Visit Zingerman’s Creamery at the Downtown Ypsi Farmers’ Market and get free goat cheese with your purchase

If you happen to be going to the Downtown Ypsi Farmers’ Market today (or any other Tuesday this month), do yourself a favor and print out this new coupon for Zingerman’s Creamery. If you do, you’ll get some of their “Little Ypsi” aged goat’s milk cheese for free, assuming, of course, you buy something else from them. Here’s how they describe the cheese, which, I’m told, is akin to a French crottin. (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds good.) “It has a beautiful, buttery-yellow rind,” they say, “and a paste that runs the gamut from dense and soft when younger to firm and flinty as it ages.”

I have no idea why it’s called the Little Ypsi, but I wonder if, just maybe, they’re getting their goat’s milk here. Given that Peter Thomason raises goats downtown, and his daughter Aubrey is a Managing Partner at Zingerman’s Creamery, it may not be that far-fetched… I’ll make a note to ask… If so, I think that would be really cool.

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If you do try it, let me know if you like’a the cheese, alright?

Posted in Food, Monkey Power Trio, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

If you’re going to be compared to a terrorist, it might as well be a brilliant one

On Sunday afternoon, I was standing in the rain in Ann Arbor, by myself, with a half-eaten cupcake in my hand, when a friend approached me, and greeted me with a question that I’d never been asked before. “How’d you like being compared to the Unabomber?” Having no idea what in the hell he was talking about, I just responded with a cold, blank stare, licking sickly-sweet frosting from my blog-calloused fingertips. After an awkward pause, he went on. “Someone online did this kind of doppelgänger thing, where he matched up local celebrities with people they resembled. You were the Unabomber. The outgoing Ann Arbor Superintendent was Miss Piggy…” The list went on.

Well, good to his word, this friend later sent a link. Here’s the part where I’m mentioned.

MMunabomber3

Putting aside for a moment the fact that it’s not really a good time in American history to have your name linked to terrorist activities, I guess I’m flattered… Can I say that? Has enough time passed since Kaczynski attempted to murder U-M professor James V. McConnell, not too far from where I’m writing this? I mean, if the author had wanted to, there are other, even more abhorrent people I’ve been told that I resemble. Jeffrey Dahmer and the Canadian lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies come to mind. (At least Kaczynski didn’t eat people and/or make shitty pop music.) And I don’t know that my ego could have taken a comparison to Miss Piggy, even though, looking at it objectively, I look more like her than I do the brilliant child prodigy turned emaciated, bomb-making recluse. So, yeah, it sucks to be linked to a delusional killer, but at least it wasn’t a pig puppet.

I don’t know that this is necessarily the best place for a thoughtful conversation about Kaczynski and his beliefs, but, as the comparison was made, I am kind of curious as to how we’ll both fare when all is said and done… I mean, I suspect, to some extent, he and I are motivated by similar concerns — at least, from what I recall, I was somewhat sympathetic when skimming through his manifesto about the human costs that come as a result of our ever-increasing reliance on technology — and I’m wondering how history will see us, and the widely divergent tactics we’ve employed to set things right. I should add that I’m not trying to establish myself as the anti-Kaczynski. What I do, here in Ypsi, on a really small, hyper-local scale, isn’t really anything special. There are tens of thousands of people across the United States that do community-building better than I do. I’m just curious as to how those of us who’ve chosen to push back without resorting to violence will compare against the likes of Kaczynski, when all is said and done. Will history look kindly on the building of downtown nature trails, the establishment of arts events, and the hosting of online community forums, or will activities such as those be seen as “too little, too late”… far too timid responses to the dangers that confront humanity?

Personally, I think coordinating community seed bomb making events, and helping to build common spaces in our communities probably move us further along the path toward increased interconnectedness than blowing the fingers off of scientists, but I suppose it’s possible that history will see it differently. It’s possible, I suppose, that Kaczynski’s manifesto will somehow take root and motivate future generations to fight for substantive change, far outweighing the cumulative contributions of folks like us, who are content not to make big, bloody waves. (Speaking of Kaczynski’s manifesto, I know he’s likely crazy, but can anyone argue against his central point – that human existence was far more fulfilling prior to the Industrial Revolution?)

