Mitt gets caught with pants on fire
Trying to establish his civil rights bona fides, presidential candidate and native son Mitt Romney talked about how he "saw" his father George, the one-time governor of Michigan, march with Martin Luther King Jr. At various times over the years, Romney has placed his dad with King in 1963 at a historic march in Detroit (which the elder Romney did not attend) or a days-later Grosse Pointe march (which King did not attend). When the press started saying "liar, liar," Mitt explained that he was an English literature major, and, consequently, has an expansive view of the definition of the word "saw." "When we say, 'I saw the Patriots win the World Series,'" he told reporters, "it doesn't necessarily mean you were there." Realizing he'd just made more trouble for himself, Romney immediately added that he meant the Super Bowl.
Plus, they threw in a bridge!
We've always wondered what type of person could get roped into one of those Internet scams that involves someone claiming to be from a foreign land and offering you a fortune if only you send thousands of dollars to help get the money out of some country. Of all the different kinds of dupes we imagined, though, we never pictured someone astute enough to become a county treasurer. Boy, were we wrong. Early this year, Thomas Katona pleaded guilty to 11 fraud and forgery charges; he'd embezzled more than $1.2 million while treasurer of Michigan's Alcona County, population 11,000. The public funds, as well as $70,000 of Katona's own cash, went to Nigerian scammers offering him an $18 million payoff.
No more Prince of Darkness jokes — or else
Michigan's own Erik Prince is normally a media-shy guy. He's ignored requests for interviews for years, including some from Metro Times ("Soldiers of Fortune," MT, May 9, 2007). But the former Navy SEAL found himself in the spotlight along with his 11-year-old company, Blackwater USA, which guards U.S. diplomats in Iraq. An heir to the Prince Corp. auto parts supplier fortune, he is the brother of Michigan GOP mainstay Betsy DeVos, which makes him brother-in-law to Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, also of Amway fame. Last spring, author Jeremy Scahill published the book Blackwater: The Rise of the Worlds' Most Powerful Mercenary Army and detailed the company's meteoric rise along with its multitude of governmental contracts and questionable practices.
Then, in September, Prince was in the national news after Blackwater employees killed at least 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians, focusing attention on the private firm's role in Iraq. Prince, a Michigan native, appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in October. In November, The Washington Post reported that the FBI had concluded that the September shootings were not justified. A federal grand jury has been hearing testimony that could lead to prosecution of the guards involved.
Just last month, residents in Potrero, Calif. (located about 45 miles east of San Diego), voted to recall five members of an advisory planning board that endorsed Blackwater's plan for a training camp there on the site of a former 800-acre chicken ranch.
Kid Rock: Still a Boob
It was another dubious year for Kid Rock, our 2006 "Boob of the Year." He bad-mouthed ex-wife Pamela Anderson, alleging that Anderson (who'd just married Rick Salomon, the boob behind Paris Hilton's sex video) had lied to the media about her miscarriage. The rocker then got into a fistfight with Tommy Lee, Anderson's first husband, at the MTV Video Music Awards; Lee described the fracas as nothing more than a "bitch slap" from "Kid Pebble." Soon after, Rock was arrested at an Atlanta Waffle House for a fistfight with a customer. Later, a Detroit court tossed his countersuit against a Novi woman who'd sued the star for allegedly "roughing her up" outside his studio after she refused to "spend the night" with him; the judge entered a default judgment against him for repeatedly failing to appear for a court-ordered deposition. Also notable: The rocker Rock split from longtime manager Punch Andrews the same day his new album went No. 1 and a day after distributing a press release thanking Andrews "for his guidance, friendship and hard work." Less than a week after reportedly saying his new management had to be in Detroit, Kid signed with a Nashville-based manager.
