Obama declares the Senate health care bill, “a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America,” and he’s right.

Well, after weeks and weeks of secret discussions, Senate Republicans today shared a draft of their their health care bill, which, if passed, would replace Obamacare. Knowing the bill would be unpopular, the White House barred the news media from airing the press conference live. And, in hopes of diverting attention, Trump, at roughly the same time, took to Twitter to announce that he’d been lying a few weeks back when he’d suggested that he had secret tapes of him and former FBI Director James Comey discussing about the Russia investigation. [According to Newt Gingrich, this was just an innocent little “bluff” on the part of Trump, who was, according to the former Speaker of the House, “trying to rattle Comey.” In other words, according to Gingrich, this was an attempt at witness intimidation on the part of the President.] Fortunately, though, the media, at least for the most part, stayed focused on the Senate bill, which the AARP was quick to label “harmful”. And with good reason, too. To quote former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, the legislation “raises deductibles, cuts coverage and slashes Medicaid,” all of which are things that the President promised the legislation wouldn’t do. And it hits older Americans particularly hard… According to our friend Charles Gaba, who studies these things, a 60-year-old earning $37,000 would go from paying roughly $3,600 a year for a “silver” plan today, to paying roughly $6,000 for a “bronze” one under the proposed Senate bill. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg… Before we get into details, though, I wanted to share the following letter from former President Barack Obama, which was just posted to social media.

Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.
We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

Make no mistake, this Republican bill was not drafted with any thought as to what the American people wanted or needed. It was drafted with one thing in mind – “What can we get away with?” And we cannot allow the Republicans in the Senate to get away with it. We need to draw attention to this legislation, and let people know how it will likely affect their families. Here, with that in mind, are a few examples from Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

This Republican bill, says Casey, will decimate Medicaire:

And end protections for pre-existing conditions:

And raise deductibles:

While we still don’t have a CBO score yet, and don’t know exactly how many people would lose their coverage if this bill should become law, we know already that a lot of people will be hurt. And why? To cut taxes on the wealthy.

Again, this has nothing to do with what the American people want, need or deserve, and everything to do with a desire on the part of Republicans to make good on their promises to members of the donor class, the wealthy individuals whose financial contributions keep them in office. [This is another great reminder of why we need to get the money out of American politics, but, for the time being, we need to focus on killing this bill.] Fortunately, people are beginning to take notice. Organizations like the AARP are informing their members, and people are beginning to engage in civil disobedience… Speaking of which, 43 were arrested during a protests outside Mitch McConnell’s Senate office this afternoon, many of whom were pulled from their wheelchairs and dragged out of the building. Here, if you missed it, is a little of the documentation.

This is America in 2017. This is what we’ve become. This is what we have to end, not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Apparently, as the Mexicans have refused to pay for Trump’s wall, he’s come up with a better idea… We’ll have the wall pay for itself!

I don’t think it’s that new of an idea. I’ve heard people say before, “You know, we should make that border wall of Trump’s solar.” Today, though, was the first time that I heard Trump say it himself. He was addressing a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when he made the announcement. Referencing the campaign promise that his proposed southern border wall wouldn’t cost us a dime, as he’d somehow force the Mexicans to pay for the whole thing, he told the people of Cedar Rapids that, even better yet, his new, improved wall would “pay for itself.” That’s right, now that the Mexicans have told us point blank that they’re… in the words of former Mexican President Vicente Fox… not going to pay for the “fucking wall,” Trump’s come back with an even more magical, and less feasible, plan. Now, thanks to the addition of solar panels, the wall will pay for itself!

