In a promotion event for his new one-man documentary, Michael Moore in Trumpland, the Fahrenheit 9/11 director outlined what he saw as the grim reality of Trump’s eventual victory.
The director recounted an incident where the Republican presidential nominee addressed the Detroit Economic Club. In no uncertain terms, Trump told the Ford Motor executives that if they relocate their car factories to Mexico, he was going to put a 35 per cent tariff on them, rendering them too expensive for US consumers.
Moore went on to say why ‘disenfranchised’ Americans would vote for him:
“He is saying the things to people who are hurting. It’s why every beaten down, forgotten, nameless stiff who used to be part of what was called the middle class loves Trump.”
“He is the human Molotov Cocktail they’ve been waiting for. The human hand grenade they can legally throw at the system which stole their lives from them. On November 8, the dispossessed will walk into the voting booth, be handed a ballot, close the curtain and take that lever and put a big fucking ‘X’ in the box by the name of the man who has threatened to up-end and overturn the very system that has ruined their lives: Donald J Trump.”
“Trump’s election is going to be the biggest ‘fuck you’ ever recorded in human history. And it will feel good.”
The Christmas season was a bad time to be a criminal near a person with a weapon.
David Hookstead writes: There were a total of four incidents involving a person using a gun to stop a crime or other life-threatening incident between December 22 and December 26, according to a list compiled by the Crime Prevention Research Center.
Brandon Johnson was shot and killed after attempting to rob two men looking to buy a vehicle in Gary, Indiana during a Craigslist scam. Johnson’s girlfriend was also shot in the thigh but is expected to survive, according to the Washington Times. The shooter, who is from Illinois, told police that when he arrived to make the Craigslist purchase Johnson instead pulled a gun resulting in the shooter pulling out his own weapon to defend his life.
A criminal attempted to hold up Captain Max Seafood in Miramar, Florida. Except the robber didn’t get very far into his plan because an employee pulled out a gun and killed the suspect, according to NBC Miami. Read the rest of this entry »
Detroit Police Chief Praises Guns
Casey Harper reports: Detroit’s police chief gave a bold proposition for deterring terrorists in his city: arm the citizens.
James Craig points out that a city full of armed residents is not nearly as easy a target as those with strict gun laws.
“If you’re a terrorist, or a carjacker, you want unarmed citizens.”
“A lot of Detroiters have CPLs (concealed pistol licenses), and the same rules apply to terrorists as they do to some gun-toting thug,” Craig tells The Detroit News. “If you’re a terrorist, or a carjacker, you want unarmed citizens.”
Craig points to a new Michigan law that makes it easier to obtain a concealed carry permit as another way to increase safety in the city. Read the rest of this entry »
John Fund continues:
…Both Bevin and Hampton are Tea Party activists who have never held elective office. Hampton’s path certainly represents triumph over adversity. Born in Detroit, the 57-year-old Hampton and her three sisters were raised by a single mom who lacked a high school education and couldn’t afford a television or a car.
But Hampton was determined to better herself. She graduated with a degree in industrial engineering and worked for five years in the automobile industry to pay off her college loans. She then joined the Air Force, retiring as a Captain.
Source: National Review Online
DETROIT – Another robbery victim fights back after he’s targeted at a Detroit bus stop. The 23-year-old had officially become a Concealed Pistol License holder a couple of weeks ago and after what happened Sunday night – it was just in time.
Tremain, who doesn’t want to be identified because his family fears retaliation, says his brother had just finished work and was waiting for the bus at Schaefer and West Outer Drive on the west side when three teens confronted him.
One pulled out a gun and demanded his money.
“They threatened him and told him if he moved they were going to blow him which is a term for I’m going to kill or shoot you if you move,” Tremaine said. “And that’s what ended up happening.”
One of the suspects reached into the victim’s pocket and stole $220. The trio became excited about the money they just nabbed and became distracted – at that moment the CPL holder pulled out his gun and fired.
He hit the16-year-old in the chest and the 17-year-old in the leg. The 19-year-old took off running. Read the rest of this entry »
It is unlikely the 63-year-old will face charges for the shooting.
Bob Owens writes: A 43-year-old bank robber thought that he’s knock-off the Citizen’s Bank in Warren, Michigan yesterday, and he might have gotten away with it… if he hadn’t pointed his gun at a 63-year-old concealed carrier who didn’t care for his behavior.
A thief walked into a Warren bank expecting to rob it at about 4 p.m. Monday.
But a concealed pistol license holder shot the bank robber three times once in the leg and once in each arm. He is recovering in serious condition at St. John Providence Hospital.