And I guess this kind of gets back to the “Martin Luther King or Malcolm X” discussions we’ve had in the past… “Would MLK have been as effective if not for the threat embodied by Malcolm X, and those who made it clear that there were other avenues to explore, should non-violent activism not yield substantive results?” It’s something we’ve talked about several times. We’ve discussed it in the context of the 60’s student movement, the environmental movement of today and organized labor, and I suppose we’ll keep discussing it into the future, without ever coming to any definitive conclusion. Personally, I know it’s not a path that I want to take, but I don’t know that I can say conclusively that violence, or the threat of violence, is never warranted, especially as the temperature of the earth continues to rise, the protections of the working class continue to erode, and the global spying infrastructure continues to grow.

I’m curious to know your thoughts. Are we wasting our energy building trails when we could be focusing on taking out those we perceive to be the baddies?

As for me, I’d like to put my efforts into building things, rather than destroying them… So, don’t be scared if you see me on the street, wearing a hoodie. I’m probably just headed down the street to pick up trash and pull weeds.

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

What you need to know about the October 1 launch of the Obamacare health insurance marketplace

It’s been a hell of a long time coming, but, on Tuesday of next week, uninsured Americans will finally have an opportunity to shop for health insurance coverage online, in government-administered marketplaces, as part of the Affordable Care Act. It took three and a half years, during which time the Republicans attempted to defund it 41 times, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court, but the health care legislation commonly referred to as Obamacare, is about to come into its own. (Components have been rolled out over the past few years, but it’s all been a prelude to what’s coming on October 1.) And, as you might expect, folks on the far right are going apoplectic. With their last, desperate attempt to defund the legislation having failed with yesterday’s ineffective filibuster initiated by Ted Cruz, it now seems as though they have no choice but to ramp up their disinformation campaign about how Obamacare will surely spell the end of freedom in America. (After quoting a tweet by Ashton Kutcher on the floor of the Senate, Cruz compared the passage of the Affordable Care Act to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.)

Obama, perhaps a bit emboldened by Cruz’s failure to attract more than 18 Senators to his cause, has taken to the streets, attempting to drum up interest in these soon-to-be-rolled-out health care insurance exchanges. (For it to be successful, they need a lot of people, especially young people, signing up, and they’re ramping up the marketing accordingly.) “The closer we get, the more desperate they get,” Obama recently told a group in Maryland… And, here, with more on that speech, is a clip from the Associated Press.

…Obama didn’t call out any of his Republican opponents by name, but he laughingly taunted some of their arguments. He mentioned House Speaker John Boehner’s prediction right before the bill was signed into law in March 2010 that “Armageddon” was impending. He quoted Louisiana Rep. John Fleming, who said earlier this month that “Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress.” He cited Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s appeal to colleagues on the House floor six months ago to “repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.”

And he quoted New Hampshire state Rep. Bill O’Brien’s declaration in August that Obamacare is “a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.” That was met by a chorus of gasps and boos from the largely black audience.

“Think about that. Affordable Health Care is worse than a law that lets slave owners get their runaway slaves back,” Obama said. “I mean, these are quotes. I’m not making this stuff up.”

“All this would be funny if it wasn’t so crazy,” Obama said…

BentivolioInsurance3And, speaking of crazy, our own Kerry Bentivolio took enough time away from his investigation into the mind-controling properties of jet exhaust to send out an unsourced warning to his constituents, which you can see to the right. I ran it by our friend Michigan Representative Jeff Irwin, and he responded with the following: “Unfortunately, Congressman Bentivolio isn’t a trusted source, and his assertion is the opposite of every piece of data I’ve seen.” Furthermore, Irwin encouraged people who wanted the real facts to use the calculator on the Keiser Foundation’s site, where you can plug in a variety of variables and see how much health care will cost under the new system.

