A whole new MarkMaynard.com, brought to you in July by The Rocket

    At some point later this morning, if all goes according to plan, the site should look considerably different. I hope you find it to your liking. Among other things, you should be able to more easily share your favorite posts on Facebook, and get your comments posted without having to wait so long for moderation. And, it should be a little more easy to navigate. Most importantly, though, you should also notice, in the top right corner, that the MarkMaynard.com coupon program has been reinitiated. This month’s featured local company is everyone’s favorite Ypsilanti gift, candy and novelty shop – The Rocket, and they’re offering 20% off on all purchases. All you have to do is print out their coupon, and use it during the month of July… So, if you’ve been waiting for the right time to visit downtown Ypsi, now’s your chance. There are a few other site-related things that I wanted to talk with you about, but it’s late, and I’m tired, so I guess they’ll have to wait… Before I go, though, I want to thank a reader that we’ll call A, who helped to get this new site launched. It couldn’t have happened without him. I’d like to use his real name, but I don’t want to mention it without first running it by him, in case he has friends, family members, or employers that might hold it against him that he helped me make this site better. There’s also a lovely and talented graphic designer that I’d like to thank, but she’s asked me not to give even her initial.

    Posted in Locally Owned Business, Mark's Life, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , | 30 Comments

    Is there a crime problem at Prospect Park that I’m not aware of?

    I wasn’t planning to post tonight, as I’m working feverishly on the MarkMaynard.com 3.0 relaunch, but I just noticed the following comment, left by a fellow calling himself SJH, and I thought that I should move it up here, to the front page. If you have thoughts on his comment, or, for that matter, thoughts on new functionality that you’d like see on the soon-to-be new and improved MarkMaynard.com, please leave a comment.

    As for Prospect Park, I was just there on Monday with Clementine, and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Then again, we were there at 11:30 AM, so the gangs may have been on their lunch break.

    [note: The above comment by SJH was originally left in a thread entitled What do people really think of Ypsilanti, how might those opinions be reinforced by Ann Arbor media, and what can we do about it?.]

    update: Here, with another perspective, is a comment left by a reader named Jonathan.

    I play basketball regularly at Prospect Park, and I’ve never seen any violence. That said, things can get a little crazy there at times, especially evenings when there can be 20 people trying to play basketball on a single court. Yes, there is all sorts of foul language. Yes, kids occasionally smoke a j courtside. And yes, everybody calls me “white boy” with a hint of derision. But I’ve never felt threatened.

    What’s happening on the tennis court actually is pretty cool, as teenagers have turned it into a serviceable skate park. I know other people were using it as a roller hockey rink, but there was rarely anybody there. The skate park, on the other hand, is packed almost every day with kids of all ages and races. Definitely something for Ypsi to be proud of.

    Posted in Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , | 52 Comments

      Bernie Sanders demands that Obama ‘Stand with the American people’‎

      I don’t donate a lot of money to political candidates. While I put in quite a few hours working for the Kerry and Obama campaigns, I didn’t give either of them very much in the way of cash. The only people that I can think of that I gave more than ten or twenty dollars to are Ralph Nader, John Edwards and Howard Dean. And, in those cases, to be honest, it wasn’t very much. I mention this not because I want to discuss what a cheapskate I am, or how rarely I “put my money where my mouth is” when it comes to candidates that I support, but in hopes that it helps convey how serious I am when I say the following…

      I don’t know if Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has any interest whatsoever in running against Barack Obama in a Democratic Presidential primary, but, if he does, I will start saving my money, and donate $250 to his campaign. (I figure that, if I say it publicly like this, I’ll have to follow through and actually do it.) And, not only that, but I will dedicate 5 hours per week of my time to his campaign between now and the primary election. I don’t have any illusions about him beating Obama in a head-to-head match-up, but I very much want for him to have the platform that comes with a credible Presidential campaign. In a world where everyone in power seems to be moving steadily to the right, Sanders is fast becoming the only man in Washington who I can count on to consistently speak for me and my family, and I want to do my part to help him get his message out.