A passer-by recorded a phone video of the bad guy’s very bad day at Citizen’s Bank at Van Dyke north of Nine Mile in Warren.
“It’s not every day you see a bad guy get shot and get taken down,” said witness Gary Guyette.
The 43-year-old suspect turned his gun on the wrong customer, a 63-year-old CPL holder who was packing heat, himself.
“The 63-year-old responded in kind by defending himself,” said Mayor Jim Fouts. “It’s his Second Amendment right.”
“The one guy’s arm was full of blood,” said Guyette.
Guyette pulled up in front of the bank to see police apprehending a wounded and whimpering robber. Read the rest of this entry »
Marc Myers writes: As midlife-crisis songs go, Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” ranks among the most melodic and existential. Recorded for the album “Aja” in 1977, the song details the bored existence of a ground-down suburbanite and his romantic fantasy of life as a jazz saxophonist.
Written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen in 1976, “Deacon Blues” was released in 1977 on Steely Dan’s album “Aja,” which in the fall reached No. 3 on Billboard’s album chart, where it remained for seven consecutive weeks. The song also was a hit single in early 1978.
With Steely Dan appearing in New York at the Beacon Theatre from Oct. 6-17, Mr. Fagen, Mr. Becker, guitarist Larry Carlton and saxophonists Tom Scott and Pete Christlieb recalled the writing, arranging and recording of the cult classic. Edited from interviews:
Donald Fagen: Walter and I wrote “Deacon Blues” in Malibu, Calif., when we lived out there. Walter would come over to my place and we’d sit at the piano. I had an idea for a chorus: If a college football team like the University of Alabama could have a grandiose name like the “Crimson Tide,” the nerds and losers should be entitled to a grandiose name as well.
Walter Becker: Donald had a house that sat on top of a sand dune with a small room with a piano. From the window, you could see the Pacific in between the other houses. “Crimson Tide” didn’t mean anything to us except the exaggerated grandiosity that’s bestowed on winners. “Deacon Blues” was the equivalent for the loser in our song.
Mr. Fagen: When Walter came over, we started on the music, then started filling in more lyrics to fit the story. At that time, there had been a lineman with the Los Angeles Rams and the San Diego Chargers, Deacon Jones. We weren’t serious football fans, but Deacon Jones’s name was in the news a lot in the 1960s and early ‘70s, and we liked how it sounded. It also had two syllables, which was convenient, like “Crimson.” The name had nothing to do with Wake Forest’s Demon Deacons or any other team with a losing record. The only Deacon I was familiar with in football at the time was Deacon Jones.
Mr. Becker: Unlike a lot of other pop songwriting teams, we worked on both the music and lyrics together. It’s not words and music separately, but a single flow of thought. There’s a lot of riffing back and forth, trying to top each other until we’re both happy with the result. We’ve always had a similar conception and sense of humor.
Mr. Fagen: Also, Walter and I both have jazz backgrounds, so our models are different than many pop songwriters. With “Deacon Blues,” as with many of our other songs, we conceived of the tune as more of a big-band arrangement, with different instrumental sections contributing a specific sound at different points. We developed “Deacon Blues” in layers: first came the rhythm tracks, then vocals and finally horns.
Many people have assumed the song is about a guy in the suburbs who ditches his life to become a musician. In truth, I’m not sure the guy actually achieves his dream. He might not even play the horn. It’s the fantasy life of a suburban guy from a certain subculture. Many of our songs are journalistic. But this one was more autobiographical, about our own dreams when we were growing up in different suburban communities—me in New Jersey and Walter in Westchester County.
Mr. Becker: The protagonist in “Deacon Blues” is a triple-L loser—an L-L-L Loser. It’s not so much about a guy who achieves his dream but about a broken dream of a broken man living a broken life.
Mr. Fagen: The concept of the “expanding man” that opens the song [“This is the day of the expanding man / That shape is my shade there where I used to stand”] may have been inspired by Alfred Bester’s “The Demolished Man.” Walter and I were major sci-fi fans. The guy in the song imagines himself ascending the levels of evolution, “expanding” his mind, his spiritual possibilities and his options in life.
Mr. Becker: His personal history didn’t look like much so we allowed him to explode and provided him with a map for some kind of future.
Mr. Fagen: Say a guy is living at home at his parents’ house in suburbia. One day, when he’s 31, he wakes up and decides he wants to change the way he struts his stuff.
Mr. Becker: Or he’s making a skylight for his room above the garage and when the hole is open he feels the vibes coming in and has an epiphany. Or he’s playing chess games against himself by making moves out of a book and cheating.