I just visited the Keiser site, as I was curious as to how a young person might fare. (Remember, Bentivolio said that a young male would be paying 52% more than he does today.) Here’s what I found.

My sample person is a 25 year old male in Ypsi, who makes $25,000, has no dependents, and doesn’t smoke.

insuranceexchange1a

And, here, according to the Kaiser calculator, is what this 25 year old male would likely pay. (On Tuesday, when the Michigan exchange goes live, you’ll be able to compare offers from a half dozen or so different insurers. According to Kaiser data, however, this should be in line with what you’ll find.)

healthexchange2a

So, depending on the level of coverage one chooses (some levels have higher deductibles than others), it could be as little as $990 a year, which, in my example, is just a little less than 4% of household income. (This takes into account a $773 federal subsidy. Those who make less per year, obviously, would have larger subsidies.)

It’s been a while since I was 25 and shopped for insurance, but I’d be surprised to find that coverage could be had for 52% of $990, which is what Bentivolio stated above… Which brings me to an interesting question.

Is it legal for our elected officials to send politically motivated, completely unsubstantiated bullshit out to their constituents as facts?

Speaking of the “facts” as they concern Obamacare, I should add that Jeff Irwin will be participating in a town hall meeting about the rollout of Michigan’s health insurance exchange on Monday evening (September 30), along with the Director of U-M’s Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT) Marianne Udow-Phillips, and the Executive Director of the Washtenaw Health Plan Ellen Rabinowitz. The meeting, which is to be held at the Mallett’s Creek Library (3090 East Eisenhower Parkway), will begin at 6:00.

Assuming some of you out there reading this are among the 50 million uninsured Americans (nearly 1.2 million of whom live in Michigan), I have a few more links and resources to share.

First, I’d suggest checking out the healthcare.gov tutorial on how to sign up for coverage come October 1.

Second, I’d suggest checking out the Washtenaw Health Plan. They’ve got good information online, but, more importantly, they’ve got an office at 555 Towner Street, in Ypsi, where they’ll be helping county residents to sign up in person. You just need to bring the required paperwork (which is outlined on their website), and show up Monday through Friday, from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at their office.

Third, there are some good videos available online, which explain the ins and outs of the new system. The Keiser Foundation has one, as does the Washington Post. Here, for those of you who are interested, is the one from the Washington Post.

Fourth, the New York Times just posted an incredibly useful Q&A on these health insurance marketplaces. Here’s a taste…

Q: What are the penalties for not having coverage? Are there any exceptions?

A: Most people will be required to have insurance, with some exceptions. You are not required to buy insurance if: the cost of insurance premiums would exceed 8 percent of your income, your income is below the threshold for filing taxes, you have a certified hardship, or you would have qualified for Medicaid but live in a state that did not expand the program. Illegal immigrants, the incarcerated, members of Indian tribes and those who qualify for certain religious reasons are also exempt… Everyone else will pay a penalty. In 2014, it will cost you $95 or approximately 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater. The penalties will rise each year.

Fifth, check out the Keiser Foundaton calculator that I told you about above, so you can find out what kind of subsidy you might expect, how much you’d likely have to pay for coverage, and the likely size of your deductible.

Lastly, I just want to say how happy I am for all of you who, perhaps for the first time in your adult lives, will have insurance. This new system clearly isn’t perfect. You’ll still be expected to pay a great deal out-of-pocket when costly procedures and the like are called for, but those costs are capped, and, one would hope, this is just the first step on the path toward a much more efficient single-payer system. I know it’s confusing, even without all of the misinformation out there, but I’d encourage you to do some research and see what your options are.

