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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 bcallwood@metrotimes.com. 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 buildingdetroit.org, 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 […]

    The post Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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

Farewell to a hero

Al Fishman never gave up the fight

For generations of peace activists, Al Fishman seemed somehow indestructible. It was easy to sort of imagine that he would always be on the job, trying to make this a better, more just and less violent world. Two years ago, I remember chatting with him as his main cause, Peace Action of Michigan, prepared for another commemoration of the anniversary of Hiroshima.

Fishman was a stubborn sort who had always held the curious idea that it was a bad idea to incinerate people with nuclear weapons, and that melting the eyes and skin of innocent women and children isn't acceptable.

Worse, he had the bad taste to point out from time to time that we were the only nation that had ever done this. That was dangerous back in the day. Less than a week after the Korean War broke out, he was arrested outside what was then Briggs Stadium, seeking signatures to ban nuclear weapons. The Detroit cops tossed him in jail, where he spent the Fourth of July weekend. To give you some perspective, George W. Bush was then 4. Barack Obama's mother was 8.

There weren't many peaceniks in 1950. Most of the few who were sold out long ago — gave up, tuned out and went off to grow vegetables or watch survivor shows on television.

Not Al Fishman. "Fifty-nine years later, and I'm still working for nuclear abolition," he told me with an amused chuckle two years ago. He never got cynical, or if he did, he never gave in to it. He kept fighting to make this a better world. What else could he do? What else could any of us do?

So he kept fighting, damn it. He and his beloved wife, Margaret, played a role, almost by accident, in bringing down Joe McCarthy, long before President Obama was born.

Fishman had fought a million battles, winning a few but losing most, but kept on keeping on. He had known disappointment and big-time political betrayal, but he kept on. What else could he do? What else could any of us do?

Frankly, I don't think he ever considered doing anything else. So I was stunned last Thursday when I got a call from his niece, the lovely and talented Nada Radulovich, a cellist in New York. Uncle Al had dropped dead from a massive heart attack in a doctor's waiting room, where he had gone to see about a troublesome knee. He was 82. I couldn't believe it. Only days before, Al had called me. He wanted to put together a big debate here in Detroit over the national budget.

I told him I thought people here were more preoccupied with the state budget now, with the efforts to cut education and rob the poor to give to the rich, etc.

"I know that," Al said. "But state and local budgets reflect the spending priorities of the national government."

True enough. What he wanted me to do was suggest some TV personality who might be willing to moderate such a debate, in the hope that a big name might draw more of the curious.

That was significant. What Al Fishman never ceased to believe was that if you could somehow educate enough people, make them aware of what was really going on, they would finally get it, and work together to make this a better world.

He made mistakes. He carried one around with him for more than 40 years: He was a secret member of the Communist Party. Yes, that party, the one that took orders from Moscow. He admitted that to me after things fell apart.

Told me it was all right to write about it, in fact. Why had he joined? He was a Jewish kid from the South Bronx who was drafted and sent to Italy right after World War II.

Al believed in racial equality, and was disgusted by the reaction of his fellow soldiers to President Truman's decision to desegregate the armed forces. Fishman was also appalled that the Allies were reinstalling former fascists in power in Germany and Italy. The Communists were the only political party to speak out against these things.

So he joined. Not to sabotage anything, not to spy, just because he thought it was right. He paid dues, went to meetings, as did his wife, a Serbian girl he met after he came to the University of Michigan to study architecture.

There, they became bit players in a major historical drama. Partly because of Margaret and Al's radicalism, the Air Force tried to throw her brother, Milo Radulovich, out of the service and take away his GI benefits.

That was so unfair that Edward R. Murrow did an entire TV program on the case. The reaction helped Murrow go after the main demagogue, Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, five months later. Radulovich, who was then apolitical, was reinstated, but the pressure resulted in his dropping out of school.

Fishman just kept on working behind the scenes. Once, I asked him how he could have been so nave about the Communists. His answer brought me up short.

"The people I knew who were Communists had proved themselves as honorable and honest to me."

He didn't believe what he read in the papers about the purges, the Gulag, the mass executions, etc. "Whenever I saw something in a Detroit paper about a labor struggle here, a struggle I knew about, it was usually wrong and sometimes nothing but lies.

"So I assumed they lied about the Soviet Union."

Fishman left the party in disgust in 1992 when those in charge resisted efforts to make it more democratic, and the scales fell from his eyes.

But he hadn't given up on humanity. He had worked in shops and became a computer programmer before computers were cool. He had run for office, but lost. However, an old radical buddy of his did get elected mayor — and made Al Fishman a deputy police chief, so he could take his computer skills to the force.

They gave him a tour of the jail then. "Looks a little familiar," he muttered when they reached his old cell. For a time, he had trouble winning the cops' cooperation.

That is, till Coleman Young showed up one day, pointing a finger at large blue bellies. "Don't fuck with my man," he said.

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