she wants. As she said in a 1997 op-ed for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, “My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee.” She then when on to add, “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.” And, with this as her objective, DeVos, with her $5.1 billion net worth behind her, has wreaked havoc in Michigan, funding successful legislative efforts to efforts to, among other things, “restore religious freedom” by keeping gay couples from adopting and stop Michigan cities from passing living wage ordinances. But her real passion is in the realm of education reform, where she’s worked tirelessly to ensure that Michigan is the most anti-public education state in the union, funding campaigns to remove all caps on charter schools, while, at the same time, guaranteeing virtually no oversight.

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, said of DeVos yesterday: “Her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers – which take away funding and local control from our public schools – to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps.

“She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education,” Eskelsen García went on to say. “By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.”

And, for what it’s worth, Eskelsen García isn’t employing hyperbole here. Those of us who live in Michigan have seen it play out firsthand. We’ve seen the ubiquitous billboards for fly-by-night virtual charters offering to educate our kids over the internet. [They give kids laptops and access to an online platform, and just collect the money from the state that would have otherwise directed to a public school.] And we’ve seen our school districts closing once vital neighborhood schools right and left due to the unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system that pits neighboring districts against one another, fighting over those “good” students who don’t require things like special education, which can be costly.

They’ve been assuring us for the past 20 years that this unfettered competition will yield better opportunities for our students, but the results just don’t bear that out. [More on that in a minute.] I’d argue, however, that better schools were never the end goal. I think, from day one, the real objective has always been to kill the teachers unions, while, at the same time, funneling public money into the hands of private corporations, which, in turn, contribute to conservative causes and legislators. And, it’s working. While I don’t have current data, between 2012 and 2015, Michigan’s two teachers unions, the MEA and the AFT, lost almost 28,000 members. And, in large part that’s due to the overwhelming growth of the charter school industry, which, according to the Detroit Free Press, “Michigan taxpayers pour nearly $1 billion a year into.” [] More importantly, though, these programs pushed by DeVos and others, just aren’t working for kids.

A recent investigation by the Detroit Free Press, which looked at two decades of charter school records and data from across Michigan, found: “Wasteful spending and double-dipping. Board members, school founders and employees steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders. Schools allowed to operate for years despite poor academic records. No state standards for who operates charter schools or how to oversee them. And a record number of charter schools run by for-profit companies that rake in taxpayer money and refuse to detail how they spend it, saying they’re private and not subject to disclosure laws. Michigan leads the nation in schools run by for-profits.” And much of the blame lies with DeVos, who not only led, but funded, the charge.

Here, from Chalkbeat, is a great example of DeVos in action: “When Michigan lawmakers this year were considering a measure that would have added oversight for charter schools in Detroit, members of the DeVos family poured $1.45 million into legislators’ campaign coffers — an average of $25,000 a day for seven weeks. Oversight was not included in the final legislation.”

And, that, my friends, is the kind of maneuvering on behalf of the for-profit charter industry that you can expect to see happening across the United States, assuming DeVos is confirmed as Trump’s Secretary of Education… I’m not sure what she paid for cabinet post, but you can be damn sure she’s going to see a return on that investment…


Citing the good work she’d done in Michigan, the Detroit News endorsed Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education this past January. The Amway heiress, they told us, based on what she’d accomplished here in Michigan, was a “sound choice” – someone who would “strive to improve education for all kids.” The “hysteria” over DeVos, they said, was “overblown.” The teachers unions, they told us, had been unfairly pushing a narrative that “overlooks the work DeVos has actually done.”

Well, let’s talk about what Betsy DeVos “has actually done.”

Here’s a headline from today’s Detroit News.

Yes, Michigan, the state where, for the last several decades, Betsy DeVos has worked tirelessly to move taxpayer money away from public schools and into the coffers of unaccountable charter school operators, is now the worst state in the nation when it come to the proficiency improvement of students since 2003.

I’d suggest that we all send this article to DeVos and ask her to explain how this came to pass in the state where she lobbied successfully to remove caps on for-profit charter schools, and fought tirelessly to keep our legislature from imposing any kind of oversight over the industry, but, as we learned during her nomination hearings, she doesn’t even understand how states measure achievement, so I don’t know what good it would do.

University of Michigan professor Brian A. Jacob, who conducted this new study of National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data for the Brookings Institution, said the following when asked why, according to him, Michigan had ranked “dead last in terms of proficiency growth since 2003.”

“I believe that there are a number of factors responsible for Michigan’s weak performance,” Jacob said. “A lack of adequate state and local funding for schools, the highly decentralized nature of governance that makes it difficult for the state Department of Education to develop coordinated reforms, the lack of regulation and accountability in the charter sector, and the economic and political instability that have plagued Detroit and other urban areas in the state.”

I know it’s probably unfair to lay all this at the feet of DeVos, as our Republican legislature and others worked with her to make this happen, but, as others have noted, she really does deserve a great deal of the blame. Here, with more on what DeVos has done to Michigan, is a clip from Politico.

…Despite two decades of charter-school growth, the state’s overall academic progress has failed to keep pace with other states: Michigan ranks near the bottom for fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading on a nationally representative test, nicknamed the “Nation’s Report Card.” Notably, the state’s charter schools scored worse on that test than their traditional public-school counterparts, according to an analysis of federal data.

Critics say Michigan’s laissez-faire attitude about charter-school regulation has led to marginal and, in some cases, terrible schools in the state’s poorest communities as part of a system dominated by for-profit operators. Charter-school growth has also weakened the finances and enrollment of traditional public-school districts like Detroit’s, at a time when many communities are still recovering from the economic downturn that hit Michigan’s auto industry particularly hard.