And this new plan of his, in case you’re the kind of person who appreciates facts, really is unfeasible. First, let’s start with the cost of the wall. Trump told us during the campaign that it would cost us approximately $6 to $7 billion. Since then, however, we’ve learned that, according to an assessment done by the Department of Homeland Security, it would actually cost more like $21.6 billion. And, on top of this, the folks at Bloomberg are estimating that the addition of solar panels would drive the cost up by another $7.6 billion. Given all of this, and the fact that the proposed solar system would likely generate about $221 million in annual revenues, the folks at Bloomberg estimate that the wall could pay for itself in “just 125 years.” Of course, they then point out that, in actuality, once you calculate in the the changing value of money over time, and a few other factors, it’s likely, after 215 years, there would still be a $25.4 billion gap. So, according to their modeling, the wall would never pay for itself. And this model, I should note, was constructed on the assumption that the wall itself could be built for $20 billion, and not the $21.6 billion estimated by Homeland Security. And, second, even if we could build this solar wall, getting the power from it would be difficult, seeing as how, according to the Financial Times, “less than 2 percent of the U.S. population lives within 40 miles of the Mexico border.” In the opinion of the Financial Times, for that reason alone, the President’s plan is a “non-starter.” Just to get the power from the wall to where it could be put to use would require an investment of several billion dollars more in electrical infrastructure. And, third, even if this wall did stand for 215 years, the solar panels would have to be replaced several times over that period of time, especially given that the panels would be pointed toward the south, where one would imagine they might be the target of rocks and the like. [The demonization of Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers may play well here, but I think you’d find that folks living on the other side of our southern border don’t much care for it.] Oh, and fourth, it probably couldn’t be built in the first place as 1,254 miles of our currently unsecured border with Mexico runs right down the middle of the Rio Grande River.

So you can clap all you want, but this isn’t going to happen. Trump can say that the wall will pay for itself, just like he said that the Mexicans would pay for it, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll actually happen. If a wall is built, you can be absolutely sure, it will be us, the working men and women of America, and our ancestors, who will be paying for it… not the Mexicans, not the sun, and not the wall itself. It’ll just be us, and us alone.

With all of that said, though, can you imagine the impact of investing $30 billion in the installation of rooftop solar units across the United States? I know Trump likes to brag that he’s putting more people back under the surface of the earth, mining coal, than any president since Nixon, or whatever, but, really, wouldn’t people rather be working aboveground, installing solar panels, than filling their lungs with coal dust in darkness every day?

One last thing… If Trump loves coal so much, why not build the border wall from toxic coal ash? Given the trajectory we’re on, I think it would be kind of fitting, wouldn’t it?

Posted in Environment, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Barbie and Ken to teach children about the dangers of ticks

Apparently, the Russians, in an attempt to completely break the will of the American people, have somehow coerced the senior management of Mattel to roll out a man-bun-sporting Ken doll… and, as you might expect, conservatives across the country are losing their collective shit over it, wringing their hands, and suggesting that something be done immediately, before an entire generation of would-be American warriors starts demanding that their schools tear down their football stadiums and replace them with free, community-facing, holistic wellness centers. Personally, as no one with a man-bun ever beat me up in middle school, or called me a faggot, I don’t have any problem with it. In fact, I’m inclined to think it might be a good thing, even though, to be quite honest, I find the whole man-bun thing to be a little douchey. To each his own, though… With all of that said, however, it occurs to me that, if this new line of Ken dolls should fail, they could be reintroduced to the market as educational tools to be used by teachers when discussing the threats posed by ticks, which, by the way, are apparently more abundant this year than any in recorded history. I mean, it really does look like fully-engorged ticks are burrowing down into the scalps of these unsuspecting young men, doesn’t it? And isn’t that way more awesome than a man-bun?

Posted in Ideas, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Trumpcare, true crime, and my complete inability to focus

I want desperately to pick up where we left off last week in our discussion about the Trumpcare bill being drafted in secret by Senate Republicans, and how it looks as though the Democrats have decided to fight back with every tool they’ve got at their disposal in hopes of delaying the vote, but I went and got hooked on the Netflix documentary series The Keepers last night, and I just can’t seem to break free of it. So I guess you’ll have to go somewhere else for your political insight tonight, as Senators Harris, Merkey, Shumer, Sanders, Warren and company set out to stop the bill from being pushed through without a single public debate on its contents, or conversation about the millions of Americans who will left without health care as a result… I know I should be watching our Senate Democrats filibuster through the night in hopes that the American people might take notice and start calling their Senators, but apparently there’s something about the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik that’s got a hold over me. Rest assured, though, I’ll be calling the offices of my senators tomorrow. [Find the phone numbers for your senators here.]