      Here, if you’re unfamiliar with Sanders, is the beginning of a speech that he delivered today on the floor of the U.S. Senate. I doubt it’s getting covered anywhere in the mainstream press.

      Mr. President, this is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. In the coming days and weeks, decisions will be made about our national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American in this country for decades to come. The time is now for the American people to become significantly involved in that debate and not leave it to a small number of people here in Washington.

      At a time when the wealthiest people and the largest corporations in our country are doing phenomenally well and in many cases have never had it so good, while the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing, it is absolutely imperative that any deficit-reduction package that passes this Congress not include the horrendous cuts, the cruel cuts in programs that working people desperately need that are utilized every day by the elderly, by the sick, by our children, and by the lowest income people in our country, that the Republicans in Congress, dominated by their extreme rightwing, are demanding.

      America is not about giving tax breaks to billionaires and attacking the most vulnerable people in our country. We must not allow that to happen.

      In my view, the President of the United States needs to stand with the vast majority of the American people and say no to the Republican leadership and make it clear that enough is enough. No, we will not balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in this country–on our children, on our seniors and the sick. No, we will not do that. Working families in this country have already sacrificed enough in terms of lost jobs, lost wages, lost homes, lost pensions. The working families of this country are hurting right now. Enough is enough.

      Now is the time to say to the millionaires and the billionaires in this country and to the largest corporations that in many ways have never had it so good that they must participate in deficit reduction, that there must be shared sacrifice, that deficit reduction cannot be based on cutting back on the needs of working families and the middle class but that the rich and large corporations have also got to participate in this process.

      Furthermore, it is absolutely necessary, if we are talking about a sensible deficit-reduction package, that we take a hard look at unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon.

      Let’s make it very clear that we will not be blackmailed again by the Republican leadership in Washington that is threatening to destroy the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government so that, for the very first time in our Nation’s history, we might not pay the bills we owe. That is their threat. We will destroy the record of always paying our bills, never failing to do that, unless they get everything they want.

      Instead of yielding to the incessant, extreme Republican demands, as the President in many respects did in last December’s tax cut agreement and this year’s spending negotiations, the President has to get out of the beltway. He has to connect with the needs of working families and ordinary Americans and rally the overwhelming majority of our people who believe that deficit reduction must be based on shared sacrifice, that the wealthy and the powerful and the large corporations cannot continue to get everything they want while we wage a cruel and unprecedented attack on the most vulnerable people in this country. It is time for President Obama to stand with the millions who have already lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings, instead of the millionaires, who in many cases have never had it so good.

      Unless the American people in huge numbers tell the President not to yield 1 inch to Republican demands to destroy Medicare and Medicaid while continuing to provide tax breaks to the wealthy and the powerful, unless the American people rise up and say enough is enough, I am afraid that what will happen is the President will yield once again and the wealthy and the powerful will laugh all the way to the bank, while working people will be devastated.

      Today, I am asking the American people that if you believe deficit reduction should be about shared sacrifice; if you believe the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations should be asked to pay their fair share as part of deficit reduction; if you believe that, at a time when military spending has almost tripled since 1997, we must begin to take a hard look at our defense budget; and if you believe the middle-class and working families have already sacrificed enough, I urge you to make sure the President hears your voice, and he needs to hear it now. I urge the American people to go to my Web site, and sign a letter to the President letting him know that enough is enough. I also urge the American people to contact the White House directly through their Web sites and leave a message for the President there.

      As you know, this country faces enormous challenges. In fact, we have not suffered through such a difficult moment since the Great Depression of the 1930s. We do not talk about it very much, but the reality is that the middle class in this country is disappearing while at the same time poverty is increasing.

      When we talk about the state of our economy, it is important to talk about it within the context of deficit reduction because when you understand what is going on in the economy, you know you cannot get blood out of a stone. You cannot keep attacking people who have been devastated in the last few years in terms of unemployment, in terms of losses of pension, in terms of losses of health care.