A mystical thing takes place and he’s suddenly aware of his surroundings and life, and starts thinking about his options. The “fine line” we use in the song [“So useless to ask me why / Throw a kiss and say goodbye / I’ll make it this time / I’m ready to cross that fine line”] is the dividing line between being a loser and winner, at least according to his own code. He’s obviously tried to cross it before, without success. Read the rest of this entry »
“Our warrant was evidently discovered as he went through customs, and he was placed under arrest.”
— Douglas Baker, chief of criminal enforcement for the Detroit Law Department.
Shepard Fairey writes:
…Fairey, who became well-known for creating the Obama “Hope” poster, was detained by Customs agents at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday while traveling from Europe. He was arrested for allegedly vandalizing 14 buildings in Detroit….(read more)
A man from Detroit has offered to sell his house for an iPhone 6
The unnamed individual originally listed his three-bedroom property for $5,000 (£3,100) in June, but has now slashed the price to either $3,000, or the latest version of Apple’s iconic smartphone. He would also accept a 32GB iPad, and is willing to negotiate, according to his estate agent, Larry Else.
“Detroit’s not a monster. It’s just ahead of the curve”
— Kevin D. Williamson
The 2,400-square foot house is in poor condition, with broken windows and peeling paint, in one of Detroit’s poorest districts. Even so, the trade has highlighted the contrast between America’s thriving technology industry in Silicon Valley and the economic blight still affecting other parts of the country. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON — Activists who organized the dormant Occupy Wall Street movement are suing another activist for control of the main Twitter account, and one of the plaintiffs says there was no other option but to turn to litigation to solve the dispute.
“We can either go and beat him up or we can go to court.”
— Marisa Holmes, video editor, part of the core organizing team of Occupy
The conflict centers around @OccupyWallStNYC, one of the main Twitter feeds that distributed information during the movement’s heyday in 2011. The OWS Media Group filed a lawsuit against organizer Justin Wedes on Wednesday, which is also the third anniversary of the beginning of Occupy Wall Street. The group, led by activist Marisa Holmes, is seeking control of the Twitter account as well as $500,000 in damages.
The Twitter account, which used to be shared among several activists, is now under the control of Wedes, who explained his decision to take over the Twitter feed in a blog post in August:
A thread about “self-promotion” became just another shaming session. If we start from a place of assuming bad intentions – i.e. discouraging “self-promotion” over encouraging solid, relevant content – we will end up with rules that shame rather than empower. Group members took on the task of limiting others to “1 to 2 tweets per day” (or week) on a topic, a form of censorship that would never have been allowed in the earlier days of the boat. I had to say enough!
“We can either go and beat him up or we can go to court,” Holmes, a video editor who was part of the core organizing team of Occupy, told BuzzFeed News. “And quite frankly if we go and beat him up then we could end up with countersuits against us, and that puts us in a more damaging position and we don’t really want to do that anyway.” Read the rest of this entry »
Well Frickity Freakin’ Frack: ‘Environmentally-Friendly’ Democratic Senate Candidate Gary Peters Invests In Fracking And CoalPosted: September 16, 2014
“Peters refused to sell his stock in the company, saying, ‘It has nothing to do with the Detroit situation’.”
Peters has fashioned himself as an environmentalist in his 2014 Senate campaign against Republican Terri Lynn Land. The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund endorsed Peters, calling him “a true leader fighting for a more sustainable future for Michigan and our nation by advocating for common sense solutions to help reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels and promote clean energy jobs.”
Peters has recently come under fire for owning $19,000 in stock in the French company Total S.A., which produces the petcoke substance that contaminates the area around the Detroit River with a major buildup. Peters refused to sell his stock in the company, saying, “It has nothing to do with the Detroit situation.” Read the rest of this entry »
Detroit’s Historic Bankruptcy Trial to Begin
Lawyers for Detroit will attempt to convince a federal judge at the city’s bankruptcy trial that its plans to wipe out billions of dollars in debt should be approved.
After some delays, the start of the trial Tuesday in U.S. District Court comes just over 13 months after Detroit became the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy.
Detroit expects to cut $12 billion in unsecured debt to about $5 billion, which is “more manageable,” according to Bill Nowling, a spokesman for emergency manager Kevyn Orr. Read the rest of this entry »
AWR Hawkins reports: On April 2, Deborah Hughes looked out her front window and saw Steve Utash on the ground being brutally beaten by a gang of men–she grabbed her pistol and ran to his aid.