Yeah, time to pitch that Alice B. Toklas cookbook
The call to 911 started off odd and got even odder. Two people, a man and wife in Dearborn Heights, were afraid they might be overdosing ... on pot brownies! "We made brownies, and I think we're dead," said the caller, who turned out to be Cpl. Edward Sanchez, of the Dearborn Police Department. Then, attempting to make a reality check, Sanchez asked the score of the Red Wings game, explaining to the dispatcher, "I just wanted to make sure this isn't some kind of hallucination I'm having," according to a copy of the 911 tape obtained by the Free Press. Turns out the pot came from criminal suspects Sanchez had the good fortune to run into while working with the department's K-9 squad. Sanchez and his wife were each charged with a misdemeanor.
Now here's a guy who was really hallucinating
State Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican from Tipton (of course) went on a Lansing radio station and informed the world that, in his talks with returning troops, he got the sense that most of Iraq was "reasonably under control, at least as well as Detroit or Chicago or any of our other big cities." We get the sense that Rep. Walberg's grasp of reality is seriously out of control.
Six scoops of tutti-frutti with the maui wowie sprinkles, man
When a lieutenant with the Berrien County Sheriff's Department pulled over an ice cream truck in a trailer park, he smelled more than hot fudge wafting from the vehicle, its bells still jingling. A search revealed several baggies of pot under the dashboard. Apparently, some enterprising dealer had found a way to simultaneously give his customers the munchies and a way to satisfy them.
Free speech is a good, but only if we agree with you
There was a wave of outrage when a staff member of Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, a Republican from Rochester, put up a block on the Senate's IP server that kept senators and their staff from accessing the left-leaning Blogging for Michigan site. The block was removed after one day, following loud and numerous cries of censorship. Bishop's office justified the move, saying that surfing the Internet on state time is not an appropriate use of taxpayers' money. That didn't explain why it was only a liberal site that got blocked and not, say, the site of Ann Coulter wannabe Debbie Schlussel.
Speaking of Debbie (gawd, do we have to?)
It was quite a year for Southfield attorney and right-wing pundablogger Debbie Schlussel, who knows well that even a know-nothing like her can get some ink just by saying the outrageous. For example, her immediate response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech was to go online and suggest that the shootings could well be the work of an organized attack staged by Pakistani terrorists. Instead it was a guy from South Korea with no political agenda. When Media Matters (the group that helped bring down Don Imus) reported Debbie's slip, she responded by accusing the watchdogs of being "Nazi-funded." The Nazi being billionaire financier and lefty philanthropist George Soros, who, according to Schlussel, is "a fake Holocaust survivor, who — instead of 'surviving' the Holocaust — helped the Nazis perpetrate it." She also called Soros a "war criminal." During his early teens, Soros, who is Jewish, survived the Nazi's occupation of his native Hungary. But, while we're on the subject of Nazis ... Schlussel, could that be a German name?
Catch me if you ... oops
After escaping from the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center with two others, 16-year-old Jordan Danski stopped running long enough to sit down at a computer and taunt police, posting the message "2 fast for the feds to [sic] cocky for the cops!" Too cocky, yeah, but not nearly fast enough. He was back in custody within 48 hours of his breakout performance.
Who you calling Kracker?
In August, Uncle Kracker (real name: Matthew Shafer), Kid Rock's former DJ and a pop-rock-country star in his own right, was arrested in Raleigh, N.C., on charges of second-degree forcible sexual offense after a 26-year-old woman accused him of sticking his hand up her skirt in a local nightclub; she allegedly slapped him and he slapped her back. The 33-year-old Mount Clemens native was originally held on $5 million bail, after telling police that he planned to immediately fly back to Michigan to avoid charges. At arraignment, however, the sum was reduced to $75,000. At his hearing, the star agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He was given one year probation and a $1,500 fine.
