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    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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Stir It Up

Grand Old Panderers

Why Republican rhetoric is like a racist dog whistle

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The first time Republicans really, really scared me was in 1964. I can't remember where I got the idea, but in my then-11-year-old mind I believed that if Barry Goldwater won the election against Lyndon Johnson he was going to send all the black people back to Africa. Back then, I thought of Africa as a scary place where nearly naked people ran through the jungle chased by lions. Now I wouldn't mind getting a trip to the "dark" continent at government expense.

The second time was in 1992, when Pat Buchanan gave his famous "culture war" speech at the Republican convention in Houston. I was sitting in a motor home parked in the woods of northern Minnesota, swatting ineffectually at giant black flies as I stared at the grainy black-and-white image of Buchanan delivering the speech in which he likened taking "back our culture" to the troops taking back Los Angeles from rioting blacks in the wake of the Rodney King decision. I was flabbergasted that such openly racist rhetoric could be expressed during a political convention.

I guess I was naïve because it's happening again — the racial pandering, not my fear. Once again Republican candidates and their surrogates are playing the race card in a bid to solidify support in the conservative base. And as the primaries move into South Carolina and Florida, part of the Southern bloc of states that turned their backs on the Democrats after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, I don't expect them to let up. 

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have been the most overt offenders. Last month, Gingrich stirred the pot with comments about poor ("black") children having no work habits. He recently asserted that President Obama was the "best food stamp president in American history." Just in case people didn't know whom he was referring to, he went on to say that he was willing to go to the NAACP national convention to tell them "why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps." Then he went to a black church Sunday to say his comments had been misconstrued. I don't think so.

Santorum referenced food stamps in saying that he didn't want to make "black people's lives better by giving them someone else's money." Santorum has denied use of the word "black" in the statement, saying he was tongue-tied or stuttered or something — I don't know, maybe he burped — and that he actually said "blah people." So now we have the "blahs," that's a new one.

Amazingly enough, Santorum made his comments in Sioux City, Iowa, heart of Woodbury County where 2.4 percent of the population is black, and where 13 percent of the people are on food stamps. It's hard to say why that was even relevant there.

Gingrich and Santorum pulled the food stamp argument right out of the Ronald Reagan playbook. In 1976 Reagan created the fictitious Cadillac-driving Chicago "welfare queen" who had 80 names, 30 addresses and 12 Social Security numbers in order to collect numerous welfare checks. Reagan never identified the welfare queen's race, but he spoke in a code that everybody understands.

"The way that I see it is that whenever Republicans start using rhetoric about welfare, about poor — this crop is more overt about naming the target of that rhetoric — what these things constitute is symbolic racism. Symbolic racism tries to mask the reality of structural racism," says Austin Jackson, assistant professor of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. Jackson's work focuses on writing and rhetoric in African-American culture. "It's a racist dog whistle to appeal to a large portion of their white constituencies.

"What we see, from Republican candidates in particular, is used strategically to hide systems of racial exploitation and justice. The white constituency responds very well to this sort of coded racialized rhetoric."

The message in the rhetoric is that black people are a bunch of lazy freeloaders. But the food stamp association is not only racist, it is flat-out wrong. According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 35 percent of food stamp recipients are white, 22 percent are black, 10 percent are Hispanic, 4 percent are Native American, 2 percent are Asian and 19 percent are of unknown race or ethnicity. Many of them are the working poor. If you exclude children (47 percent) and retirees (8 percent), the majority of food stamp recipients have jobs. They just don't make enough to get by on. That's not to deny that African-Americans make up a larger proportion of food stamp recipients than in the general population; a legacy of hiring and wage discrepancies, and discrimination are at the root of that.

Republican presidential hopefuls Ron Paul and Rick Perry also have their own racial albatrosses around their necks. Paul has had to defend himself for racist statements in newsletters that went out under his name in the 1980s and 1990s; he didn't write or read them, he now claims, although he made no such claims when challenged on the newsletters in the '90s. A 1992 newsletter claimed that year's L.A. riots ended "when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks." Perry recently named Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to head up his Arizona campaign. The U.S. Justice Department recently concluded that Arpaio's office was guilty of "massive civil rights violations against Latinos," not to mention failure to investigate more than 400 sex crimes. Perry also came under fire last year when it was revealed that the family hunting lodge was once named "Niggerhead," and the epithet was painted on a big rock on the property.

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