If you believe the chatter, Trump is getting ready to make his move against the Justice Department

Ever since word came out yesterday that the office, home and hotel room of Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had been raided by the FBI, people have been wondering if, perhaps, this might be the thing that finally causes Trump to go full-Nixon and start firing everyone in the Justice Department who refuses to do his bidding and end the Mueller investigation once and for all. Today, as word spread that Trump has been considering there possibility of shutting down the investigation since December, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee accelerated their efforts to protect the Special Counsel. In a letter to their committee’s Republican Chairman, Bob Goodlatte, Democrats Jerrold Nadler, Steve Cohen, and Sheila Jackson Lee wrote the following. “[W]e have grown increasingly concerned that the President may either order the firing of Special Counsel Mueller, or take other action to disrupt his and other pending investigations, such as firing Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions or Deputy Attorney General [Rod] Rosenstein,” the Democrats wrote.

The Republicans in Congress, however, don’t seem to share the sense of urgency. While it’s true, for instance, that Republican Lindsay Graham has proposed bipartisan legislation with Democrat Cory Booker to protect Mueller, for the most part, it would seem, Republicans are happy to just trust that Trump will do the right thing, if only because he knows that firing Mueller might hasten his impeachment. Republican Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today said that he had “confidence” in the Special Counsel, and that “it would be suicide for the president to fire Mueller.” And Republican Bob Corker told the press that it would be “inappropriate” for Trump to fire either Mueller or Rosenstein. “I think it would be a massive mistake for the president to do anything to interfere with this investigation,” the Senator said, adding, “he knows most every Republican senator feels that way.” And the President’s golfing buddy, Lindsey Graham, even though he did propose legislation to protect Mueller, doesn’t seem to be pushing very hard for it. When asked about it today, Graham said Trump wouldn’t likely move to fire Mueller, as doing so “would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.”

So I guess we wait… and hope that these Republicans are right when they say that Trump wouldn’t possibly follow in Nixon’s footsteps, attempting a Saturday Night Massacre-like purge at the Department of Justice in hopes of killing the investigation against him. Because, really, what else can we do, seeing as how the Republicans currently possess all the levers of power? We can call their offices and demand the they pass legislation to protect Mueller. And we can plan to descend on D.C. en masse if our unstable, and increasingly paranoid President attempts to kill the investigation. But, otherwise, I guess we just have to wait to see whether or not anyone left within the Republican Party has the strength of character to actually stand up against Donald Trump, do the right thing, and act to preserve the rule of law. Given what they’ve both tacitly and explicitly accepted thus far, I don’t have much faith, but we’ll see…. In the meantime, please register everyone you know to vote, and give what you can to Democratic candidates running in November. If the Republicans won’t stand up in defense of America, it’s up to us to defeat them in November and do what has to be done.

update: I guess some decent Republicans still remain. Tomorrow morning, the following ad, produced by a group calling itself Republicans for the Rule of Law, will begin airing on Fox and Friends and Morning Joe in the DC market.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 85 Comments

International Village, the final chapter

Remember how, back in October, Ypsi City Council voted unanimously to pursue a formal investigation into the circumstances surrounding a trip to China taken by elected officials and City staff? Well, the investigation, which was conducted by Edward Plato of The Plato Law Firm, has now been concluded, and you can read all about the findings in today’s Detroit Metro Times. As I’m already falling asleep, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to offer much in the way of insight at the moment, but, for those of you who would like to go deeper after having read the Metro Times piece, I do have scans of both Plato’s synopsis and timeline to share…. Here, in case anyone still needs the context, is a brief overview of the scandal that I first shared some months ago, followed by an excerpt from the Plato report.

The Background…

At some point this past fall, Troy-based, Chinese-American developer Amy Xue Foster, after making a formal bid to purchase approximately 37 acres of Ypsilanti’s 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 development team who would be helping to bring her vision for a 1,600 unit “International Village” 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 stated. “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.”

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 quite a few questions, as it didn’t seem to make much sense that a student group would have that kind of money, or, more to the point, an interest in the redevelopment of an Ypsilanti brownfield, but the tickets were purchased and Mayor Amanda Edmonds, Mayor Pro Tem Nicole Brown, Police Chief Tony DeGiusti, and Economic Development Director Beth Ernat left for Beijing ten days later. [They left on September 21, and return on October 2.]

Then, while in China, the Metro Times published a story in which a representative of 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 actually theirs, as had been reported, but had been given to them by a representative of Amy Xue Foster’s development company. In response, members of the Ypsilanti delegation in China, communicating through City Manager Darwin McClary, who had not gone on the trip, said that the funds, while they might have passed through the hands of the developer, in fact originated with the Chinese consulate in Chicago. This, according to Edmonds, was something that she had actually been made aware of prior to having left for the trip, but, for various reasons, hadn’t shared with either the other members of City Council or the John Barr, the city’s attorney.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. In a follow-up article, the Metro Times reported that, according to a representative of the Chinese consulate in Chicago, they were not involved in the funding of the trip, and never sent money, either through Xue Foster’s company, or directly, to the student group at Wayne State. This, as you can imagine, left many of us thinking that the developer, in all likelihood, had sought to fund the trip herself, in violation of the City ethics rules that had been explained to her, first obscuring her role in funding the trip by funneling the money through the student group, and, then, when discovered, claiming that the money had actually been from the consulate. And, this, for what it’s worth, appears, at least based on what has been said since, to be the unanimous opinion of those on Council who did not go on the trip.