Front door man
His arms were handcuffed to a belly chain, but his legs were free as Shilo Thomas Joseph rode in the front seat of a police cruiser. Wanted on a drug-related probation violation, the then-25-year-old Joseph had been picked up by Detroit police. An Oakland County Sheriff's deputy came to get him. But two other prisoners needed transporting to Pontiac. The deputy put them in the back seat. Joseph rode up front. When the cruiser stopped for a traffic light on the northbound Southfield Freeway, Joseph jumped out and ran. Back doors of police cruisers don't open from the inside. Front doors do. Oops. According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, Joseph remains at large. An Oakland County Sheriff's spokesperson said he was not in custody there.
From the "truth is stranger ..." file we offer you this item that ran in the Dec. 18 issue of the Kalamazoo Gazette:
For awhile, he had his superiors fooled.
Then the credentials of William E. Clark, the former head of security at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert, were exposed as fake in an article by Tom Junod in the June edition of Esquire magazine.
Clark had said he worked as a paid assassin, had high-level security clearances at the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense, and had participated in numerous covert operations in several countries around the globe.
All turned out to be lies.
Clark, who also went by the nickname 'Zeke,' resigned from his job on May 9, two days before the article ran on the magazine's Web site.
The Gazette went on to note that hiring practices at the facility remain unchanged.
But the Amy Winehouse overdose pool's still on, right?
As Britney Spears was headed to court in an attempt to keep custody of her kids after bouts of drug and alcohol abuse, DJ Big Boy of Detroit's WKQI-FM (95.5) invited his listeners to guess how long it would take the troubled pop star to commit suicide, with a $1,000 prize going to the person coming closest to the time of demise. People howled — not in laughter, but in protest. Even more dubious than the sick stab at humor was the attempt by Dom Theodore, program director of Clear Channel, to layer lipstick on this pig by claiming the intent all along had been to donate the thousand bucks to a suicide prevention group.
Fruits and nuts
You've heard of an embarrassment of riches, right? Well, this year members of Detroit School Board and their meetings were rich in embarrassments. In what became known as the "grapes of wrath" incident, community activist Agnes Hitchcock pelted members of the Detroit School Board with the juicy orbs at an April meeting as a sign of her displeasure at school closings, earning her a $250 fine. A month earlier, the Free Press revealed that board member Jonathan Kinloch apparently enjoyed the fermented version of the fruit a bit too much; the paper reported that he had been caught driving drunk three times since 2001 and, despite losing his license, continued to drive." In September, board member Marie Thornton shoved the Rev. Royce Lester after a board meeting. She said it was in self-defense, and that she felt threatened by his constant heckling. She obtained a personal protective order against him. He said she assaulted him. In October, Thorton was charged with assault by the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office and is awaiting a jury trial. When the board voted to sanction Thornton in December, she went to court and obtained a temporary restraining order halting the discipline.
Hey, kids, let's put on a musical!
After allegedly ramming a mouthy former student's car with her own in 2006, award-winning Grosse Pointe South High School choir teacher Ellen Bowen was mandated by court this summer to undergo anger management counseling. The district suspended her without pay for the month of September. The Michigan Department of Education offered her a six-month suspension of certification and a two-year probationary period, which she declined. She'll have a hearing Jan. 28 where an administrative law judge will decide her appeal of the state's recommendation. But wait ... haven't we heard the Bowen name before? A decade ago — Dec. 10, 1997, to be exact — Metro Times ran an article about the cantankerous teacher, who at the time was reprimanded for overspending and inappropriate language, including — according to a disciplinary letter — using "the expression 'Niggers and Kikes' as a metaphor or simile in a verbally aggressive manner" leading to one-day suspension without pay.
Here's the setup, you supply the bad jokes
Only days after the White Stripes canceled their scheduled U.S. and European tour citing drummer Meg White's anxiety disorder, an amateur porno video began circulating on the Internet, claiming to be Meg engaged in full coital activity. The band's publicist denied it was her, claiming it was "a prank ... in particularly bad taste." A day later, an adult Web site speculated — not very convincingly — that the woman in the video could be porn star Natasha Nice. Whatever the case, the video gave bloggers plenty of opportunity to post dubious "rhythm" and "Icky Thump" jokes.
