Where do we as a society expect ex felons to live?

As I know very little about this, I’m hoping that one of you might educate me on housing discrimination laws. My friend Paul Hickman, the founder of Urban Ashes, has an employee that has been looking for housing in Ypsilanti without much luck, and he seems to think that it might have something to do with the fact that he’s an ex felon. Is housing discrimination against ex felons legal? And, either way, what can he do about it?

Here, by way of context, is Paul’s text to me…. And, no, I don’t have any idea why he referred to me as “Mr. Mark.”

If you haven’t heard the episode of the Saturday Six Pack where I talked with Paul and Urban Ashes Human Relations and Operations Manager Calvin Evans, you should really check it out. It’s one thing to imagine what it might be like for someone returning to the world after decades in prison, but it’s another to hear someone like Calvin, who served 24 years in prison, share his firsthand experiences, and it really illustrates why the work being done by Urban Ashes is so vitally important.

Posted in The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Celebrating the firing of Comey by inviting Kislyak, Kissinger and the Russian press into the White House

Trump must be trolling us, right? I mean who in their right fucking mind, on the day immediately after he fires the man heading the investigation into whether or not his campaign team colluded with the Russians to steal an election, not only invites into the White House the very Russian Ambassador who’s widely thought to have helped orchestrate the whole thing, but bans the American press, allowing in only Russian news agencies? I mean, this is the very same guy, Sergey Kislyak, that Michael Flynn was fired for having lied about having talked with during the campaign. This is the guy who many think coordinated the whole “we’ll hack the election if you lift the sanctions” deal at the heart of this whole fucking thing. And Trump invites him into the White House on the day after he fires FBI Director Comey in hopes of killing the investigation. It’s absolutely insane. This would be like if Obama, at the height of the Tea Party madness, joined the Black Panther Party, donned a dashiki, released his Kenyan birth certificate, and started to speak exclusively in Bantu. The only thing that could have possibly made today any weirder would have been if Trump leaned into the Nixon comparison a little harder and asked Henry Kissinger to drop by the White House… Oh, and, yeah, he actually did that too… I can’t help but think that Trump is doing everything in his fucking power to get himself thrown out of office, but that, despite his best efforts, the Republicans in Congress, after twenty some years of intellectual rot, can’t appreciate just how absolutely insane all of this is. I mean, could that be possible? Could all of this is just a desperate cry for help? Or is Trump just trying to fuck with us, attempting to suck the very last gasp of life out of the resistance by demonstrating that, whatever he does, no matter how heinous, there will be no consequences? Was this Trump’s end zone dance on the throat of the American democracy?

UPDATE: One of the best articles I’ve seen since first posting this was in Forbes. Here’s clip from “Hidden Clues In The Trump-Comey Drama: It’s Worse Than You Think” by Melik Kaylan.

…Consider one indelible detail: Trump recieves Lavrov publicly at the height of the outcry, the two of them laughing, backslapping, making a lurid display of triumph. Classic Putinist Theater. Commit every outrage openly but distort the optics so the public just can’t believe what it sees. Rub their noses in it but continue to obfuscate. Hence the ‘little green men’ of the Crimea invasion, the ‘popular uprising’ in Ukraine’s Donbass, the ‘accidental’ shoot-down of civilian airliner MH-17, the thinly disguised cyber-assaults on Western elections. You’re witnessing a particularly distinctive KGB psy-ops technique infused with that tell-tale element of sadism. Attack, then laugh in their faces. We’re talking about a kind of psychological fingerprint, a style, emanating out of a specific center of power…

Posted in Politics, Rants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Identifying those Michigan politicians helping Trump to obstruct justice and holding them accountable

Earlier this evening, I took to Facebook as asked if, as far as anyone knew, there existed on online spreadsheet of Michigan’s elected officials, showing whether or not they’d yet to make a public statement about FBI Director Comey’s firing, and, if so, whether or not they supported the idea of an independent investigation. While I got directed to a New York Times list of politicians who had come out in favor of a special prosecutor, which I couldn’t access because I’ve apparently already exceeded my number of free articles this month, and a collection of Twitter posts from politicians assembled by the folks at Vice, no one came forward with a link anything like what I was looking for… a shared spreadsheet that could be updated by several contributors at the same time. Fortunately, though, Scott Trudeau saw my request and put up a Google spreadsheet that several of us then started to feverishly populate with quotes, links, Twitter addresses, phone numbers, and the like. It’s still a work in progress, but I’d appreciate it if you would check it out, and encourage your friends to do the same. Here, to give you an idea, is a little taste. To see the rest of it, just follow that last link.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we discovered that every Democrat representing Michigan, in both the House and Senate, had already come out in favor of an independent investigation into the role Russian operatives played in our last presidential election and whether or not members of the Trump campaign may have colluded with them. What we also found, though, was that some on the Republican side of the aisle seemed at least amenable to the idea of exploring an independent investigation, most notably Representative Justin Amash, who said earlier today that he and his staff were “reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia.” This isn’t of course, to say that Amash, who just voted to kill Obamacare in spite of his apparent misgivings, would do the right thing if it were to come to a vote, but at least there seems to be a bit of an opening. While Michigan’s other Republicans… at least those who had made statements on the subject… didn’t go as far as Amash, their quotes seemed to indicate that they hadn’t yet decided to rule the idea of an independent investigation out. My impression, and I could well be wrong, is that they’re still waiting to see how things shake out, trying, at least for the time being, to be as noncommittal as possible, just saying things like, “The timing of Comey’s dismissal was questionable,” and, “I hope Trump with find a replacement who can carry the investigation forward in a non-partisan manner.”