According to the Daily Mail, Utash had stopped to check on a 10-year-old child “he had accidentally hit.”
When Utash got out of the car a gang converged on him and had beat him unconscious “by the time [Hughes] got to his side.”
American politics have become increasingly divided in recent years. One reason: Rural residents are having vastly different life experiences from their big-city counterparts
This is a topic that I believe hasn’t been written about enough, or researched enough. When I saw the headline, I thought finally, I don’t have to try to write about this, because someone smarter has.
Our familiar perceptions about state political identities (red, blue, or swing) are useful, as far as it goes, but they conceal a more interesting story, about the county by county, town by town, neighborhood by neighborhood micro-regional distinctions. (and yes, I’m not the first to have this insight). And the ever-widening gulf between urban and rural America is the great underreported story.
This is a separate topic, but related: as cities continue to draw more population migration, rural America — and if you’ve driven through small towns that used to be thriving, you’ve seen it — is less vibrant than it once was. With rare exceptions, America’s urban centers are reliably blue. With outer pockets of red. One more example of long-term demographic trends that don’t favor conservatives, as city populations grow and smaller towns shrink. (though, Detroit’s historic shrinkage is the big exception, and it’s still suicidally blue) How divided is urban and rural U.S.A.? The political and cultural differences in one individual state in America can be more dramatic than the differences between distant regions in America.
The owner of the nicest restaurant in town doesn’t serve alcohol, worried that his pastor would be disappointed if he did. Public schools try to avoid scheduling events on Wednesday evenings, when churches hold Bible study. And Democrats here are a rare and lonely breed.
“The difference in this country is not red versus blue. It’s urban versus rural.”
— Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.
Older, nearly 100% white and overwhelmingly Republican, El Dorado Springs is typical of what is now small-town America. Coffee costs 90 cents at the diner, with free refills. Two hours north and a world away in Kansas City, Starbucks charges twice that, and voters routinely elect Democrats.
There have always been differences between rural and urban America, but they have grown vast and deep, and now are an underappreciated factor in dividing the U.S. political system, say politicians and academicians.
Polling, consumer data and demographic profiles paint a picture of two Americas—not just with differing proclivities but different life experiences. People in cities are more likely to be tethered to a smartphone, buy a foreign-made car and read a fashion magazine. Those in small towns are more likely to go to church, own a gun, support the military and value community ties. Read the rest of this entry »
A case study in why Detroit PD Chief James Craig wants the locals to own guns…
As Kevin D. Williamson says,
“Detroit isn’t a monster. It’s just ahead of the curve.”
Jessica Chasmar writes: Detroit’s police chief is sticking to his guns after being criticized for supporting citizens to arm themselves.
Police Chief James Craig responded Thursday to a Detroit resident who challenged his pro-gun stance. Mr. Craig made national news earlier this month after he said armed citizens could serve as a deterrent to criminals, The Detroit News reported.
Detroit is not healthy for children and other living things
Kevin D. Williamson writes: There are many horrific stories to be told about the implosion of Detroit, once the nation’s most prosperous city, today its poorest. There is the story of its corrupt public institutions, its feckless leaders, its poisonous racial politics, its practically nonexistent economy, the riots that have led to its thrice being occupied by federal troops. The most horrific story may be that of the death of its children.
“Detroit represents nothing less than progressivism in its final stage of decadence”
Detroit has the highest child-mortality rate of any American city, exceeding that of many parts of what we used to call the Third World. The rate of death before the age of 18 in Detroit is nearly three times New York City’s, and it’s infant-mortality rate exceeds that of Botswana. The main cause of premature death among the children of Detroit is premature birth — the second is murder. While the city’s murder rate among adults is nothing to be proud of, more horrifying is the fact that between 30 and 40 children are murdered in Detroit in a typical year. Some of those children are nine-month-olds killed by rifle fire in their beds; some are budding criminals in their late teens — and each of those situations offers its own unique horrors.
Detroit isn’t a monster; it’s just ahead of the curve. http://t.co/xr2GhNwA3x
— Kevin D. Williamson (@KevinNR) February 1, 2014
Detroit 2014: The Ford I Concept, Or, Why Mustangs Have Fake Vents
PopMech‘s Andrew Del-Colle writes: At its showstand Ford has the 1962 Ford I Concept on display. The first Ford to wear the Mustang badge and feature the galloping pony, the aluminum-bodied Ford 1 had big vents to cool the mid-mounted 1500 cc V-4. The vents aren’t needed for production Mustangs with front-mounted engines, but the design cue just stuck. We like to call that carchaeology.