My résumé, my résumé, i can't remember my résumé!
In June, an anonymous fax sent to the offices of the Detroit Zoological Society alleged that zoo director Ron Kagan had misrepresented his qualifications on his résumé. After investigating the charge, the zoo found that that Kagan did not, in fact, have a doctorate in zoology from Hebrew University. Kagan said the matter was a misunderstanding, and that he didn't know his doctorate had been held up because two of his advisers hadn't signed off on his thesis. Whatever the cause, suddenly, Kagan's $175,000-a-year job was endangered, as the zoo's executive committee met to decide what action to take against the director. Ultimately, the board chose to make Kagan give up a month of pay. The tempest in a terrarium is cause for gloating among Kagan's critics, who opposed the zoo's shutdown of the Belle Isle aquarium. The incident also prompted a review of Metro Times résumés, and the finding that staffers do not hold advanced degrees in exobiology, deconstructive sociology, ethnomusicology or pharmacology.
Maybe they do all look alike ("they" meaning congressmen, of course)
When the feds indicted Rep. William Jefferson on corruption charges, Fox News was on the story like white on rice. (And we were not making a racial remark there.) Unfortunately for the folks at the fairly unbalanced network, instead of showing footage of the Louisiana Democrat who allegedly had $90,000 stashed in his freezer, they rolled tape of Rep. John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. The mistake was completely understandable, however, considering that both men are African-American. Who wouldn't be confused? The Fox newshounds did broadcast an obligatory mea culpa, but our congressman found it lacking, saying: "This type of disrespect for people of color should no longer be tolerated. I am personally offended by the network's complete disregard for accuracy in reporting and lackluster on-air apology."
Cop knee: apply directly to the sternum
It started in November 2006, with hecklers at a University of Michigan event having a problem with cops being a little too, shall we say, enthusiastic in their attempts to quiet the protesters. When Dr. Catherine Wilson saw a cop kneeling on the chest of one of the hecklers, and the man yelling that he couldn't breathe before appearing to pass out, she stepped in to assist someone she saw at that point as a patient. She was restrained — roughly, she claimed — as the man was taken away in an ambulance. It wasn't until February of 2007, however, after she filed a complaint alleging police brutality, that she was charged with misdemeanor offenses for allegedly attempting to impede a police officer and medical personnel. In December a jury found her not guilty. Her lawyer, Hugh Davis, told the jury, "I just can't imagine where it ends if you can criminalize this kind of free speech and an altruistic act by a doctor."
If they're lion, they're dyin'
As the start of the season approached, Lions quarterback Jon Kitna boldly predicted that his team would win 10 games this season. Considering the fact that his hapless team had won a total of 11 games the previous three seasons, the guffaws were seemingly justified. Then the pussycats in Honolulu blue started the season on a tear, going 6-2, and Kitna's prediction didn't seem so laughable. But, as usual, when it comes to the Lions, the joke was on us. They faltered in the second half of the season, failing yet again to make the playoffs and going into the last game of the season needing a win just to hit the .500 mark. Go Red Wings!
Dubious couple of the year: Steve and Kwame
Steve Wilson and Kwame Kilpatrick make a fascinating pair. They ended 2006 with Kwame objecting to a Wilson broadcast about Detroit police being posted outside the mayor's children's school and Mrs. Kwame having a parking spot saved for her in Birmingham by a staff member. A few months later, Wilson reported some bigger, badder news. A vacation for Kwame and his family at a posh California resort had been paid for by a nonprofit foundation that bears his name and is run by his sister and friends. Not only that: At least part of the August 2006 trip was charged to a city credit card, although that was later transferred to his personal card. Surprisingly, that's not even the most dubious part of the achievement: After Wilson aired the story, the mayor's staff alleged the Channel 7 reporter had impersonated the mayor on the telephone, asking the California hotel for copies of invoices and the check from the foundation. Wilson insisted he did nothing unethical. The mayor's office asked for a criminal investigation of Wilson's actions. Did we mention this was during May sweeps? The next month, police investigators in California recommended felony charges against Wilson for impersonating the mayor. According to an investigator with the Carlsbad police, employees at the La Costa Hotel and Spa said someone who said he was Kwame requested copies of the bill and the check used to pay it. The bill, by the way, was about $8,600 for two rooms for a week. The San Diego district attorney decided they couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Wilson calling, so no charges were filed.