Given all of this, I can’t help but think there might be an opportunity here to talk with these Republican Representatives, and apply a little pressure. These are, after all, men who already stuck their necks out once for Trump in the last ten days, voting to replace Obamacare with a plan that would leave 24 million people without coverage and cut protections for people with preexisting conditions. I have to think, given this, that some of these folks might be looking for a chance to hedge their bets and show that they aren’t in Trump’s pocket. And a vote for an independent investigation isn’t the same as a vote for impeachment. It’s just a vote to put the politics aside and look at the facts objectively. And, again, one would think, that at least a few of our Republican Reps could be persuaded to at least consider that possibility.

So, if you have a moment, please check out the spreadsheet, and either tweet at, or call, a Rep or two, letting them know that you expect them to support the idea of an independent investigation. Or, better yet, call a local reporter and ask them to reach out to your Representative and get them to comment on the record. If we can’t get their vote now, we can at least get them in print, talking about why it is that they don’t think Russian interference in American electoral politics is worthy of investigation. That, I suspect, could come in handy in 2018.

Posted in Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

So, is this what a coup looks like?

Curiously, on the same day CNN confirmed that federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn as part of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian operatives we know to have interfered in our presidential election, it was announced that Donald Trump has fired James Comey, the director of the FBI, the one man who could stand up to him. While Trump has stated that the firing was in response to the FBI Director’s handling of the case against Secretary Clinton for her use of an unsecured email server, it’s clear that this had more to do with stopping the investigation into Russian election tampering than anything else. In fact, it would appear as though the firing of Comey is merely one element of an aggressive campaign to stop the investigation in its tracks. In addition to the firing of the FBI Director, a White House spokesperson was sent before the press this evening to declare that it’s now “time to move on” from the investigation. And, not only that, but news has just come out that Trump has hired a law firm to fight suggestions that he has Russian business ties… Kellyanne Conway even came out of hiding to announce that Trump’s firing of the man directing the Russia investigation was “not a cover up.” Apparently, though, people aren’t buying it.

Here, before we go much further, is a bit of background from the New York Times.

President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the law enforcement official leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for an independent prosecutor to lead the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for having “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign.

But in his letter to Mr. Comey, released to reporters by the White House, the president betrayed his focus on the continuing inquiry into Russia and his aides.

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday.

The White House said Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, pushed for Mr. Comey’s dismissal.

“I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote in a letter that was released by the White House, “and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”

Reaction in Washington was swift and fierce. In a call with Mr. Trump, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, told the president he was making a big mistake; publicly, Mr. Schumer called the firing a cover-up. Many Republicans assailed the president for making a rash decision that could have deep implications for their party…

For what it’s worth, it’s being reported by The Hill that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was tasked by the President last week with finding a justification to fire Comey. And, apparently, it would seem that the best thing he could come up with was that Comey hadn’t handled the case against Secretary Clinton appropriately. [I fully expect that, when Trump announces Rudy Giuliani as Comey’s successor, we’ll see Clinton thrown in prison for her sub-optimal email security.]

And, here, according to the Washington Post, are a few thoughts as to why Trump was so anxious to take action against Comey right now.

So, just to summarize, Jeff Sessions, who had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation once it became known that he’d lied about his communications with Russian agents during the campaign, according to the Trump administration, is the person who gave the word that Comey, the man spearheading the investigation, should be fired… One would think, if you had to recuse yourself from an investigation due, you wouldn’t then be put in a position to stop said investigation, but what do I know, right?

On the plus side, though, it looks like people might finally be realizing what’s going on. Word is that protestors are already massing on Pennsylvania Avenue, and plans are in the works for a mass protest tomorrow at noon in front of the White House.

While I’m discouraged by the fact that Trump has essentially taken out the one man in a position stand up to him, I can’t help but think that this is the move of a man quickly running out of options. Assuming CNN is right, and that two grand juries have already been empaneled, we may be witnessing the beginning of the end… even if Comey is no longer at the FBI.

For what it’s worth, it’s not just the Democrats who are demanding a real, non-partisan investigation. Republican Senator James Lankford just said the American people deserve an explanation for Comey’s firing, Republican Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the he’s “troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination, vulnerable Republican incumbents like Arizona’s Jeff Flake, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, and Carlos Curbelo of Florida are beginning to distance themselves from the President, and Republican Governor John Kasich is now calling for an independent investigation. And I suspect more will follow… especially if we encourage them. So pick up the phone, call your elected officials, and demand that Comey’s replacement not be confirmed until a special prosecutor has been appointed to look into Russia’s role in the last election and whether or not evidence exists of coordination with the Trump campaign. This isn’t about politics anymore, this is about the very future of our democracy.

Having never lived through a coup, I’m not sure what one looks like, but it certainly feels like our President is in the process of eliminating opponents in order to consolidate power and stay in office. As Representative Keith Ellison just said, We are witnessing a Consitutional crisis unfold before our very eyes.” And I don’t see as how we have any choice but to respond. This, I’m afraid, may be our last chance. If we don’t push back now, and hard, I don’t think there’s going to be any stopping this President.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

The Detroit News explores gentrification in Ypsilanti

As difficult and painful as it can be sometimes, I like living in a community where things like race and gentrification aren’t just swept under the rug, but actually discussed in public. The most recent example of this, if you haven’t seen it yet, is a front page story by Brianna Kelly in today’s Detroit News titled “Old Ypsilanti pushes back against the new,” which kind of picks up where we left off in our most recent conversation on the subject. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s how it begins… I wish I could say more, but I’m late for work.

Posted in Economics, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

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