Drew Philp writes: After college, as my friends left Michigan for better opportunities, I was determined to help fix this broken, chaotic city by building my own home in the middle of it. I was 23 years old.
My first job out of college was working for a construction company in Detroit.
“We’re an all-black company and I need a clean-cut white boy,” my boss told me over drinks in a downtown bar when he hired me. “Customers in the suburbs don’t want to hire a black man.”
When a service call would come in, we would ask, “Does he sound white or black?” If it was the former, I would bid the job. If the latter, my boss would. Detroit is one of the most segregated metro areas in the nation, and for the first time I was getting what it felt like to be on the other side of that line. In contrast to the abstract verbal yoga students at the University of Michigan would perform when speaking about race, this was refreshing. And terrifying. I couldn’t hide behind fancy words any longer.
at the DC Auto Show. The subject he chose for his first full length documentary, is the cronyism that he believes brought down Detroit. In the documentary, he examines why Detroit failed and what rest of the country needs to do and avoid Detroit’s fate.
Here’s the trailer:
The website for Bankrupt is here. It will be freely available on YouTube after the premiere.
AWRHawkins writes: On January 2nd, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said that “good community members who have concealed weapons permits” (CCWs) deter crime and save lives.
Craig admitted he did not have this view when he worked as a police officer in Los Angeles for 28 years because he never got to see concealed carry in action: “It takes an act of Congress to get a concealed carry permit” in Los Angeles.
But according to The Detroit News, when Craig moved from the LAPD to Portland, Maine–“where they give out lots of CCWs”–he realized that criminals in Maine were hesitant because they knew “good Americans were armed.”
Robert Wilde reports: Sightseeing of abandoned buildings, factories, schools, and churches is becoming a growing industry in the now dilapidated city of Detroit.
Some people come from far away to visit Los Angeles and tour the houses of the rich and famous. Architectural student Oliver Kearney came from England to tour the ruins of Detroit. “No other American city has seen decline on this scale,” Kearney claims.
With 78,000 remaining vacant structures that investors are cool on renovating, and with a city too bankrupt to shell out the $8000 per structure needed to demolish them, the landscape has become a fertile ground for curious exploration. Kearney explains that in Europe, when buildings become derelict, they tear them down. “In Detroit, you can relate, you can see traces of what’s happened, you can really feel the history of a city,” he says.
Since the city declared bankruptcy in July, there has been an appreciable increase in visitors inquiring about the ruins. Photographers from all over have come to take pictures capturing the downfall of the once burgeoning motor city. A couple of French photographers produced a book called The Ruins of Detroit.
This is hands-down the best Anthony Bourdain material I’ve seen in this series. Though I love his books, Bourdain’s CNN travelogues are hit-and-miss, not compelling enough to keep me watching regularly. Bourdain’s writing is always good, his hipster patter and travel-damaged humor is reliably entertaining.
Japan is a paradox. The low birthrate, the dedication, the conformity, and the life of a salary man are well known. There is also a competitive and rigid culture that gives way to some unique subcultures. Bourdain has traveled to Tokyo countless times, but on this trip he is in search of the city’s dark, extreme, and bizarrely fetishistic underside.
In Tokyo, however, Bourdain’s writing is exceptionally good (pay attention to his voice-overs) His observations about Japan are insightful, exceeding my expectations. The material he chooses to explore is perfect, you want to be a companion on this trip.
The pension-system trustees and the municipal unions
Steven Malanga writes: A federal judge’s ruling yesterday that Detroit worker pensions can be cut as part of the city’s bankruptcy case has angered city workers and shocked some of their supporters. Workers carrying signs outside the federal bankruptcy court yesterday blamed big banks for Detroit’s fiscal woes and demanded, “No cuts to our pensions.” They carried photos of Michigan governor Rick Snyder, painted to make him look like the devil. But if workers seek a culprit, they might look at the city’s pension-system trustees and the unions that were supposed to have influence over them. For years, the trustees granted annual bonuses to retirees and fattened worker-savings accounts with high guaranteed rates of return, siphoning crucial assets out of the retirement system, even as Detroit’s finances deteriorated. By one estimate, reported in the Detroit Free Press in September, the bonuses and guaranteed-interest programs cost the pension funds nearly $2 billion in contributions and foregone investment returns—money that might have made the pension system well-funded today and allowed retirement benefits to remain untouched.