They say there's no such thing as bad publicity. we say they are idiots
It could have been settled quietly — without going to court, without all the headlines bringing past scandals to the fore once again, without wasting all that taxpayer money. But noooo, Mayor Kilpatrick was confident he could win over a jury the same way he's won over voters. So he insisted on taking a whistleblower lawsuit brought by two former cops to trial. One claimed he was retaliated against for reporting rumors of a wild bachelor party at the Manoogian Mansion, the other said he was fired for looking into those rumors. There were also alleged problems with the mayor's security detail, and allegations that extramarital affairs were covered up. A jury sided with the cops. Kilpatrick's initial response was a vow to appeal the verdict. But then sanity set in. In October, City Council voted to approve an $8.4 million settlement (interest on the original award was ticking up faster than a taxi meter).
Where will we come up with that $8.4 million?
Mayor Kilpatrick's administration proposes selling one-quarter of Detroit's 367 parks for a little more than $8 million. A soft piece in the Detroit Free Press characterizes the move as helping the city by shedding "dozens of its smallest and most worn-down parks" to "position the land for redevelopment." The article soft-pedaled the parks' size and recreational value (saying "more than half of the 92 parks are less than an acre in size" and are located in neighborhoods "dominated by urban prairies"). Though the article, way down, did touch on why the city would sell parkland when there's no shortage of vacant land in Detroit, it didn't mention how parklands are prime cuts of real estate for developers, requiring little environmental remediation. What's more, no developers were even lined up to purchase them. Most disturbing of all was a quote from a division manager of Detroit's recreation department, Vincent Anwunah: "Why do we hang onto something that doesn't produce nothing? It consumes the resources available to the city."
Like work release, without all the work
We're used to high-level spokespeople making a graceful exit, saying something about looking forward to spending more time with their families or writing a book. Leave it to Kwame's press secretary, Matt Allen, to leave with a guilty plea, a humiliating police report, a trip to rehab and a controversial appointment to a new city job.
On Nov. 2, Detroit police arrested Allen at his Indian Village home after his wife called 911 and then told officers her husband had "grabbed her by the back of the next and shoved her into the wall," as well as a bathroom window, according to the police report from the incident.
Allen, a former FOX 2 producer, made a plea deal with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office to misdemeanor charges of domestic violence and attempted resisting and obstructing of a police officer. He was sentenced to one year's probation.
He also stepped down from his post in the mayor's office to become the deputy director of the Detroit Cable Communication Commission.
First you hit bottom, then you keep going down
Well, the good news, apparently, we guess, sort of, is that arts organizations are getting something from the state in 2008. Back in April, Metro Times reported that Gov. Jennifer Granholm placed a moratorium on $7.5 million of the $10.1 million in arts and cultural funding that was promised to hundreds of agencies across Michigan in 2007, leaving both big boys like the DIA and grass-roots groups in the lurch. In June the freeze was lifted, but news is out now that the budget has been slashed further — to $6.5 million — for the upcoming year. We're now at the bottom of the barrel, folks, ranking 51st in the country — as in, among the 50 states and the District of Columbia — in per capita arts funding, down from fourth in the nation just five years ago. But take heart: If all politicians had their way, as one astute art critic points out, we might just have a 51-way tie for 51st.
