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  • Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law

    Much has been made about Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s decision this week to transfer authority of the city’s water department to Mayor Mike Duggan. In what is the most interesting read on the situation, Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale, pens an analysis on Michigan’s novel emergency manager law on the New York Times Opinionator blog. Stanley deconstructs Michigan’s grand experiment in governance by addressing two questions: Has the EM law resulted in policy that maximally serves the public good? And, is the law consistent with basic principles of democracy? Stanley ties in examples of Plato, James Madison’s Federalist Papers, and Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt. A short excerpt: Plato was a harsh critic of democracy, a position that derived from the fact that his chief value for a society was social efficiency. In Plato’s view, most people are not capable of employing their autonomy to make the right choices, that is, choices that maximize overall efficiency. Michigan is following Plato’s recommendation to handle the problems raised by elections. Though there are many different senses of “liberty” and “autonomy,” none mean the same thing as “efficiency.” Singapore is a state that values efficiency above all. But by no stretch of […]

    The post Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week

    Walking with Dinosaurs, a magnificent stage show that features life-sized animatronic creatures from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, will be in town next week. But to preview the show’s run at the Palace, a baby T-Rex will be making an appearance at four area malls to the delight and wonderment of shoppers. Baby T-Rex, as the creature is being affectionately referred to, is seven-feet-tall and 14-feet-long. He’ll only be at each mall for about 15 minutes, so while there will be photo opportunities, they’ll be short. The dino will be at Fairlane Town Center Center Court at 18900 Michigan Ave. in Detroit from 2-2:15 p.m. today, July 30; The Mall at Partridge Creek at 17420 Hall Rd. in Clinton Township from 5-5:15 p.m. today, July 30; Twelve Oaks Mall at the Lord & Taylor Court at 27500 Novi Rd., Novi tomorrow, Thursday July 31 from 1:30-1:45 p.m.; and Great Lakes Crossing Food Court at 4000 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills from 5-5:15 p.m., tomorrow Thursday, July 31.  

    The post Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations

    Interested in reading about what Detroit accomplishes on a week-to-week basis that’s produced by the city itself? Great. You can do that now, here, at the Detroit Dashboard. Every Thursday morning, the city will publish an update to the dashboard because Mayor Mike Duggan loves metrics, even if the data might be hard to come by. According to Duggan’s office, the dashboard will provide data on how many LED street lights were installed, how many vacant lots were mowed, how much blight was removed, and more. This week, the city says it has sold 13 site lots through, removed 570 tons of illegal dumping, and filed 57 lawsuits against abandoned property owners.  

    The post Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial

    We don’t know about you, but usually Nancy Whiskey and Long John Silver’s aren’t two concepts we’d place in the same sentence. However, the international fast food fish fry conglomerate made a nod to the Detroit dive in their latest YouTube commercial. LJS is offering free fish fries on Saturday, August 2, which is the promotion the commercial is attempting to deliver. But, we think we’ll just go to Nancy Whiskey instead.

    The post Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns transwomen

    We came across an interesting item this week: Apparently, a music festival with the name “Michfest” is quietly oriented as a “Women-Only Festival Exclusively for ‘Women Born Women.’” It seems a strange decision to us. If you wanted to have a women-only music festival, why not simply proclaim loud and clear that it is for all sorts of women? But if you really wanted to become a lightning rod for criticisms about transphobia, organizers have found the perfect way to present their festival. Now, we know that defenders of non-cisgender folks have it tough. The strides made by gays and lesbians (and bisexuals) in the last 20 years have been decisive and dramatic. But the people who put the ‘T’ in LGBT have reason to be especially defensive, facing a hostile culture and even some disdain from people who should be their natural allies. That said, sometimes that defensiveness can cause some activists to go overboard; when we interviewed Dan Savage a couple years ago, he recalled his “glitter bombing” and said it was due to the “the narcissism of small differences,” adding that “if you’re playing the game of who is the most victimized, attacking your real enemies doesn’t prove you’re most victimized, claiming you […]

    The post Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns transwomen appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Use this widget to find your polling place for Aug. 5 primary election

    Reminder: the August 5 primary election is coming up. Where do you vote? What’s on the ballot? All these questions can be easily answered by simply typing the address you are registered to vote at into this handy widget created by Pew Charitable Trusts and Google: You can embed this widget on your own website with the following code, and more information can be found at the Voting Info Project.: <script type=”text/javascript” src=””></script> <div id=”_vit”></div> <script type=”text/javascript”>vit.load({‘election_id’:’4034′, ‘suppress_voter_id_rules’: true});</script> Read up on MT‘s election guide for Wayne county executive here.

