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  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May

    Margaret Doll Rod will celebrate the release of her new EP, Margaret, with a show at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, May 10. A statement reads, “The EP contains 3 new original songs and one Chrome Cranks cover with Italian actress Asia Argento singing background vocals. Margaret moved to Italy after the end of the Demolition Doll Rods where she still lives touring and performing festivals in Europe. The Dollrods were a Garage Rock force for over 20 years, opening for Iggy, Jon Spencer, The Scientist, The Monks and The Cramps. Margaret was the front person and principal songwriter for The Dollrods. Her chief musical foil was Danny Kroha, who joined the Demolition Doll Rods after the now legendary Gories called it quits. Margaret’s sister, Christine, on drums, rounded out the legendary trio. Margaret will do a special performance in the round that night with a 360 degree revolving stage and special guest DJ Adam Stanfel.” The bill will also feature the Stomp Rockets and the Volcanos. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

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  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Politics & Prejudices

Ayn Rand vs. LBJ

What do their visions mean to Election 2012?

Photo: , License: N/A

Lyndon B. Johnson takes the oath of office on Air Force One after Kennedy's assassination. Stephen King, among others, ponders where America would be without him. (Photo by Cecil W. Stoughton, White House Press Office)

Confession time: I too was once attracted to Ayn Rand's nutty philosophy, for maybe a week. I read The Fountainhead and slogged through Atlas Shrugged, and was impressed.

What I admired about her novels — called "mesmerizing nutworks" by one forgotten reviewer — was that they celebrated self-reliance and believing in yourself. Like most teenagers, I found her attitudes toward religion and conformism compelling as well.

Her taste in sex did make me uneasy; her ideal seemed to be: Boy meets girl; girl tries to destroy him; boy beats her up and rapes her; girl follows him anywhere. But I still found her inspiring.

Then, however, I turned 17. I realized that in an Ayn Randian world lots of people would never have a chance to go to college, to get ahead, and most of the weak would be left to starve.

There would be no protection for those victimized by racism or sexism. Gradually, I mostly forgot about Rand and her nutty vision.

That was long ago, and she's been dead since 1982. A lot is now known about her bizarre personality. The former Alisa Rosenbaum was as tyrannical in her own way as the Stalinists in her native Soviet Union. Those in her movement who dared to disagree with her, even on small points, were denounced and expelled from her circle. She pretty much compelled a much younger follower to become her lover and, when that ended, tried to destroy him too.

Nice lady, whose worship of the cult of pure "reason" somehow didn't prevent herself from glorifying smoking and killing herself as a result. Yet her influence now seems to be growing.

Most significantly, Paul Ryan, the designated Republican candidate for vice president, a few years ago made a speech and said she was the "one person" who got him into politics. 

"I grew up reading Ayn Rand, and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are," he said. "It's inspired me so much that it's required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff." 

He now prudently denies all that, and, as a good Catholic boy, denounces her atheism.

But there's substantial evidence that he is still a Randian when it comes to society. The famous, or infamous, Ryan-proposed budget is one that might make the old girl swoon. It protects the rich and robs the poor. It would essentially end Medicare as we know it.

Millionaires would get big tax cuts. The poor and the middle class would get the back of his hand. Republicans are trying to reassure voters, saying President Romney would have his own budget, not the Ryan budget. Romney, they say, would be calling the tune; vice presidents head commissions and go to funerals.

True. But vegans, as a rule, don't hang out with butchers. Why did Romney pick Ryan if he doesn't agree with the brash young ideologue on economics? In any event, Ryan, who was born in 1970, would be one of our youngest vice presidents, and the clear favorite to be the GOP presidential candidate when Romney is done. 

Whatever his motives, he doesn't think government should help the poor. Many cold and mean-spirited people don't. They forget what things were once like in this country. Once upon a time, we had leaders who did care. We probably escaped some form of fascism or Soviet-style state socialism in this country (so far) because of a few far-seeing leaders, first of all, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Toward the end of his life, Gore Vidal accurately said of FDR that he should be remembered as the man who saved capitalism from itself.

FDR began some of the social programs — Social Security, for example — that allowed those who were cogs in the capitalistic wheels to have a safe and secure old age. He was able to set up tools and agencies, like the Securities and Exchange Commission, to prevent capitalism from devouring itself, the people and the planet.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was next. Much reviled, the architect of a war that tore this country apart and destroyed his administration, LBJ nevertheless gave us Medicare and Medicaid and a string of civil rights bills that finally allowed everybody to be fully American.

Robert Caro has devoted much of his life to writing a spellbinding biography of LBJ. If you read only one nonfiction book this year, I'd recommend his latest volume, The Passage of Power.

Ironically, earlier I had been engrossed in Stephen King's amazing latest novel, 11/22/63, in which a time traveler from the present manages to go back in the past and prevent the Kennedy assassination. But when he returns to the present, he is struck with horror. In the novel, Kennedy fails to get any civil rights legislation through Congress, which results in war in the streets.

That leads to George Wallace's eventual election, and far worse to come. Horrified, the time traveler heads back to undo the damage.

The master of horror did his homework. Historian Caro is also convinced that the civil rights laws we take for granted could only have been passed by LBJ, a fundamentally flawed and corrupt person who, for whatever reason, sincerely cared about the downtrodden.

"Ruthlessness, secretiveness, deceit — significant elements in ... Lyndon Johnson's life story," he concludes. But there were other elements — "anger at injustice, sympathy, empathy, identification with the underdog" — that led, thanks to his brilliant mastery of the machinery of government, to programs that transformed the nation.

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