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  • Thank you, Detroit

    I’m not going to lie to you – this isn’t easy. This week, the final City Slang local music column will be published in the Metro Times (on hardcore band Final Assault), and I have just submitted a cover feature on the women of Detroit hip-hop, to be published next week (8/6). This blog that you’re reading now will be my last one as a regular MT contributor. I have a lot to look forward to. I’m going to be an associate editor at Yellow Scene Magazine in Colorado, a tremendous publication in a beautiful part of the country. But leaving Detroit will be incredibly difficult for me. I love the place. It’s been (amazingly) six and a half years since I arrived, a couple of cases in hand and not much of a plan in mind. I just knew, after three separate research trips for books and a magazine article, that I felt at home here. Metro Times offered me freelance work almost immediately, as did a new website called Metromix (whatever happened to that?) When I arrived here, I had been working as a writer in the UK for nine years, but the help and encouragement I received […]

    The post Thank you, Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers

      We here at MT will be delighted when Mr. Jack White throws out a pitch at Navin Field (at least, we hope he will), but until then, we’ll be happy with his pitch to Santa this evening at Comerica Park.    

    The post Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW)

      Footage from the Gathering of the Juggalos set to clips of Morgan Freeman’s narration from March of the Penguins? Kind of forced, but also kind of beautiful. As the AV Club reports: The oft-sought voiceover champion lends a touch of gravitas to the festival proceedings. Unfortunate scenes of barely clad people having various liquids dumped onto them now carries a quiet dignity as it’s all part of nature’s majestic plan that keeps the world spinning through this elegantly designed and truly wondrous universe. Also, the video is NSFW as there are boobs in it. Watch the clip below:

    The post Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW) appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love”

    It seems like the polar vortex will never end: the weather phenomenon that brought us the most brutal winter on record this winter is to blame for this summer’s chillier-than usual temperatures as well. A couple of bands, though, made lemonade out of lemons (or snow cones out of snow?) by using the icy landscape to film music videos. 800beloved shot the video for “Tidal” in some sand dunes near Empire, Mich., and this week Turn to Crime debuted the video for “Can’t Stop,” the title track of their recently-released album. Even more piles of ice and snow might be the last thing Detroiters want to see right now, but the footage makes for some good visuals that mesh well with the song. Watch the video below:

    The post Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love” appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed

    Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr transferred oversight of the the city’s water department Tuesday to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in an order intended to refocus “efforts to help DWSD customers get and remain current on their water bills,” Orr’s office said today. “This order provides additional clarity to the powers already delegated to the mayor,” Orr said in a statement released Tuesday. “As the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department works to operate more efficiently and communicate more effectively with customers, it is important to ensure there are clear lines of management and accountability.” Duggan will have the authority to manage DWSD and make appointments to the utility’s board, according to a news release. In a statement issued Tuesday, the mayor said he welcomed Orr’s order, adding that officials will develop a plan that “allows those who truly need to access to financial help … to do so with shorter wait times.” “We need to change a number of things in the way we have approached the delinquent payment issues and I expect us to have a new plan shortly,” Duggan said. “There are funds available to support those who cannot afford their bills — we need to do a much better job in […]

    The post Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years

    Rovers Scooter Club, a local gang dedicated to celebrating and riding motor scooters, will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this week with a very special ride. Motor City Shakedown, the annual birthday party for the club, will commence this Friday, August 1 at New Way Bar. DJ Grover from Cincinnati will be spinning northern soul, reggae, and ska, according to club member Michael Palazzola. Saturday will feature a ride from Ferndale to Detroit, starting at noon at M-Brew. Palazzola says this is where most bikes will congregate before taking the ride to the city and folks will be prepping by getting some grub starting at 10 a.m.  Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host the after party,  a special event that will feature performances by several bands as well as Satori Circus. That portion of the event will commence at 8 p.m. with performances starting at 9 p.m. It’s free to riders, but the public is welcome to join the party with the mere cost of a door charge. Come midnight, the club will raffle off a vintage Lambretta LI 150. Sunday morning will end the weekend of festivities, with brunch taking place at the Bosco in Ferndale.   

    The post Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Stir It Up

Crushing the unions

Suddenly, the Midwest looks like the Middle East

It seems not long ago that we started watching mass protests shake up regimes across the Middle East and North Africa, even toppling Egypt's government. Now we're witnessing protests across the United States in response to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to strip collective bargaining rights from state workers. The protests probably won't lead to regime change in Wisconsin, but they have lit a fire under union supporters across the country.

