Category Archives: Michigan is burning

We are not all Detroiters

As nice a sentiment as it is, we are not all Detroiters.

For years, Michiganders have looked at Detroit as a “problem” that needs fixing. An inconvenience. An eyesore.

And now that the city of Detroit is declaring bankruptcy – at the behest of our Governor – we’re all Detroiters?

For too many people across the nation and across the world, Detroit has become a sort of apocalyptic Babylon – the image of a once mighty empire in ruins. Many people are quick to gawk and let their mouths hang open in disbelief at the city’s fall, but few people are willing to make any headway on the problem.

Detroit is not the problem, however. Detroit is the victim.

So-called “experts” across the nation are lining up to speculate on how this iconic American city could have ended up at this point and in this process, local officials have become an easy scape-goat for much larger problems.

Corruption on the part of certain elected officials could never be as damaging to the city as losing over 60 percent of the city’s population in fifty years. It’s a long way to fall from nearly two million to just over 700,000.

Corruption could never do as much harm as shipping jobs to other states and other countries. People – and tax dollars – go where there’s work available.

Corruption has done far less to harm the city of Detroit than urban sprawl. There are still over four million people in Metro Detroit – only their tax dollars are going to other city governments rather than to Detroit’s coffers.

The real Detroiters are the ones living in Detroit right now, the ones dealing with the consequences of White Flight, the ones coping with the aftermath of our manufacturing jobs getting shipped overseas.

And it should be noted that these Detroiters are remaking the city today in revolutionary ways that are showing what a post-industrial society looks like. Vacant fields are being turned into farms. Neighborhoods are being converted into art galleries. The people of Detroit are pulling together, reclaiming the city through ground-level organizing – from biking groups to networking for transplants moving to Detroit for work.

And Detroit is adding jobs: Entrepreneurs are moving to Detroit to start businesses. The tech industry is posting huge gains in Detroit. As Quicken Loans and other companies set up downtown, housing is in high demand. A new bridge connecting Detroit with Canada will expand trade and manufacturing possibilities.

The state of Michigan could best help out the city of Detroit by speeding up the blight removal, by using some of the $500+ million in our rainy day fund to invest in the city and speed up its recovering. The city’s layout is in desperate need of an overhaul since it’s a huge place. Detroit is roughly the same size as San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Boston combined (139 sq miles vs the combined area of these cities standing at 156 sq miles).

To go back to Detroit’s French roots, Dépenser plus pour gagner plus. Spend more to get more. For Detroit to become economically viable, we need to reverse the city’s hemorrhaging population. Restructuring the city, investing in infrastructure and police, and speeding up blight removal are all crucial components to this.

We need some action. Detroit’s recovery is Michigan’s recovery – but that doesn’t make us all Detroiters.

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What a Dick

What do you do when you get walloped 56 – 42 in an election?

If you’re this man, you use your money as “air support” for Right-to-Work legislation.

Dick

Must be tough being a billionaire, eh?

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Belle Isle BS

This is the sort of news story that you think must be some internet BS that should be easily debunked with a little research.

But, as far as I can tell, it’s true. A group of wealthy businessmen are trying to buy Belle Isle from the city of Detroit for $1 billion to create a ‘utopian enclave’. This commonwealth would be a low tax, ‘crime-free’ community without laws. Because we all know that our country’s wealthiest never commit crimes, right?

All of that for the low membership fee of $300,000.

How do we start addressing what’s wrong with this ‘libertarian’ vision for Belle Isle? Essentially, it’s White Flight on steroids. The 1% don’t like paying taxes so they need their own enclave where they can play by their own rules without interference from that pesky government of ours.

The project developers promise ‘spin-off’ investments that would supposedly benefit the city of Detroit. But you know what would really benefit the city of Detroit? Increased revenues. You know how you achieve that? Increase the city’s population. Bring more people in to live and work in Detroit. Make it an economic hub once more.

The sort of mindset that inspires this sort of deranged vision has no conception of what communitarian responsibility even means. What kind of society are you living in that it costs $300,000 to belong to at the same time that you set up shop next door to the most violent and one of the poorest communities in the entire United States? You can’t toss your scraps across the river and claim to be actively invested in Detroit’s well-being.