      When we talk about the economy, we have to understand that the situation is in many cases even worse than official statistics indicate. For example, we read in the papers that the official unemployment rate is now 9.1 percent. But the truth is–and no economist disagrees with this–that official statistic ignores the number of people who have given up looking for work and people who are working part time when they want to work full time. If you add all of that together, you are looking at a real unemployment rate in this country of about 16 percent. Are those really the people whom we should go to for deficit reduction? Are they not suffering enough right now? Young people graduating college who can’t find a job, let’s hit them hard. Older people who have lost their jobs and can’t find a new one or are working for half the wages they previously worked at, let’s go after those people. Fifty million people have no health insurance. Let’s attack them. Working mothers and fathers cannot find affordable childcare. Let’s go after them.

      We must understand that when we look at the economy, the middle class is hurting and hurting badly. Over the last 10 years, on top of the high unemployment rates, the median family income in this country has declined by over $2,500. Do you know why working families are angry? That is why they are angry. They are working longer hours for lower wages. Are those really the people you want to ask to balance the budget? I don’t think so. I think any sense of fairness, any sense of morality that one might have suggests you do not beat up on people who are already suffering. You don’t try to get blood out of a stone.

      As a result of the greed and the recklessness and the illegal behavior on Wall Street which caused this terrible recession, millions more Americans have lost their homes, they have lost their pensions, and they have lost their retirement savings. We hear it every day in calls that come to our offices.

      Unless we reverse our current economic costs, our children will have, for the very first time in modern American history, a lower standard of living than their parents. It is the American dream in reverse. Kids are going to do worse than their parents unless we reverse current economic trends.

      We can throw out a lot of numbers around here, a few hundred billion and a trillion. But the truth is that behind those numbers in my State of Vermont and all over this country, there are real people who are hurting terribly, and as Members of the Senate our job is to pay attention to those people and not just the well-paid lobbyists, representing the most powerful special interests in the world, who surround this Capitol every single day…

      To read the rest of what Sanders had to say to the President, click here.

      And please share this with your friends.

      Posted in Corporate Crime, Mark's Life, Observations, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

      Thank God… American kids can now know the joy that comes with shooting people in the face

      In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the entertainment industry today, ruling that minors had the right to purchase violent video games. The following comes from the LA Times.

      …”Like books, plays and movies, video games communicate ideas,” said Justice Antonin Scalia in his majority opinion Monday. And he said there was “no tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence… Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed.”

      The decision, coming on the term’s last day, highlights a consistent theme of the high court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.: Freedom of speech is almost always a winner, even if the context is unusual…

      Last week, the court struck down a Vermont law that barred the sale of private drug prescription records. The court said the data was “speech” and could be traded in the “marketplace of ideas.”…

      I guess I’ll have to go and check out Grimm’s Fairy Tales again, I don’t remember the graphic depictions of prostitutes getting their heads blown off with shotguns after being raped.

      I’m not typically one to say that we need to restrict information from kids, or anyone for that matter, but the idea of six year olds playing first-person shooter games strikes me as wrong. And, yes, I’ve read the reports that state there’s no conclusive link between those who enjoy kicking someone’s brains out on their computer monitor and those who do it in real life. I just know that it’s absolute bullshit to suggest that these vibrant, bloody, moving images of murder are somehow comparable to the woodcut illustrations that accompany Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It’s like saying that kids should be able to buy copies of the porn film Airtight Granny because Three’s Company plots often revolved around sexual innuendo.

      OK, as long as I’m ranting about today’s kids, can someone tell me how old people need to be to buy pot from Michigan’s so-called medical marijuana dispensaries? I saw a few kids that couldn’t have been any older than 16 going into a place the other day, and, while I’m sure that they had terrible carpal tunnel from having to constantly pull their baggy jeans up, and turn their baseball caps sideways, I’m inclined to say that they should have to suffer for a few years, like the rest of us had to. (I should add that I didn’t see these kids come out with pot, so the manager of the place very well could have asked them to leave. I just saw them go in and approach the counter, in their Insane Clown Posse t-shirts.)