The American people, I hope you’d agree, regardless of the party you vote for, deserve to know what’s in Trumpcare. Not only are lives at stake, but the health care industry represents one-sixth of our entire economy, and it’s absolutely imperative that the ramifications be discussed… I get that Republicans in Congress want to fund massive tax breaks for the wealthy, but this is absolute madness. One doesn’t just pass legislation effecting nearly 20% of the economy without so much as a debate. In the case of Obamacare, as you’ll recall, there were 100 hearings in the Senate alone.

I know it’ll get messy, but if you want to discuss either health policy or the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, please leave a comment… And here’s a short video about The Keepers, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about.

Oh, it’s also worth noting that a bipartisan group of governors has come forward to ask Senate Republicans not proceed in this manner. The following clip is from the Washington Post.

…“While we certainly agree that reforms need to be made to our nation’s health care system, as Governors from both sides of the political aisle, we feel that true and lasting reforms are best approached by finding common ground in a bipartisan fashion,” the governors wrote in a letter to Senate leaders of both parties.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed the letter.

Kasich and Sandoval are particularly notable for their warning against the current Senate GOP approach, given that senators from their states, Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), are key votes on the bill…

So, if you happen to be reading this in either Ohio or Nevada, please consider picking up the phone and calling Portman or Heller, and asking whether or not they intend to do as their governors ask and bring this bill out of the back room, and into the light of day.

Oh, and, here, from the New Republic, is one more thing to consider. Not only are 13 men drafting this legislation is secrecy, but the men writing the legislation represent our least populated, reddest states. So, not only is this being written by older white men, but it’s being written by older white men from rural America… What could possibly go wrong, right?

Posted in Health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A big thank you to everyone who had a hand in launching Landline Creative Labs

As we’re getting ready to rent our 10th and final office at Landline Creative Labs, now seemed like a good time to step back, reflect for a minute, and say thank you to everyone who played a role in getting us to where we are today.

First and foremost, we’d like to thank all of our partners at Landline, the folks who decided to sign on the dotted line and move in. Not only were they incredibly patient and understanding throughout the process, but the passion they show for their work continues to inspire us. It’s one thing to have an idea for something like Landline in the abstract, but it’s another altogether to actually try to build it in the real world, and we couldn’t be happier with the team we’ve assembled. They’re some of the most intelligent, thoughtful and interesting people we know, and we’re grateful that this project has brought us all together in this downtown Ypsilanti space.

We’d also like to thank Frank Dodd and Brandon Fischer, the downstairs tenants that we inherited when we purchased 209 Pearl Street back in May of 2016. Transitions like this aren’t always easy, but their support and encouragement helped tremendously as we set out to build Landline on the floor above them. And we couldn’t be happier for both of them, as, like us, they continue to grow as entrepreneurs, Frank expanding his barbershop to include our neighborhood’s only convenience store, and Brandon expanding his metalworking operation to the production of custom furniture. [Brandon built the table in our conference room and in the Landline Global Headquarters office, by the way.] It’s been fun to watch them both expand, try new things, and contribute to the creative energy at 209 Pearl Street.

We would also like to thank the folks at Ann Arbor SPARK, especially Jennifer Olmstead, for their unwavering support and assistance as we fought to pull together the funding for this project and get it off the ground. Jennifer believed in us when we argued that our community could benefit from a place like this, where creative professionals could put down roots, and collectively build an industry here in downtown Ypsilanti, and she did everything in her power to help us make it happen… And it certainly didn’t hurt that, through her, and others at SPARK, we were able to secure an Ypsilanti Incentive Program grant for $56,000, allowing us to actually do things like repair the fire damage that had kept the second floor of 209 Pearl Street vacant for the past several years.