I realize that there is a fundamental political difference that separates my vision of society from the developers who are pushing for this Belle Isle enclave. The sort of ideology that lies behind this project says, in blunt terms, “I don’t owe anybody anything. I’m a self-made man. I worked hard all my life for my money and I don’t want to get taxed to death by the government. If only other people worked harder, they could have everything I’ve got. It’s not my fault that other people lack initiative.” That’s the idea in blunt terms. But no one lives in a vacuum. Somewhere along the line, you’ve gotten help from someone else whether it be your family or – God forbid – the government. Fortunes generally aren’t made solely on the hard work and initiative of a single person or even a group of people.

It’s in the interest of the very wealthy to have a large working class and a healthy middle class. Without a sizable working class, who is going to answer your phones? Who is going to make your latte at Starbucks? Who is going to check you out at Wal-Mart? Not all of us have been replaced by robots just yet, so in the meanwhile, our working class is still pretty essential. It’s also in the interest of the 1% to have a large middle class to buy their products. So I love it when I hear this whole spiel about how a little hard work and initiative is the only thing standing in the way of my fortune. I’m not complaining, personally. I’m pretty well off. And besides, you need me. You need me to buy cars from you, to buy computers from you, to buy books, CDs, coffee, food or whatever else it might be. So don’t act like you’re so great all on your own. You need us, too.

I would very simply like to suggest that it’s hypocritical of these very wealthy individuals to propose tax free enclaves when they already have so much. Yeah, I’ve heard it said that we need the wealthy because private enterprise means jobs. We need wealthy individuals to use their private capital to start businesses. I get it.

But it’s ironic that these same libertarian-leaning individuals, who so often decry the lack of responsibility on the part of our government for its deficit spending, so often connive to find ways to dodge taxes themselves. We not only need wealthy individuals to help create jobs, we also need them to pay their fair share so that we can have a strong education system, so that we can fund infrastructure, so that we can pay for military spending and pay off this debt we’ve accrued.

So of course there is a balance that we need to strike between respecting our obligations towards one another – which I very strongly believe in – and also allowing private enterprise to function without excessive taxation.

This BS vision for Belle Isle crosses the line. It violates our communitarian obligation to support our society – the same society which supports businesses like Chrysler and Cafe d’Mongo in Detroit whose former presidents and owners are pushing this idea. What’s your vision for this great country? Do you want to 1% to continue drifting off to sea with their off-shore bank accounts and tax-free enclaves while the rest of us work for, proportionally speaking, less and less? When you need your own island wedged in between Canada and the United States to protect yourself from taxes, you’re neglecting the very country that helped make you great.

I’m all in favor of you creating your own personal libertarian enclave. But only if you build your own cabin in northern Quebec with trees that you cut down yourself while wearing clothes that you sewed and raising your own crops and animals to slaughter yourself.

Until then, I’m tired of the very wealthy behaving so irresponsibly.

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Mark your calendars

There are two upcoming events you should mark your calendars for if you’re here in Michigan.

1. UAW will be protesting Rick Snyder’s State of the State address tomorrow in Lansing and at other locations across the state. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it but I encourage everyone to make it out for an hour, two hours, or the whole time.

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2. On a lighter note, the 2013 Arab Film Festival is coming up in Dearborn, MI at the end of the month. I’ve never been, but I’m looking forward to going with my boyfriend. Tickets are $9 per showing.

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Talking heads debating gun control is one thing. Lived experience is another.

My Life is a Romantic Comedy

“Of the 386 criminal homicides, 333 were caused by guns. “America has a problem with guns, but the epicenter seems to be here in Detroit,” said Logan” (read full story here)

So I’ve been mostly silent on the whole gun control thing, mostly because the same day of the Sandy Hook massacre one of my favorite students was shot in the head, and no one knows why. Don’t talk to me about your right to keep your guns because of the constitution. Don’t talk to me about your right to keep your guns for hunting or whatever you do on weekends. Don’t even talk to me about your right to keep your guns to keep yourself safe. Let me tell you about what my kids know about guns: My kids know where to get guns, that were bought legally then stolen from those legal owners. My kids know where…

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“Safety Was Never The Intention”: Michigan Governor Signs Extreme Anti-Abortion Bill Into Law

A helpful article following Rick Snyder’s confusing move to veto one piece of anti-choice legislation while signing this one into law.