Most press accounts note that city-worker pensions in Detroit are modest. They rarely mention that, for two decades, the city supplemented those pensions with annual, so-called “13th checks” for retirees—an additional monthly pension payment. Pension-fund trustees—themselves city workers, retirees, city residents, and elected officials—handed out nearly $1 billion in these annual payments to retirees in the city’s general pension fund. The trustees defended the payments as rewards to workers in years when the pension system’s investment returns exceeded projections. In lean years, they justified them as social policy. “Many retirees relied on that check to pay their increased utility bills during the winter,” wrote an attorney for the city’s pension system in 2011. “Also remember that the money would go directly into the local economy.”
Some reform-minded Detroit officials tried to halt the payments, understanding that they undermined the pension system’s finances. When he succeeded Coleman Young as mayor in 1994, Dennis Archer grew alarmed at the extra payments. He was rightfully concerned—as the Free Press noted, the pension system “was largely controlled by union officials acting as trustees.” Archer placed a voter initiative on the ballot in 1996 to cease the extra payments, but ferocious union opposition helped defeat it. “That’s a whole lot of money that if it was in the pension fund today, that may have made a difference in terms of where the pension fund stands,” Archer recently said.
Which of course is exactly what happened today.
President Obama on Saturday painted a strong contrast between his record on the auto bailout with that of his presidential rival Mitt Romney, touting his own refusal to “let Detroit go bankrupt.”
In his pre-taped weekly address Mr. Obama, referencing a 2008 op-ed in which Romney argued against bailing out the auto industry (entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”), outlined his administration’s efforts to save the industry upon being elected.
“Just a few years ago, the auto industry wasn’t just struggling – it was flatlining,” Mr. Obama said. “GM and Chrysler were on the verge of collapse. Suppliers and distributors were at risk of going under. More than a million jobs across the country were on the line – and not just auto jobs, but the jobs of teachers, small business owners, and everyone in communities that depend on this great American industry.”
His administration, he argues, “refused to throw in the towel and do nothing. We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt. We bet on American workers and American ingenuity, and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.”
Ed Driscoll writes: Has there been a more spectacular downfall to an American city than Detroit? As late as 1965, Jerome Cavanagh, its then-mayor, the first of what would be to this very day an unending series of Democrat party officials leading the city, could say with some honesty, “frequently called the most cosmopolitan city of the Midwest, Detroit, today, stands at the threshold of a bright new future.”
And the Titanic was thought to be unsinkable as well, right up until she left the Southampton docks.
The riots of 1967 would be Detroit’s equivalent of the iceberg; the 1974 election of Coleman Young as the city’s mayor for the next two decades would cement its doom permanently, until ultimately, it was forced to declare bankruptcy this past July. And in addition to the city’s institutional reverse-racism, its fiscal mismanagement has been spectacular as well. As PJM’s own Richard Fernandez noted back in September, inside Detroit’s City Hall, from 1985 through 2009, “the pension trustees were draining the pension because they were so sure, so absolutely certain that the taxpayers would have to refill the pot they felt safe helping themselves to whatever they wanted… What could go wrong? To everyone’s amazement something completely unprecedented happened: City Hall went broke. ‘They didn’t reckon with the possibility,’ [Megan McArdle wrote inBloomberg News] ‘that the city would simply run out of money, and the state would decline to step in, leaving them with no deep pockets to make up for their mismanagement.’ And so the Detroit pension is bust unless they find something they can siphon off to replenish it.”
Chris Paukert writes: This Chevrolet may be a freshly minted product of Bowling Green, KY, but here in the Motor City, we’ve been seeing examples running around undisguised for the better part of a year (since shortly after it debuted at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show). Pre-production test cars have positively carpeted the area’s roadways – if you live here and haven’t been seeing at least two or three a day, it’s either because you’re too busy texting while driving or you’re a shut-in. Even so, we can’t help but gawk each and every time we see one.
Recent Corvette generations have been notable more for their bulbous, smooth fiberglass bodywork than for their intricate surfacing, but this generation is different – and not just in the details. Self-appointed purists may bemoan new developments like the squared-off taillamps and the lack of a rounded glass backlight, but there’s no denying the C7 has major-league presence, even without our test car’s optional Z51 specification, which adds all manner of vents and a prouder rear spoiler. With its sinewy sheetmetal creases, it looks fresh, modern and habitually aggressive – far more so than even the last generation’s range-topping ZR1.
Detroit bankruptcy trial begins Wednesday
The city of Detroit for months has disclosed the awful condition of its finances. Now it’s up to a judge to determine if the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history really can go forward.