And, while we’re at it, we’d also like to thank the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, who had the foresight to both create and fund the Ypsilanti Incentive Program noted above. Their increased investment in the eastern side of the County, as you can see around you tonight, is already beginning to pay dividends, and we’re hopeful that it will continue.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t thank the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority and the Ypsilanti City Council, both of whom were enthusiastic supporters of Landline from the outset, with City Council voting unanimously to award an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act tax incentive as we were considering the purchase of the building, and the DDA for investing in both our historic window renovation ($2,000) and our wheelchair lift ($5,000). And we’re especially thankful for the efforts of Beth Ernat at the City, and Joe Meyers at the DDA for not only walking us through the various processes, but being available for us night and day as we encountered issues with the redevelopment of 209 Pearl. [I won’t get into it here, but there were a lot of issues that we had to work through.] Beth especially has gone above and beyond to make Landline Creative Labs a reality, and we can’t say enough about how great she’s been to work with.

Not to overstate how significant the development of Landline is, but, in our eyes, it really demonstrates what can happen when motivated people with good ideas, a little working capital, and decent work ethics, collaborate with City and County government to move toward a common goal.

And, of course, we’d like to thank Tim Gretkierewicz and Jeffrey McKelvey at Bank of Ann Arbor, who took on some amount of risk when they agreed to work with us as first time developers that wanted to do the contracting ourselves. While we may have occasionally grumbled about their constant and thorough oversight, they did an awesome job of keeping us on task, and we’re appreciative for that… as well as the money, of course… even though it has to be paid back. And, for what it’s worth, it’s pretty awesome to be doing business with a bank that’s just down the street, where we know people by name, and they always have a plentiful supply of both candy and apples.

And it goes without saying that none of what you’re seeing tonight would have existed if not for the incredibly hard work of those people who did the plumbing, ran the electrical lines, put up the walls, rebuilt the windows, etc. We were fortunate to work with the very best on this project; Roger Wallace (electrical), Safaa Pauls (plumbing), Adam Lacca (plaster), Dustin Schultz (windows), Mike Reyna (floors), John Taylor (HVAC), Brad “handy” Hale (handyman), and Steve Hughes, Kevin Lynn, and Blake Woodruffe (carpentry). Had it not been for them, this would surely have been a much different, and much less successful, project.

We would also like to thank all of those in the community who, over the last year or more, we relied on for advice, like Bill Kinley, Paul Saginaw, Dug Song, Richard Murphy, Phil Tepley, Michael Gay, Andre Grewe, Bee Roll, Sean Cool, Tony VanDerworp, Hedger Breed, Jeff Irwin, Paul Schutt and Gary Bruder, all of whom gave freely of their time and wisdom. We could have never pulled this off without their insight, friendship and unwavering support.

And, big thanks are also due to all of those who had a hand in making Landline feel like the place it is today, after all of the walls were up, the doors were hung and the floor was put down… W.A.P John at Ann Arbor’s Grafaktri for the lobby signage, Carol McEachran at Salt City Antiques for helping us find our sofa, Linette Lao at Invisible Engines for our logo, Jean Henry, Dick Beedon, Muffy Mackenzie and Barry LaRue for donating furniture when our budget ran out, Karl Anderson for offering to put a free pay phone outside the building, artists Jason Wright and Jim Cherewick for the artwork that hangs in our new microgallery, Linette Lao, Kim DeBord, Melissa Wessel and Kelli Harden for their numerous design recommendations, and, lastly, Doug Coombe for documenting it all with his camera… Oh, and all the guys who gathered that cold winter morning to carry the telephone pole now hanging above our staircase across town to the building, and all the folks who helped us find the glass insulators that now hang throughout the building.

Sorry, I didn’t expect that list to be so long when I started. There really were a lot of people who helped Jesse and me get things to where they are today, though, and I just wanted to finally acknowledge all of them… Stuff like this really doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I know, from the outside, it sometimes looks as though things like this just magically happen, perhaps because of one or two really motivated people, but that’s just not the case. It really does take a lot of good people, all working together, to make something like this happen.

Posted in 209 Pearl, Art and Culture, Local Business, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments


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