Things have gotten very interesting since the GOP-sponsored bill was introduced in Wisconsin's Legislature. Republicans control the executive office, the House and the Senate in the Badger state, and it seems that they are using the opportunity to force their agenda through. Wisconsin's 14 Democratic state senators fled the state in order to keep the Senate from having a quorum, thus keeping the bill from coming to a vote.

Walker says the state's financial crisis calls for draconian measures. Some say that Walker created the financial crises by cutting taxes in the state. Regardless of the cause, Wisconsin public unions have actually agreed to all the economic provisions of the bill, wage cuts, and paying more for pensions and health care. But Walker's continuing insistence on curtailing collective bargaining rights makes this move look like bald-faced union busting.

"Walker is showing unwillingness to compromise," says John Beck, director of Labor Education at Michigan State University. "He has no intention to negotiate. The fiscal crisis only exists in Wisconsin because he got into office to cut taxes. They actually had a surplus before he came in. It's nothing but an attack on organized labor."

Republicans and their corporate allies have been pretty successful in attacking unions for decades. In 1945, union members made up 33.5 percent of the workforce. Today that number is about 12 percent; however 35 percent of public sector workers belong to unions while only about 7 percent of private sector workers are organized. Those numbers show where anti-union forces see their opportunity. If they can bust the public sector unions, they can effectively smash the union movement.

"A blind man can see it," says Beck. "Unions have already conceded that they're willing to talk about economic concessions. Going after the heart of organized labor is what he's really trying to do."

But why?

"Of the top 10 financiers of the 2010 elections, seven of them were right-wing, the other three were unions — AFSCME, NEA and SEIU," says Beck.

So it looks like a strategy for political domination: Take the financial backing away from your opponent. And if you don't believe that right-wing corporate money backs this move, consider the billionaire Koch brothers.

Charles and David Koch — whose Koch Industries has business interests from oil and petrochemicals to forest products — were principal financiers of Walker's campaign through contributions from their company and secondarily through the Republican Governors Association. A Koch spokesman at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference is reported to have said that their goal was to take the unions down "at the knees." The Kochs are also major Tea Party financiers.

The relationship between Walker and the Kochs was highlighted last week when Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast alternative newspaper, prank called Walker pretending to be David Koch. In the recording posted online, Walker sounds like a subordinate reporting to his superior: Murphy, pretending to be Koch, asks, "What's the latest?" Walker goes into a long explanation of tactical plans, and says, "Each day we crank up a little pressure." He also says, "This is ground zero, there's no doubt about it" regarding the fight with unions. When Murphy suggests he bring a baseball bat to a meeting with opponents, Walker says, "I have one in my office; you'll be happy with that."

If there's still any doubt about collusion, note that a Koch front group, Americans for Prosperity, uses standwithwalker.com to encourage the elimination of labor rights.

As many as 100,000 demonstators in Madison and the flight of Democratic senators has stymied the controversial bill since Feb. 15. On Sunday, protesters won a battle of sorts when they successfully defied a police deadline to vacate the Capitol building by 4 p.m. Meanwhile, Walker refuses to negotiate.

Union supporters nationwide see the fight in Wisconsin as connected to their own fates and have been mobilizing. Moveon.org organized demonstrations in all 50 states over the weekend. In Lansing, Beck reported about 400 or 500 pro-union demonstrators turned out, with about 20 Tea Party counter-demonstrators.

"They said we have to support folks in Wisconsin because that's where the beachhead is right now," says Beck. "They see this as a way station to a much more galvanized and united labor movement."

There is concern in Michigan that — although he hasn't taken on organized labor directly — some of Gov. Rick Snyder's policies will weaken unions. For instance, with our state's economic crisis many municipalities face budget shortfalls. The state has been training some 175 emergency financial managers (EMFs) and the proposed Emergency Manager Takeover Bill would give EMFs the power to void union contracts. As cities, school districts and other municipal entities hit the financial wall, the EMFs will be making their draconian moves across Michigan.

In Detroit, while it may seem a very different situation, Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians, who have been on strike since Oct. 4, see their situation as connected to Wisconsin.

"To put it succinctly, the DSO is trying to strip the musicians of their right to bargain," says Greg Bowens, a spokesman for the musicians. "It's not in a law like Wisconsin's but you've got to call a spade a spade."

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