An unusual trial starts Wednesday, pitting Detroit’s emergency manager and his legal team against unions and pension funds that claim the city isn’t qualified to scrub its books clean under Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
A city isn’t eligible for a bankruptcy makeover unless it shows that key steps were met, especially good-faith talks with creditors earlier this year. It’s a critical decision for Judge Steven Rhodes: If Detroit clears the hurdle, the case then would quickly turn to how to solve at least $18 billion in debt and get city government off the ropes.
I’m rarely speechless, but I’m having trouble putting my emotions into words after reading the latest report on the Detroit pension situation. Now, I admit it: I’m kind of naïve. Usually when I see an underfunded pension, I think to myself “poor pensioners — undone by a combination of stupid tax rules, volatile stock markets and mismanagement by trustees who tried to restore depleted fund assets with an investment approach you might call ‘desperate optimism’.” Thus, I was not entirely prepared for the new revelations about the Detroit trustees’ custom of handing out annual holiday “bonuses” to workers, retirees and the City of Detroit. Between 1985 and 2008, they handed out roughly $1 billion this way. Had they been invested, one estimate says those funds would be worth almost $2 billion today — or more than half the current shortfall in the funds. Read the rest of this entry »
This Heather McDonald essay is from 2008 but remains relevant. It’s written about and excerpted this week by Han Solo at JustFourGuys blog, which I recommend, too. McDonald’s full essay from City Journal is lengthy, but time well spent.–Butcher
It’s a lonely job, working the phones at a college rape crisis center. Day after day, you wait for the casualties to show up from the alleged campus rape epidemic—but no one calls. Could this mean that the crisis is overblown? No: it means, according to the campus sexual-assault industry, that the abuse of coeds is worse than anyone had ever imagined. It means that consultants and counselors need more funding to persuade student rape victims to break the silence of their suffering.
The campus rape movement highlights the current condition of radical feminism, from its self-indulgent bathos to its embrace of ever more vulnerable female victimhood. But the movement is an even more important barometer of academia itself. In a delicious historical irony, the baby boomers who dismantled the university’s intellectual architecture in favor of unbridled sex and protest have now bureaucratized both. While women’s studies professors bang pots and blow whistles at antirape rallies, in the dorm next door, freshman counselors and deans pass out tips for better orgasms and the use of sex toys. The academic bureaucracy is roomy enough to sponsor both the dour antimale feminism of the college rape movement and the promiscuous hookup culture of student life. The only thing that doesn’t fit into the university’s new commitments is serious scholarly purpose.
The campus rape industry’s central tenet is that one-quarter of all college girls will be raped or be the targets of attempted rape by the end of their college years (completed rapes outnumbering attempted rapes by a ratio of about three to two). The girls’ assailants are not terrifying strangers grabbing them in dark alleys but the guys sitting next to them in class or at the cafeteria. Read the rest of this entry »
Props to Mayor Menino for his good taste in urban renewal.
DETROIT (WWJ) – The mayor of Boston is drawing criticism for recent comments he made about Detroit.
He at first said he’d never thought of living in any other city, but then added: “Detroit is a place I’d love to go.”
When the reporter asked Menino what he’d do in Detroit, the mayor responded: ”I’d blow up the place and start all over.”
It is hard to believe that 50 years have elapsed since the famous “I have a dream speech” of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Mall in Washington. I was an 11-year-old child in Detroit languishing in the midst of poverty, but very interested in the strides that were being made in the civil rights movement.
I was the only black kid in my seventh-grade class and over the previous two years had risen from the bottom of the class to the top. My mother had forced us to read, which had a profound positive effect on both my brother Curtis and myself. I was quite optimistic that things were getting better for black people in America.
I’ve been told that some readers of my Washington Examiner columnon city bankruptcies have interpreted it as a vindication of Detroit’s public employee unions and the contracts they got the city government to agree to. I didn’t intend to make that point and I don’t think I did. What I did point out is that the average pension of retired Detroit workers is relatively low, $19,000, far lower than the lavish pensions agreed to by the city governments of Stockton and San Bernardino, California. But the burden on Detroit’s city government imposed by those union contracts proved to be more than the city can bear. The unions hurt Detroit but crime killed it.
Detroit’s huge population loss (see the column for the numbers) was a response to the city’s high rates of violent crime and the inability or unwillingness of city government to reduce them drastically over the years. White flight was followed by black flight; those remaining tend to have very low incomes and property values have fallen to zero in many parts of the city. With such a dwindling tax base, it’s very difficult or impossible to afford even modest pensions for former city employees who were needed when the city was much larger. You can raise tax rates, but Detroit already has the highest income and property tax rates in Michigan, and the Detroit News, in a feat of good local coverage, found that taxes were not paid in 2011 on 47% of the properties in the city. And of course superhigh tax rates tend to drive even more people away and deter others from coming in.