      Anyway, back to video games, I’d like to think that the Supreme Court is really doing this in order to safeguard freedom of speech. I’d like to think that the rights of kids is really something that motivates them. I can’t help but think, however, that it has more to do with what Walmart and the rest of corporate America wants. If they really gave a fuck about free speech – real free speech – wouldn’t they have torn down Bush’s 1984-inspired, barbed wire-enclosed “Free Speech Zones”? Wouldn’t they be fighting to protect the rights of whistle blowers? Given the evidence, I think it’s pretty clear that, despite what they say, they only love free speech in so far as they can use it as an excuse to further their pro-corporate agenda.

      Posted in Civil Liberties, Rants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

      Michele Bachmann, saying “that’s the kind of spirit I have too,” launches her Presidential campaign near the childhood home of serial killer John Wayne Gacy

      Representative Michele Bachmann, who, if you’re not familiar with her, is like Sarah Palin without the intellectual gravitas, was on Face the Nation yesterday with Bob Schieffer to announce the launch of her Presidential campaign. Schieffer, to his credit, took the opportunity to call the Tea Party favorite out on the many lies she’s told since entering Congress. Here, if you haven’t seen it, is the footage.

      And, here, thanks to our friends at Crooks & Liars, is a bit of the transcript:

      SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you about something else. A lot of your critics say you have been very fast and loose with the truth. You know, the po– PolitiFact, which is a website that won a Pulitzer, did an analysis of twenty-three statements that you made recently. Of these twenty-three, only one they said was completely true. Seven they call pants on fire kind of falsehoods. Four were barely true and two were half truths. How do you answer that criticism? Because here’s one of them, you know, you said on the record there had been only one offshore oil drilling permit during the Obama administration and, in fact at that time they had been two hundred and seventy. How do you explain that?

      BACHMANN: Well, you know, I think that what is clear more than anything is the fact that President Obama does — has not been issuing the permits, that he should have been issuing on offshore drilling that’s–

      SCHIEFFER: Well, it’s more than three hundred now.

      BACHMANN: Well –

      SCHIEFFER: At– at that time there had been two hundred and something. And you said there had been only one.

      BACHMANN: But as far as drilling goes, we hadn’t been drilling what we need to– that’s why we just this week–

      SCHIEFFER (overlapping): But that’s different, isn’t it?

      BACHMANN: Well, that’s why this week it’s– it’s ironic and sad that the President released all of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve because the President doesn’t have an energy policy.

      SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Do you think that was a good move?

      BACHMANN: He has a politically correct environmental policy.

      SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Was that a good thing?

      BACHMANN: It was a very bad move. It put– it has made the United States more vulnerable. There’s only a limited amount of oil that we have in the Strategic Oil Reserve. It’s there for emergencies…

      As you’ll notice, not only did she not answer Schieffer’s question about her pathological lie-telling, but, in the process of not answering, she told another lie. When she said that President Obama had “released all of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve,” she should have said that he released 30 million barrels of oil from our 727 million barrel reserve, or roughly 4 percent.

      But it gets better… If you can believe it, the intellectually challenged candidate followed up today by officially launching her campaign in the home town of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The following comes from the Washington Times.

      Rep. Michele Bachmann kicked off her presidential campaign on Monday in Waterloo, Iowa, and in one interview surrounding the official event she promised to mimic the spirit of Waterloo’s own John Wayne.

      The only problem, as one eagle-eyed reader notes: Waterloo’s John Wayne was not the beloved movie star, but rather John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer.

      Mrs. Bachmann grew up in Waterloo, and used the town as the backdrop for her campaign announcement, where she told Fox News: “Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too.”…

      I was sure when I first read the story that it was a bit of Onion-inspired satire, but apparently it’s true. Here’s the video.

      Bachmann, in her defense, has since come out to say that, although the actor John Wayne never lived in Waterloo, his parents once did… which apparently is pretty much the same thing, at least by her standards.

      And this woman, by the way, is currently polling second only to Romney among the Republican candidates. That should tell you something.

      Posted in Media, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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