Detroit art scene dies at age 306
According to a breaking story by Jonnelle Marte in the Aug. 8 edition of The Detroit News ("Detroit art scene fades"), bohemians by the dozens packed up their Schwinns and sneakers and moved to the East Coast to obtain master's degrees in filmmaking, painting and creative writing, generally living a life that's way more, like, aesthetically appealing and financially rewarding. The reason for an essay about our flailing creative class? Marte cites the prophetic words of wise-beyond-her-years recent CCS graduate and blogger Ann Gordon, who decided to move to Los Angeles. "Detroit is sort of a fickle town," Gordon said. But what about all those new arts organizations and initiatives we found in our Arts Issue last year? Oh, yeah, just anecdotal evidence.
Making sure state government works for them
The state Legislature moves the Michigan primary to Jan. 15 to have more impact on the choice of the next president — even under penalty of losing all our Democratic convention delegates and half our Republican delegates. The online journal Slate notes that, insane as this seems, the diminished importance of convention delegates — now that the primary season is all about "beauty contests" and "momentum" — makes Michigan's move not insane at all. But there's more to the story here, including a provision in the new election law to create lists of primary voters by party to be the exclusive property of the Dems and the GOP. That's backed up by criminal sanctions for unauthorized receipt or use of the lists by, say, the Greens or the Libertarians or your friendly weekly alternative paper. Which means the state's $10 million-$12 million straw poll doubles as proprietary market research for the Big Two parties. And the Michigan Supreme Court endorses the deal. Now that's insane.
This is the city that Jack left
The collapse of the Farmer Jack chain leaves the city of Detroit without the presence of a major food chain. Although Kroger purchased some of Farmer Jack's suburban locations, it passes on properties within the city. Even before the departure of Farmer Jack, a major study had already pointed to Detroit as a city pockmarked with "food deserts," where residents must travel twice as far to reach a mainstream grocer as to reach a convenience store or other "fringe food locations." Bottom line: "Roughly 550,000 Detroit residents — over half the city's total population — live in areas that are far out-of-balance in terms of day-to-day food availability."
Urban policy begins at home
In a kudos-worthy piece of work, David Josar of The Detroit News investigated the workings of a Detroit City Council-appointed board charged with granting tax breaks to the needy. Josar found "the little-known Hardship Committee, comprised of all nine members of the city's Board of Review, had been using its power to grant tax breaks worth thousands of dollars to apparently well-to-do homeowners in addition to the poor. In some of the most egregious cases, those receiving the hardship exemptions own multiple houses, drive luxury vehicles and live in homes worth more than $500,000." It's rough living in poverty-stricken Detroit. You've got to help folks.
It would have been a handily hopeful image
Woodward Avenue Action Association organized an event celebrating Woodward's 200th anniversary as our town's "main drag." As many as 40,000 metro Detroiters were to link hands along the west side of Woodward between Pontiac and downtown Detroit, forming a human chain stretching almost 27 miles, producing poignant symbolism for a region marked by deep divisions. Unfortunately, as of Aug. 9, the event's symbolism seemed grim: Only 10,000 had signed up to hold hands. When "Hands Across Woodward" actually happened at 2 p.m. on Aug. 19, amid threatening storm clouds and stubborn rain, long stretches of the 27-mile route were empty of people. Maybe next year?
They're lifeless in the sack, but they don't run away like other girls
An unemployed Detroit man who, at age 39, spent most of his life living with his parents, and was sentenced to spend between 18 months to 30 years in prison because he couldn't keep his hands (and, we presume, other body parts) off of those damn sexy female mannequins. He was still on parole for his sixth offense when caught smashing a storefront window in Ferndale to grab a mannequin wearing an irresistible French maid outfit. According to one report, the man's lawyer told the judge at sentencing that his client lacked certain social skills. Say what? You mean the ability to establish meaningful relationships with shapely hunks of molded plastic isn't a social skill? (On the other hand, last year saw the book Love and Sex with Robots by artificial intelligence expert David Levy reviewed in papers from USA Today to the Washington Post. Could our friend be the wave of the future?)
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