“I once thought that there were no second acts in American lives, but there was certainly to be a second act to New York’s boom days,” F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote. It’s a good thing he wasn’t talking about Detroit.
Until the city’s politicos treat its humble entrepreneurs with the same respect they show big investors, Motown’s second act will never arrive.
Detroit has become the biggest city to file for bankruptcy in America. Many people are hoping that bankruptcy, the largest ever in the history of the republic, will give Detroit a fresh start, another chance.
But that’ll remain wishful thinking until Detroit reverses its backward economic strategy.
Every mayor for the last two decades has tried to jump-start Detroit by reviving its crumbling downtown. In the 1990s, Dennis Archer erected stadiums and casinos. His successor, Kwame Kilpatrick (who was convicted on federal extortion and racketeering charges) hosted mega events.
The current mayor, Dave Bing, has been too bogged down in Detroit’s fiscal quagmire to propose anything grand. But a group of rich investors led by Dan Gilbert, owner of Quicken Loans, is spearheading a massive effort to bring businesses, hotels and residents into the city.
Gilbert has pumped close to $1 billion to relocate his headquarters in Detroit and scoop up real estate for stores, hotels and apartment buildings. Whole Foods recently followed suit as did Moosejaw, a retailer for outdoor apparel. But these ventures have been seduced by massive subsidies. Whole Foods’ local partner received $5.8 million in state and local grants as well as sizable tax credits.
Still, the business editor of Forbes Joann Muller declared two years ago that, thanks to Gilbert, green shoots were beginning to sprout in Detroit.
Since then, however, things have only gotten worse as more residents have fled and city services have deteriorated. Why? Because these shoots were Astroturf, not a spontaneous response to actual need. Worse, they were a wealth transfer from the average taxpayers to the rich who patronize these high-end stores.
Indeed, even as Forbes was praising Detroit’s artificial green shoots, city regulations were busy nipping the real ones like Pink FlamInGo, a Latin-fusion food vendor responding to real market demand.
These regulations barred street vendors from selling any hot fare except hotdogs (but without sauerkraut) and that too only in 16 approved locations. Pink FlamInGo built a roaring business by ignoring these rules — until the city shut it down.
It took only six decades of “progressive” policies to bring a great city to its knees.
By the time Detroit declared bankruptcy, Americans were so inured to the throbbing dirge of Motown’s Greatest Hits — 40 percent of its streetlamps don’t work; 210 of its 317 public parks have been permanently closed; it takes an hour for police to respond to a 9-1-1 call; only a third of its ambulances are driveable; one-third of the city has been abandoned; the local realtor offers houses on sale for a buck and still finds no takers; etc., etc. — Americans were so inured that the formal confirmation of a great city’s downfall was greeted with little more than a fatalistic shrug.
But it shouldn’t be. To achieve this level of devastation, you usually have to be invaded by a foreign power. In the War of 1812, when Detroit was taken by a remarkably small number of British troops without a shot being fired, Michigan’s Governor Hull was said to have been panicked into surrender after drinking heavily. Two centuries later, after an almighty 50-year bender, the city surrendered to itself. The tunnel from Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, is now a border between the First World and the Third World — or, if you prefer, the developed world and the post-developed world. To any American time-transported from the mid 20th century, the city’s implosion would be literally incredible: Were he to compare photographs of today’s Hiroshima with today’s Detroit, he would assume Japan won the Second World War after nuking Michigan. Detroit was the industrial powerhouse of America, the “arsenal of democracy,” and in 1960 the city with the highest per capita income in the land. Half a century on, Detroit’s population has fallen by two-thirds, and in terms of “per capita income,” many of the shrunken pool of capita have no income at all beyond EBT cards. The recent HBO series Hung recorded the adventures of a financially struggling Detroit school basketball coach forced to moonlight as a gigolo. It would be heartening to think the rest of the bloated public-sector work force, whose unsustainable pensions and benefits have brought Detroit to its present sorry state (and account for $9 billion of its $11 billion in unsecured loans), could be persuaded to follow its protagonist and branch out into the private sector, but this would probably be more gigolos than the market could bear, even allowing for an uptick in tourism from Windsor.
So, late on Friday, some genius jurist struck down the bankruptcy filing. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina declared Detroit’s bankruptcy “unconstitutional” because, according to the Detroit Free Press, “the Michigan Constitution prohibits actions that will lessen the pension benefits of public employees.” Which means that, in Michigan, reality is unconstitutional.