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    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

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    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 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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Politics & Prejudices

The Snyder budget

Governor unveils tough calls, but they must be made

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it, good and hard." —H.L. Mencken

"Everybody likes change until it affects them." —Gov. Rick Snyder

Our new governor presented his new budget to the Legislature last week, and it really was a bombshell.

Bye-bye, film industry tax credits! Bye-bye, Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) for the poor!

Private pensions will be taxed! Public pensions will be taxed! Prison spending will be slashed! Money for higher education will be cut! Money for elementary and high school education will be cut! Revenue sharing will be cut by a third!

But business taxes will be lowered dramatically.

The howling began immediately, some of it less dignified than the rest. Starting at the bottom, Mitch Albom, who wants more of his cloying books made into movies, emitted a protracted whine about the film credits in the Sunday Gannett paper. "As a person who helped create the film credits program, I asked for months to meet with Snyder," he huffed.

The governor, evidently not knowing that Mitch was a Very Important Person, kept him waiting until two weeks ago, the churl. When the governor didn't do what Mitch wanted, Albom wrote that he felt like he'd "been punched in the stomach." No five friends in heaven waiting for Rick Snyder, no siree!

Granted, there were a lot of more serious objections to the governor's proposals. There are actually legitimate arguments that cutting back the film credits is the wrong thing to do. More importantly, there are deep concerns about what these budget cuts mean to the poor and our children.

Gilda Jacobs, who now heads the Michigan League for Human Services, was appalled at the specter of another 14,000 kids being driven into poverty. Others were stunned by the proposed $470 per pupil cut; one wonders how many more districts this will tip over into either emergency financial manager-hood or bankruptcy.

The revenue sharing cuts will hurt cities too, but actually came as a relief to some city officials I talked with; many of them feared it might be zeroed out entirely.

Labor complained too, of course, but the biggest caterwauling of all came from seniors who objected to the idea of having to pay tax on the money they collect from their pensions, some of which are quite generous.

"Class and generation warfare at their highest!" bellowed one Tom Diamondale, who in e-mails referred to the governor as "Slicky Slider," which, as nicknames go, is sort of cute.

State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, who heads the tiny caucus of Democrats in that body, complained that there was no shared sacrifice.

Yes, just about everybody hated this budget, except big business interests and the Chamber of Commerce. But curiously, I had a hard time working up much sympathy for the critics, for one largely overlooked reason:

They offered no alternatives.

All last week, I kept waiting for the Democrats to release a proposed alternative budget. Then I waited for some group to do so. But no one offered anything, except more whining.

Sorry, but the facts are these: Michigan has a huge budget deficit and the books have to be balanced. Right now.

We also have a broken economy and tax structure, which is partly still the legacy of our automotive past and partly due to our failed term-limits system, and the even more dysfunctional politicians we've been electing, one in particular: Jennifer Granholm.

Make no mistake about it. If you are a liberal, if you are a Democrat, if you care about children and education, you have her to thank for this. She knew this day was coming.

Everybody in Lansing who knew about state finances knew it was coming. We were going to run out of money and crash and burn, unless we changed our ways.

When the Democrats were running things, they weren't even willing to try. After her triumphant re-election in 2006, I urged the governor (through a meeting with her husband) to be bold. Go on television, explain everything to everybody.

Talk, I suggested, about shared sacrifice and the need to bite the bullet and address the real problems of this state. Use your landslide victory and superb communication skills.

Had she done that, she might or might not have succeeded. Mike Bishop, that dark pool of negativity, did not have the clout or confidence he would later attain.

There's a good chance she could have defined the debate, perhaps won a small increase in the state income tax or sensibly pushed to extend the sales tax on services.

Possibly she could have even started a major move to restructure state government. But she didn't have the guts to try. The moral bankruptcy of this state's political culture reached rock bottom in 2007. That's when the slimy politicians sold off $900 million in future tobacco settlement revenues in exchange for $400 million right away.

They did that in order to avoid hard, necessary decisions. They should all have been impeached. Shortly thereafter, they came up with the now-hated Michigan Business Tax to replace the older, Single Business Tax. What people now forget was that when it was first approved, the MBT was an improvement on what came before. But then, at the last minute, the parties slapped a 22 percent surcharge on the new tax, effectively driving business away.

After that, anybody with two brain cells to rub together knew the coming crash of state government finances was only a matter of time, and not much time. Actually, it would have happened on Granholm's watch, except for one thing: President Obama's stimulus program, which sent billions to this state.

There were probably some starry-eyed idealists who thought the money might be used for job creation or to invest in new and better infrastructure, etc. But our politicians just threw it in the deficit hole. Now, it's all gone, and there won't be any more. Hence the Snyder revolution. Nobody, by the way, should be mad at the governor.

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