And, to those who would say that this legislation wasn’t necessary, I’d remind you that more than 500,000 people in Michigan alone lost their private health insurance between 2008 and 2011, as more and more employers stopped offering coverage. The truth was, prior to Obamacare, insurance was becoming more difficult to come by, people were being dropped from their policies at the first sign of serious illness, and, as a result, our emergency rooms were being overrun, costing taxpayers a fortune. It was untenable. And everyone knew it. Unfortunately, politics got involved in what should have been a relatively simple matter. (Obamacare, contrary to what you might have heard, didn’t have its roots in socialist theory, but in a conservative think tank.) But conservatives decided to come out in force against it, as they did with every legislative initiative to come out of the White House under Obama, and it’s going to be their undoing. I’ve said it before, but they’ll rue the day when they decided to call this legislation “Obamacare,” instead of sharing credit for it. People are going to like it. Guess what? People like being able to get insurance when they have pre-existing conditions. They like being able to keep their kids on their insurance until they’re 26. And they like knowing that they can’t be dropped from their insurance when they’re diagnosed with cancer. These are good things. And they’ll forever be associated with Obama. Yes, it sucks to be told that you need to purchase insurance, but it also sucks to have to pay taxes, register for the draft, and do any number of things we’re expected to do as members of this society. Is this perfect? No. But it’s a hell of a lot better than what we had before.

And, with that, I’ll leave you with this quote from Obama… “The Republican party has just spun itself up around this issue… And the fact is the Republicans’ biggest fear at this point is not that Affordable Care Act will fail. What they’re worried about is it’s going to succeed.”

Posted in Health, Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 80 Comments

“Legfest”… a benefit to preserve the legs of Patrick Elkins… October 11 at Woodruffs

LegfestSm3

Remember how, a few weeks ago, I told you that some friends and I were exploring ways to help densely bearded local troubadour Patrick Elkins pay the almost $10,000 in medical bills that he’d amassed over the past year, as a result of his ongoing battle with Deep Vein Thrombosis? Well, phase-one of our plan to assist Ypsilanti’s beloved puppeteer is now officially in effect. As of this morning, there’s a Fundrazr page where you can make monetary donations. (We’re not even through the first day, and we’ve already raised about $900, which should give you some indication of just how much Patrick is loved and appreciated.) And, we also announced the lineup for Legfest, the incredibly ambitious live fundraiser we’re planning for October 11 at Woodruff’s. Here it is…

MOONHAIRY
LASERBEAMS OF BOREDOM
MINUS 9
GLASS CLUE
SHELLS & FRED THOMAS
THOM ELLIOTT
IZZY JOHNSON

+ SURPRISE GUESTS & SPECIAL GUEST DJs

+ With Emcee MC TRASHPEDAL

DOORS AT 7 P.M.
MUSIC & ART AUCTION AT 8 P.M.
$10

You can’t buy tickets just yet, but we have set up a Facebook event page for Legfest, in case you’d like to tell us, and everyone else that you know, that you’re planning to attend.

And it’s kind of just a rumor at this point, but, if you don’t want to help out Patrick, there still may be something that you can do for fun on the night of the 11th. Word is that the band Girth will be performing a protest set, in their car, behind Woodruff’s. “Pat’s had robot legs for years,” a member of Girth told the band’s followers today online. “He’s just trying to make a quick buck.”

One last thing… Let’s all collectively take this opportunity to reflect on just how fucked up it is to live in the only successful, industrialized country in the world that does not provide health care for its people. The fact that Patrick needs to worry about the threats of bill collectors instead of just focusing on his recovery, I think, is unconscionable. As much as I love Pat, and welcome the opportunity to help him out in some small way, is this really the kind of world we want to live in… where we have to launch fundraising campaigns every time a friend needs to go to the emergency room with a blood clot which could, if left untreated, end his life? I know folks love their low taxes, but is that really the kind of world we want to leave for the next generation?

And, remember, if you can’t come out and join us on the 11th, you can make a donation online today.

PatsBandage2

Posted in Special Projects, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 113 Comments

After a year in bed with the Koch Brothers, Michigan needs a Schauer…. Snyder launches an unprecedented advertising blitz a full 13 months prior to election day. Does it mean he’s “running scared”?