To provide some counterbalance, Snyder made a statement on the issue of coercion saying, “Thoughtful, thorough information and training tools will be developed to ensure that women have the opportunity to review information regarding this type of coercion and the resources available to them. In my view, all coercion is wrong. Society should work to stop coercion in any form whether it’s bullying a classmate or forcing someone to get, or not get, an abortion. As the parent of three kids, I have personally experienced being asked to leave the examining room when I have brought in one of my children with a sports-related injury. It is unsettling to think that someone could believe that you may have hurt your own child. However, if it helps catch even one abusive situation, isn’t that worth it?”

Governor Snyder goes on to conclude: “Since becoming governor, there is probably no decision that I have struggled with more or that has weighed on me as heavily. Is my analysis perfect? It is not; but it is one person’s attempt to carefully balance an explosive and emotional issue in a thoughtful way. I have learned that there will be people on both sides of this issue that will hate me for either one bill or the other… I hope most of you, regardless of which side of the issue you’re on, will appreciate my effort to find the best answer and policy here.”

mykeystrokes.com

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has approved a controversial package of abortion restrictions that will limit abortion access for women who live in rural areas, require doctors to prove that mentally competent women haven’t been “coerced” into their decision to have the procedure, and enact unnecessary, complicated rules for abortion clinics and providers. The governor signed HB 5711 into law on Friday despite widespreadprotestsagainst the omnibus anti-abortion measure.

Snyder claims that HB 5711 “respects a woman’s right to choose while helping protect her health and safety.” But women’s health advocates warn the law will seriously threaten women’s access to the health services they need by imposing harsh regulations on abortion clinics and providers:

Critics of the Michigan law fear its insistence on new, standalone facilities will hurt women in rural and low-income areas as it could force some clinics to close. They say questioning women on whether…

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Why I oppose Right to Work

A lot of people are confused about what exactly Right to Work is which makes sense since the vast majority of Americans aren’t affected by Right to Work legislation.

What is Right to Work?

“Right to Work” legislation defunds unions by saying that union members cannot be required to pay dues as a part of their membership in the union – which sounds really great until you consider that this promotes freeloading.

Moreover, while big business is one of the largest supporters of Republican politics (Koch bros, anyone?), labor unions are one of the biggest supporters of Democratic politics. Defunding unions means less bargaining power, lower membership, and less political clout.

So what’s the big deal? Shouldn’t people have the right to not join a union?

You are not required to join a union in your place of work. It’s optional. However if there is a union at your place of work and you don’t join the union, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t benefiting from their work – so you still pay dues.

Wait. So you still have to pay even if you don’t want to join?

Yes. The union is still representing you to your employer on your behalf. You are still benefiting from their work.

Defunding labor unions is an attack on good jobs and hard-working Americans. The GOP, being in the pockets of big money and corporate America, sees paying workers less and having fewer rights in the workplace as the solution to our current economic woes. If employers can pay less, they can increase profit, maybe even expand operations in the U.S.

As Anne Savage said on Twitter today, “Snyder didn’t sign Right to Work bill so Michigan can compete with Indiana he did it so Michigan can compete with China.”

Corporate America and their GOP cronies are hoping that we’ll forget the advances made by the labor movement during the 20th century. And, you gotta give them credit, if there’s ever a time to do it, it’s during an economic downturn when any job is better than no job. Once we start repealing the advances in labor made during the 20th century, we can start competing with China, India and Mexico for the jobs that we’ve been exporting for the sake of their CEO’s and shareholders’ bottom lines.

Want a history on labor unions? Ezra Klein gave a quick overview last night (12/11) on TRMS.

Bottom line: The GOP is making a strategic attack on unions for their own gain and dressing it up like a Christmas present to working Americans. If the GOP cared about workers’ rights and “freedom”, they wouldn’t have chosen a lame duck session to push the legislation through here in Michigan at a time when no one was expecting it after years of Governor Snyder saying that this sort of legislation is wrong for Michigan.

By the way, Governor. You were right. Right to work is wrong for Michigan.

2014, here we come.

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