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  • Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well

    By LeeAnn Brown Some people say that hip-hop is dead. Local ban Fderal Ground is proving that is not the case. The seven-member band, consisting of three lead vocalists, a DJ, bass, drums and guitar, plays what they call “living hip-hop.” Their music, peppered with multiple styles, covers all aspects of life from growing up in the D to playing with fire despite knowing you will likely get burned. Their undeniable chemistry and raw lyrics compose a music that is living, breathing, and connecting to their listeners. It has been nearly 11 years since Vinny Mendez and Michael Powers conjured up the basement idea that has flowered into the Detroit funk-hop band Feral Ground. Throughout high school the two wrote and rapped consistently, playing shows here and there. In those years they matched their rap stanzas with the animated, dynamic voice of Ginger Nastase and saw an instant connection. The now trio backed their lyrics with DJ Aldo’s beats on and off for years, making him a permanent member within the last year, along with Andy DaFunk (bass), Joseph Waldecker (drums), and newest member, Craig Ericson (guitar). We sat down with Feral Ground and their manager, Miguel Mira, in their […]

    The post Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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 BuildingDetroit.com, 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 trans women

    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 trans women appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Higher Ground

Pot on the left and right

Can conservatives and liberals agree on legalizing weed?

Could medical marijuana be the issue that brings us all together? I'm not talking about everybody sitting in a circle, passing a joint around and swaying back and forth to Michael Franti tunes — although that wouldn't hurt anything either. I'm talking bipartisan politics. Something almost all politicians talk about but toss into the trash the minute anybody actually tries to get something done.

Rabid partisanship has dogged our political process pretty much since the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. The issue of drugs and marijuana has played into that since Richard Nixon used it successfully as part of his core platform in his 1972 re-election bid. Neither side wants a soft-on-drugs image, but the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has pushed its politicians further on medical marijuana.

"The party that tends to be more responsive on the issue of medical cannabis has been the Democrats," says Alan St. Pierre, director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Washington, D.C. "Democrats, generally speaking, have been more supportive than Republicans. But to get anything done there has to be two to tango. When Republicans do cross the aisle they are generally the libertarian, pro-business types rather than the moral holy rollers. Regarding out-and-out legalization, neither party takes this with any degree of seriousness and urgency."

This is still the case in most instances. And as a Republican administration prepares to take over in Lansing, there is real concern among medical marijuana activists that it will be unfriendly toward their cause. That could happen, but one activist doesn't see it.

"The Democratic Party is pretty solid as far as following the will of the people," says medical marijuana activist Tim Beck. "As far as Republicans are concerned, we've gotten the same signals. For instance James Bolger [a southwest Michigan state representative] is a Rick Snyder Republican. His focus is on the economy; his focus is on jobs. There are also some libertarian Republicans. They know fighting medical marijuana does not need to be a major focus. There isn't going to be a big push to see this overhauled as much as [Oakland County Executive] L. Brooks Patterson and [Oakland County Sheriff] Mike Bouchard would like to see."

Indeed Oakland County has pushed the pedal to the metal in confronting medical marijuana facilities in busting two alleged dispensaries — and indicting 16 people connected to them. While Michigan law allows for medical marijuana patients and caregivers, it does not address distribution outside of the patient-caregiver relationship. Those trials and a suit by the ACLU in support of medical marijuana patients against ordinances that essentially prohibit the use of medical marijuana in Livonia, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills should go a long way in defining what will and won't be allowed in Michigan.

Other than litigation, the only way to further define how the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act works is with a three-quarters majority vote in the state Legislature. Voters passed the MMMA by a 63 percent average across Michigan, but a look at conservative Ottawa County illustrates the act's bipartisan support. In 2008, straight party ticket voters favored Republicans 72 percent to 27 percent, and John McCain won the county with 51 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Obama; yet the MMMA passed 50.55 percent to 49.45 percent.

"The ballot proposition did pass here in Ottawa County," says attorney Dan Martin in interpreting those results. "Support for the law is not a Republican-Democrat split. There had to be a number of Republicans in Ottawa County who voted for it. Otherwise it couldn't have passed in our county."

Martin, an attorney for the Scholten Fant law firm in Grand Haven, addressed a crowd of 100 mostly west Michigan local government representatives at the Allendale Township Hall. Martin played Peter Tosh's reggae classic "Legalize It" and advised the leaders in the audience they could be sued if they ban all medical marijuana. "Lawful uses are permitted," he said.

It's not just the Republican voters who have lightened up about marijuana. Over the years, some heavy national conservatives have come out in support of legalizing marijuana, or at least downsizing the costly drug war, such as Ron Paul and the late William F. Buckley Jr. and Milton Friedman.

In a 2004 column in the National Review, Buckley opined:

An estimated 100 million Americans have smoked marijuana at least once, the great majority, abandoning its use after a few highs. But to stop using it does not close off its availability. A Boston commentator observed years ago that it is easier for an 18-year old to get marijuana in Cambridge than to get beer. Vendors who sell beer to minors can forfeit their valuable licenses. It requires less effort for the college student to find marijuana than for a sailor to find a brothel.

Even Sarah Palin, the darling of the conservative right, in June said, "If somebody's going to smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody any harm, then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems we have in society."

Closer to home, The Detroit News, with its traditionally conservative philosophy, published a column a few weeks ago in which editorial page editor Nolan Finley called for the legalization of marijuana so it could be taxed and regulated. Wrote Finley:

Critics of medical marijuana have called it the first step toward legalizing all pot use. They're right. And it should be.
It's absurd for Michigan to still be arresting and jailing pot growers and users whose only real crime is that they were too stupid to apply for a medical marijuana certificate.

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