Yesterday, online ads began running in support of Rick Snyder’s 2014 reelection bid. And, tomorrow, a one-minute television spot will begin airing in select Michigan media markets as well. (According to the Detroit Free Press, it will likely be running in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing and Traverse City.) As this is a full 13 months prior to the election, and, as Snyder has yet to formally announce his re-election plans, folks are understandably puzzled. Many, it would seem, feel as though it means he’s in serious trouble. Among those who share this opinion is BJ Neidhardt, campaign manager for Snyder’s Democratic rival Mark Schauer. Neidhardt has said the television ad buy, which is completely unprecedented for an incumbent this far in advance of an election, is proof that Snyder is “running scared.” While I’m tempted to say Neidhardt’s comments should be taken with a grain of salt, seeing as how he’s a political operative working for Snyder’s opposition, the polling data I’ve seen thus far would certainly support his assessment… Here’s a clip from a June 4 report by Public Policy Polling (PPP).

PPP’s first poll of the Michigan Gubernatorial race since Mark Schauer’s official entry finds the Democrat leading incumbent Rick Snyder 42/38. PPP’s polling of this match up over the last six months has been very consistent- in March Schauer also led Snyder by 4 points and in December he had a 5 point advantage.

Schauer’s initial lead has a lot more to do with Snyder than it does with himself. Even after his official candidacy announcement, he has just 38% statewide name recognition. But Snyder continues to be one of the most unpopular Governors in the country with only 40% of voters approving of him to 52% who disapprove. He’s at 40/51 with independents and Democrats (78% disapproval) dislike him a good deal more than Republicans (68% approval) like him.

Schauer’s low name recognition at this point means that things could actually get worse for Snyder. The undecideds for Governor voted for Barack Obama by a 16 point margin, and only 22% approve of Snyder to 64% who disapprove. Those are folks likely to move into the Schauer camp once he becomes better known.

Snyder’s role in the passage of right to work legislation continues to be a big problem for him. Just 40% of voters support that law to 50% who oppose it, numbers that have not seen any improvement since the initial furor after it passed in December. Snyder continues to have issues with his brand, as only 34% of voters now consider him to be ‘one tough nerd’ to 45% who don’t…

If true, it’s absolutely devastating, and goes a long way toward explaining why Snyder’s team, flush with DeVoss money, would set out early to dust off the “nerd” schtick, and attempt to define the debate. (Interestingly, he’s no longer “one though nerd,” as he was during the past campaign, but “one successful nerd.” I guess you loose the ability to use “tough” when you repeatedly cave-in to the pressure of the tea partiers, homophobes and anti-union corporatists who you come up against.)

Here’s the ad, titled “Michigan is Back,” which will begin running tomorrow.

[A much longer version, which includes footage of Snyder snorkeling in a pool for some inexplicable reason, can be found online at OneSuccessfulNerd.com.]

Based on this single ad, which I found to be completely uninspiring, and the polling data noted above, I’m tempted to say that Schauer’s got a pretty good shot, assuming he doesn’t have any skeletons in his closet that cam be exploited during the mud-throwing stage of the campaign, but you never know when something huge might happen. For instance, what if a widely respected elder statesman, someone with true gravitas, like Donald “show me your birth certificate” Trump, were to weigh in on Snyder’s behalf?

Actually, that just happened a few days ago. The opportunistic, sad-haired tea party favorite took to Twitter to say the following.

snydertrump2

The Donald’s ridiculous endorsement, as you might expect, was quickly responded to by Schauer.

shauertrump2

One hopes that Schauer is as cutting in his ads, which are sure to begin airing shortly… Speaking of which, here’s an idea, if he wants it. It comes from our friend Robert.

“I’d like to see campaign ads run against Snyder stating ‘After four years of that, Michigan needs a Schauer.’ Maybe they could show Snyder making promises and then cut to a shot of a creepy Snyder look-alike in suggestive situations with seedy business interests.”

With a suggestively mispronounced reference to Snyder’s time spent in the company of the “Koch Brothers,” I think it could be really brilliant. Maybe, if they have the budget, they could even work in an appearance by Bill O’Reilly, knocking on the shower door with a loofah.

Posted in Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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