The results in Michigan are so disappointing that even some supporters of school choice are critical of the state’s policies.

“The bottom line should be, ‘Are kids achieving better or worse because of this expansion of choice?’” said Michigan State Board of Education President John Austin, a DeVos critic who also describes himself as a strong charter-school supporter. “It’s destroying learning outcomes… and the DeVoses were a principal agent of that”…

As I’ve said several times in the past on this site, we should have stopped DeVos when we had a chance. And, now, because we didn’t, the whole country is likely to suffer the same fate. As our terrible Governor said a few weeks ago when he endorsed her for the job of Secretary of Education, she’s now going to “make a big difference in the lives of school children… across the nation.” And we’re to blame…


Posted in Civil Liberties, Detroit, Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Holy shit, Trump’s call into Fox and Friends is fucking amazing, and completely terrifying

President Donald Trump called into his favorite television show, Fox and Friends, this morning. I’m sure some who saw the segment will say that he did an admirable job of “reclaiming” the narrative, or “reframing” the various scandals swirling around him, or some such thing. To me, though, it sounded like audio you might hear on a true crime show… like the kind of rambling, paranoid voicemail that a coked-up Florida nightclub club owner might leave on a stripper’s phone the night before being taken out by the mob, or something. It’s absolutely insane, even by Trump standards. He just goes on and on, for about half an hour, ranting about the imagined enemies that are aligning against him with their “phony” investigations, and jumping around between subjects like a someone who inadvertently smoked meth when they’d intended to take their ADHD meds. One second he’s talking about how he could have won the popular vote if he’d wanted to, and the next he’s off on a tangent about how he might not have bought his not-so-loving wife a birthday present. And it just gets worse from there, as he continues to jump from subject to subject like a coke-fueled squirrel leaping from branch to branch, with absolutely no clue as to where he’s headed, or what he’ll do when he inevitably jumps, only to find nothing in front of him but air. It’s like watching Robin Williams perform… completely unfunny, but still kind of trilling. Only now, of course, the stakes are life and death.

Here, for those of you who don’t watch Fox News, are just a few of the highlights.


After repeatedly calling the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt,” Trump says that, while he’s restrained himself thus far, he may step in and obstruct justice. [Many of us would argue that he already has.] “I try to stay away from it,” he told the hosts of Fox and Friends, “but at some point I won’t.” This should scare the hell out of any American, conservative or liberal, who values the rule of law.


Trump, after arguing for the past week that Michael Cohen was his attorney, and that, as such, their communications are privileged, today told the Fox and Friends hosts that, in fact, Cohen only handled “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work. [This statement, it would seem, is already being used against Trump by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who has maintained the exact same thing since the raid of Cohen’s home and office a week ago, only to have been met by objections from Trump’s legal team, who said it wasn’t the case.] What’s more, Trump confirmed that Cohen represented him on what he called, “this crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” which, to my knowledge, is the first time Trump has acknowledged his involvement in the pay-off.


A few days ago, news broke that, contrary to what Trump had told FBI Director Jim Comey, flight records indicate that he did stay overnight in Moscow after the Miss Universe pageant in 2013, as the Steele dossier had said. Interestingly, up until Bloomberg released these flight records showing that Trump had, in fact, stayed overnight in Moscow, the President never felt it necessary to correct this particular part of Comey’s story. [In his memos, Comey says that Trump told him on two occasions that the Steele dossier couldn’t be correct, as he left Moscow immediately after the pageant.] On Fox and Friends this morning, though, Trump couldn’t stop talking about how he’d never denied staying overnight in Moscow in 2013. “Of course I stayed there… I never said I left immediately,” he yelled. And, of course, he went on to add that he’s been harder on Putin than any president ever. “Nobody’s been been tougher on the Russians than I have, and you can ask President Putin about that,” he said, causing me to spit orange juice into my keyboard.


Kanye, he tells the Fox and Friends hosts, isn’t the only one who love him. “If I ever called for at that rally in Washington, D.C., we would have millions of people coming into Washington because they love what’s happening,” he says. He then goes on to say that, had he wanted to win the popular vote in 2016, he could have. He says, however, that he made a conscious effort to focus instead on the electoral college vote, as that’s what decides the presidency.


One again demonstrating how little he understands about the role of the media in a democracy, Trump says that NBC should be treating him much better, given how much money he’s made for the company. “By the way,” he said, “I made them a fortune with the Apprentice… I made them a fortune… You would think these guys would treat me great.” And, of course, he talks at length about how all of the negative press coverage about his administration is “fake.” [Speaking of which, Ronny Jackson, his choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs – a man that Trump says was vetted four times – today withdrew his nomination, after it became known that he’s a hard-drinking crasher of cars with a history of handing out opioids and harassing subordinates.]


After saying earlier that he never watches television, Trump goes off on former FBI Director Jim Comey’s interview the night before on CNN, calling him a “liar” and a “leaker,” and suggesting that, under his leadership, the FBI’s senior leadership was corrupt. [Trump, however, maintains, that the rank and file FBI agents love him.] The best part, however, is at the very end of the segment, when the shell-shocked Fox and Friends hosts, cut the President off, saying, “We’re running out of time.” [Clearly, they knew that Trump was saying things that he shouldn’t be, and they decided to pull the plug.]

For what it’s worth, I remember being told once that Obama was “unpresidential” for wearing a short sleeve shirt in the Oval Office.

Posted in Observations, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 55 Comments


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