    The post Use this widget to find your polling place for Aug. 5 primary election appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Politics & Prejudices

Fix our highest court

The state's supremes work in 'needless secrecy'

Five months ago, when I was much younger and better looking, I wrote about the shenanigans at the Michigan Supreme Court. The news then was that Elizabeth "Betty" Weaver, who was roundly hated by her fellow Republican justices, had suddenly resigned, after working out a deal with then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Weaver, who had grown sick of the infighting, etc., would quit if the governor would appoint Alton Davis, a distinguished appellate judge from Gaylord, in her place. That meant that Davis had to immediately run in November, and the Democrats placed him on the ballot. I assumed he'd win easily, since the ballot identified him as a "justice of the Supreme Court." Voters normally re-elect judges.

But I miscalculated. To oppose him, the Republicans nominated a woman named Mary Beth Kelly. For whatever reason, Michigan voters are strongly drawn to judges with Irish names. Especially the name Kelly. Mary Beth cleaned poor Alton's clock, and Republicans were back in a 4-3 majority on the high court.

Yet we hadn't heard the last of Betty Weaver. Though elected as a Republican, she had an independent streak. For years, she feuded with the so-called "gang of four," judges appointed by or closely allied to former Gov. John Engler. They voted in lockstep. Weaver voted according to how she felt the rule of law should be properly applied. When she began speaking out, the gang attempted to slap a gag order on her, which she merrily ignored.

Three years ago, she got some revenge. Then-Chief Justice Cliff Taylor, her biggest enemy, was defeated for re-election in a stunning upset. Weaver then crossed party lines and voted with the Democrats to elect another Kelly, Marilyn Kelly, chief justice.

Yet the feud continued. Last October, now off the court, Elizabeth Weaver, who had been calling for more openness on the court, did something shocking. She released transcripts of deliberations she had secretly recorded years ago. They show embarrassing things being said by various judges, most notoriously, Robert Young Jr., who the new Republican majority swiftly installed as chief justice.

In the transcripts, Young, who is African-American himself, uses the N-word. He didn't deny it, but said he was making a point, and that the bigger outrage was that Weaver had taped her colleagues without their knowledge.

Even some people who had no use for the Englerites were shocked by Betty Weaver's actions; people don't like being secretly bugged. There were suspicions she did this for political purposes. Young, after all, was also up for re-election last year. But if the revelations were designed to hurt him politically, they backfired. He was re-elected easily (the Democrats didn't nominate anyone named Kelly to run against him). Five of seven justices, including Democrat Marilyn Kelly, then voted to censure Weaver.

Lots has been written about this, but most of those writing haven't bothered to talk to Weaver. So I did. She told me she couldn't care less about being censured, and that what she did has been grossly misinterpreted.

"A review of my record — rather than reading what has been written about me — reveals this," she said by phone from her home in Glen Arbor on Sunday afternoon. "My whole point was openness."

"This is the Supreme Court of Michigan. It exists to do the people's business. Yes, during the recent election, I revealed some of the court's inner workings. It wasn't a pleasing sight. ... And the response from those so revealed was so predictable." Look, she told me, "needless secrecy in Supreme Court justices' performance in the business of judicial government allows and encourages the abuse of the judicial powers. That can lead to violation of the rule of law, and unjust, unprofessional and unfair performance of the justices' duties."

Did that happen while you were on the court? I asked. "Are you kidding? Much of the time I felt like Alice in Wonderland."

But surely certain things have to be done in secret, don't they? I asked. "Yes, certain things. Employee issues, for instance. But far fewer things than those currently in charge would like concealed. Think about it. The Michigan Supreme Court does not deal with treason or national defense. Its docket covers people issues from A to Z — adoptions to zoning. This is the people's business, our business. And our responsibility is to all people, and not especially the partisan or special interests. The people should be able to see how these decisions are being made."

Weaver denied frequent charges that she was bitter because she wasn't re-elected chief justice after serving a single two-year term. "I could have had it again if I wanted it. I didn't."

What she does want to do is improve the court. Apart from opening deliberations to public scrutiny, she outlined a series of reforms, most of which make very good sense. For example, Weaver thinks the present system where the political parties select the nominees has to go. Instead, candidates would earn a spot on the ballot by petition, same as other judges.

She thinks the justices should be elected by district, to ensure some geographical diversity. Right now, every justice lives in Wayne, Oakland or Ingham (Lansing) counties. She said that's why she wanted Alton Davis on the court, not because he was a Democrat.

Former Justice Weaver also thinks Supreme Court campaigns should be publicly financed, or failing that, we should have complete transparency and immediacy in campaign finance reporting. She wants us to be able to see who is giving money to these birds and who hence wants to influence them — as soon as possible.

You can read her recommendations in detail at You know, for years, people told me Betty Weaver was crazy. They said she dressed funny, was sometimes hard to understand, and wasn't like the other justices.

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