From the Plato report…

Where all of this leaves us…

As for the fallout from all of this, it was reported late last week that the employment contract for City Economic Development Director Beth Ernat would not be renewed. Furthermore, Mayor Amanda Edmonds has made it known that she would not be seeking reelection. And, of course, the development plans for International Village, which, in my opinion, was a terrible idea from the start, are dead. There is, no doubt, much more that could be said, but, like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I require sleep.

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

Michael Cohen has a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

The President’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who, as you may recall, speculated during the campaign that Hillary Clinton would be going “to prison” for “defrauding America”, today had his New York home, hotel room, and Rockefeller Center offices raided by the FBI agents, who, we’re told, seized both computers and financial records. It’s being reported that these coordinated, simultaneous raids were part of a New York State investigation into whether or not Cohen, who claims he personally paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket to keep quite about an affair that she had with Donald Trump, engaged in bank fraud, violated campaign finance law, etc. Donald Trump, who has warned special council Robert Mueller in the past about coming too close to his inner circle, as you might imagine, was not happy about this. While address the press this afternoon about our response to recent chemical attacks in Syria, the President went off on a tangent, referring to these FBI raids as both an “attack on our country” and a “total witch hunt”. Here, for those of you who might be interested, is video from the press event, followed by an excerpt from the transcript.

I’m not sure how investigating an attorney who admits to having paid hush money to a sex worker during an election constitutes an “attack on our country,” but there you have it…

So, on one hand, we have shit rapidly unraveling for the President on the global stage, as he’s being forced by events in Syria to take a public stance against Putin. And, at the same time, we have the FBI dramatically seizing communications between him and his attorney, threatening to expose, among other things, the lie that Cohen acted on his own when he paid Daniels, violating numerous laws in the process.

Telling the press that we’d now reached “a whole new level of unfairness,” Trump took the opportunity to attack both special prosecutor Robert Mueller and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Mueller investigation. Trump, after calling members of the Mueller’s team, “the most biased group of people,” told members of the press that unnamed “people” were urging him to shut down the investigation. Asked if he may do this, the President responded, “We’ll see what may happen.” [It’s worth noting that today’s raids, as least as I understand them, were not directly related to the Mueller investigation, but were instead called for by prosecutors in New York, likely based on information that had been relayed by Mueller’s team.]

While I realize that Trump’s not exactly a student of history, one would hope that he’s at least taken note of the fact that Nixon’s ultimate downfall came when he, facing a similar situation, chose to force both his Attorney General (Elliot Richardson) and his Deputy Attorney General (William Ruckelshaus) from the Department of Justice, and fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox in what has since become know as the Saturday Night Massacre. Granted, the Democrats held Congress at the time, and the Republicans of the era may have been more principled, but the fact remains that, the last time a sitting President who chose to exert his power in such a way and shut down an investigation, our elected officials, pressured by the American people, chose to do the right thing and pursue impeachment. [I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but I want to say that Nixon’s approval ratings dropped from about 35-percent to 27-percent after the Saturday Night Massacre.]

As for this thing being a “total witch hunt,” here’s a very brief excerpt from this evening’s New York Times, which I think would indicate to most objective individuals that we’ve evolved well past the witch hunt phase.

Oh, and while all of this stuff about the Stormy Daniels payoff is interesting, I’m much more interested in what investigators may find, once they start digging through Cohen’s files, about his involvement in the campaign to advance Russian interests. That, I suspect, is what Mueller, working through New York prosecutors, is really after.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Debating the legacy of Lon Chaney Jr.

Over the past year, I’ve heard two of my favorite podcasters, Karina Longworth and Gilbert Gottfried, mention Lon Chaney Jr. several times each, and do so in wildly different ways. [Gottfried, I think it’s safe to say, likes Chaney, best known for portraying Larry Talbot in the 1941 film The Wolf Man, very much. Longworth, to put it kindly, does not.] And, as I sat here the other day, pondering the wildly different views of these two individuals, both of whom I greatly admire, it occurred to me that what I’d really love to see is a crossover episode, where both Longworth and Gottfried are given an opportunity to watch Lon Chaney Jr. clips and argue their cases, perhaps in front of a jury. [I’m still trying to work out the format in my head, but, having just watched Witness for the Prosecution, I keep coming back to the idea of a jury verdict, and how awesome it would be to have a definitive declaration as to whether Chaney was worth a damn or not.] As I have no idea how such things are accomplished, I made my suggestion on Twitter, which you can see below. But, as a few days have now passed, and I still haven’t see a “Lonapalooza” headline in Variety, I thought that I’d note it here as well. So, if you’re an entertainment industry insider with the wherewithal to make something like this happen, I’d appreciate it if you’d make a call or two, OK?

I know that, in the whole scheme of things, a debate over the legacy of Lon Chaney Jr. probably doesn’t warrant a great deal of time and energy, but, who knows, maybe it’s exactly what an exhausted and overwhelmed America needs right now. Maybe it’s what we’ve all been waiting for. Maybe, once it happens, people will take to the streets saying, “If our nation’s two most thoughtful historians of old Hollywood can find the time to debate the acting choices of Lon Cheney Jr., then I sure as hell can manage a voter registration drive in my small town.” Yes, I know that’s probably a bit of a reach, but I need to somehow justify, if only to myself, the fact that I intend to watch Spider Baby tonight, instead of posting about the corruption of Trump EPA Director Scott Pruitt.

Posted in Art and Culture, Pop Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Shri Thanedar, Faux Bernie Bro?


Aside from the fact that he’s referred to himself as a “fiscally savvy Bernie,” and has one of the worst slogans in American political history, up until today, I knew very little about Michigan gubernatorial candidate Shri Thanedar. I mean, I had a vague sense of him, but I hadn’t read very much about his stances on specific issues. I knew, for instance, that he was an Indian entrepreneur with a majestic bouffant and a flair for self-promotion, but I had no idea where he stood on things like public education, the minimum wage, health care, fixing the roads, or anything else that us Michiganders care about. I just knew that he was rising in the polls, and figured that, sometime this summer, before the August 7 primary, I’d have to invest some time to compare his track record with those of his fellow Democratic frontrunners, Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El-Sayed. Well, my timeline got accelerated a bit this morning, thanks to an expose in The Intercept. So, now, I’m pretty deep in the weeds, trying to determine if, as the author of the piece suggests, Thanedar really is just an opportunist and a charlatan who chose to wrap himself in the cloak of Bernie Sanders, having sensed the power of the Senator’s populist message… Here, if you’ve yet to read the piece, is an excerpt.

…Hemond, who is a prominent Michigan Democratic consultant, was joined by Dan McMaster, a prominent Republican consultant, as well as Brian Began, a former staffer for Michigan’s House Republican Caucus. At the meeting, they asked Thanedar what party he was thinking of running in.

To their surprise, Hemond said, Thanedar told them it didn’t matter.

“He came to us looking for advice about running for governor, and was obviously in the market for a consultant,” he said. “We asked him what party he wanted to run from and he said he didn’t care. He said whichever side we thought he had the best chance to win on. Which we thought was interesting.”

They started asking Thanedar about his positions on the issues. “He tried to be very cagey about what his issue positions were,” Hemond said. “For instance, we had a conversation about abortion politics. And we told him, look, you know, if you run as a Democrat, then obviously you’re going to be running as being pro-choice. If you run as a Republican, then you’re going to have to run as being pro-life. Are you going to be comfortable with that? Is your family going to be comfortable with that? He indicated yes. I don’t know if that was just him in sort of his political ambition, saying, yeah, I’ll play along with that, or if he was just trying to game that out. But we asked him about issue positions on a number of different issues that can play in one or the other of the primaries. And his position was mostly that he didn’t care. That he would adopt whatever position was beneficial for him to run for governor.”

Both McMaster and Began confirmed Hemond’s account. “When we met with Sri, obviously the first thing we asked was what party he was in. He wanted to hear our opinion,” Began said. Thanedar, Began recalled, believed that his personal biography would be enough to win the race, and told the consultants he planned to commission a screenplay about himself.

“He was looking for advice on whether to run as an R or a D. He did admit he was pro-life, which is interesting, [now] that he is running as a progressive Democrat,” said McMaster. “I laughed when he walked out the door, because a fool and their money part ways often, and that was my impression.”

Began, meanwhile, said he couldn’t divine from the conversation where Thanedar stood on abortion rights, while DiSano came away believing he was “adamantly pro-choice.”

In February, DiSano met again with Thanedar. “He told me he was going to run as a Democrat during a meeting at his home,” DiSano explained. “I think the only things that stopped him from running as a Republican was that he was adamantly pro-choice and Trump had just popped his first version of the travel ban. I asked Shri, ‘Do you think the party of Trump is going to nominate a pro-choice immigrant from India, with brown skin and a funny accent, the same time they are pushing this travel ban?’ That seemed to strike a chord with him.”

DiSano described Thanedar as actually quite opposed to progressives and, particularly, Sanders…

So, yeah, if you can believe this, Thanedar, who, according to some polling, is now leading the Democratic pack, is actually ‘opposed to progressives’. And, what’s more, the thing that really motivates him doesn’t appear to be a vision for a better Michigan, but the promise of a great ending for the screenplay he’s having written about himself. It’s possible, of course, that all of this is bullshit. If I had to guess, though, I’d say that it’s not. The article’s just too heavily sourced. This doesn’t mean, however, that the whole thing couldn’t also have been coordinated by his political opponents, who, I’m sure, must be delighting in the national coverage this is getting.

Posted in Marketing, Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments


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