By John Ruberry

Little Marathon Pundit and I were on vacation earlier this month and our travels brought us to Wisconsin and Michigan. On our final day of that trip we visited the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, just six days prior to the 105th anniversary of the birth of the 38th president.

Of the presidents of my lifetime, Gerald Ford is the obvious choice for the “Most Likely to be Forgotten Award.” That’s partly understandable. His 29 months in office was the shortest term of any president who didn’t die in office. And Ford was the closest thing to a “regular guy” to live in the White House. The media loved Ford for that–delighting on him toasting his own English muffins in the White House kitchen. They loved Ford–yes, he was a Republican–until he pardoned his predecessor, Richard M. Nixon, one month after being sworn in to office.

Immediately Ford became a buffoon and a dope. He now was the media’s enemy and ordinary instances were blown out of proportion. He stumbled and fell from the steps of Air Force One. Have you ever had a misstep on a set of stairs? He sliced a few golf balls into crowds–those onlookers would not have been there if he was still House Minority Leader. Ford was an accomplished skier, but do you know what? Skiers fall. And so did he. Chevy Chase’s impersonations of him on Saturday Night Live portrayed him as dimwitted and yes, a man who could barely remain on his feet.

But Ford was arguably the greatest presidential athlete. He was an All-American football center for the University of Michigan. He was offered contracts by the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. Until very late into his long life Ford regularly swam laps, Ford had an outdoor pool built on the White House grounds to replace the indoor one that Nixon converted into a press room so he could remain in shape.

Ford “the dummy” graduated in the top third of his class at Yale law school.

In short, because of the Nixon pardon, Ford was bombarded by, not fake news, but a fake perception from the media.

The museum of course looks back at Ford’s improbable rise from being abandoned by his father two weeks after his birth to becoming an Eagle Scout and a star athlete. After college and law school Ford returned to his hometown of Grand Rapids to practice law. After Pearl Harbor Ford joined the Navy. Shortly after marrying Betty Bloomer in 1948, Ford won his first election as congressman of Michigan’s 5th district. By the mid-1960s Ford was the House minority leader.

The film about Ford’s life, “A Time To Heal,” plays there.

As the Watergate scandal raged. Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, pleaded no contest to tax evasion and resigned. Nixon, under the provisions of the recently enacted 25th Amendment to the Constitution, nominated Ford as Agnew’s replacement, which Congress approved. Thus Ford became the first vice president–and the only president–not elected by the American people.

“I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots,” Ford said in his brief inaugural address, “and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers.” And alluding to Watergate, he added, “Our long national nightmare is over.”

But Ford was president during an unusually eventful 29 months, which the museum documents. What transpired included: His controversial choice of liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president, rampant inflation and the brutal l974-75 recession, the Mayaguez incident, the fall of South Vietnam, a summit meeting with Leonid Brezhnev, his signing of the Helsinki Accords, two assassination attempts–within a month, a general gloom of the American psyche, and his defeat by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election after a hard-fought primary battle with Ronald Reagan.

Quite a bit of bad stuff, to be sure. But the American Bicentennial was celebrated in 1976.

Oh yeah, Ford pardoned Nixon.

Blogger with Ford

The current special exhibit at the museum is centered on his wife, Betty Ford, the centennial of her birth was in April. Her life was a momentous one too. Unlike her recent predecessors as First Lady, Betty was outspoken. Six weeks after moving into the White House she underwent a mastectomy–which brought much needed attention to breast cancer. Two years after her husband’s electoral defeat she was treated for alcoholism and an addiction to painkillers. Rather than hiding in shame, she co-founded the Betty Ford Center, America’s best-known substance abuse treatment center.

Yesterday during the Gerald Ford birthday celebration at the museum a statute of Betty was unveiled.

Jerry and Betty Ford–two Americans who had two remarkable lives.

If you are anywhere near Grand Rapids, a visit to the Ford museum is worth your time.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Early in Episode One of Flint Town, an eight-entry Netflix series that debuted this month, we discover a murder victim lying in the snow. And we see snowflakes resting unmelted on his hand–the only warmth he will offer can only come from memories from his loved ones.

Such is life and death in Flint.

Few cities of its size in the United State–probably none–have endured as much devastation as Flint has in the last thirty years. The population of  Flint, which was once Michigan’s second largest city, peaked in 1960 at just under 200,000. But the wide scale exodus began in the 1980s when General Motors–it was founded in Flint–began its rapid downsizing of operations in what is still called “the Vehicle City.”

Now fewer than 100,000 reside in Flint–with 40 percent of them living below the poverty line.

Flint is Detroit’s smaller cousin–sharing most of the same problems. But Flint’s water crisis–lead poisoning spawned by switching the city’s water supply from Detroit’s Lake Huron facilities to that of the Flint River–added a tragic dimension to its suffering.

“It used to be cars were made in Flint, and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico,” Donald Trump remarks at a campaign appearance shown here. “Now the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint.”

Flint Town is a project of directors Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper, and Jessica Dimmock. It takes a surprising choice of its focus, the under-resourced Flint Police.

“The police officers on the Flint Police Department and underpaid and understaffed, wearing five or six hats, [and] using primitive equipment,” Police Chief Timothy Johnson tells the city council in the final episode. Earlier in the series the dashboard on a Flint police car shows the odometer at 105,000 miles. The man who sits in the cubicle next to mine in my real job, a retired cop from a Chicago suburb about the same size as Flint, says that the cruisers on his force were surplussed at about 50,000 miles.

We see Devon Bernritter, a captain, lament that he was compelled to send three officers on foot patrols because no police cars were available for them. Cops are sent on calls by themselves in Flint in many situations that in other jurisdictions, because of perceived danger, two officers are sent.

Johnson utilizes the same type of resourcefulness that Soviet citizens used when facing problems with inadequate or missing equipment. Volunteers are hired to assist his officers, although unlike everywhere else these aides are armed, including a warm-hearted 65-year-old retiree whose trainer bends over backwards so he pass his marksmanship test. Guns seized in crimes are typically destroyed by most police departments. In Flint they are auctioned off.

Election Day comes to Flint Town. While not ignored, the presidential race–where the white cops favor Trump and the African American ones back Hillary Clinton–takes a back seat to a vote to extend a millage, a property tax, to provide what is of course badly needed funding for law enforcement. In the past those monies were spent, despite promises to voters, elsewhere.

Flint has a well-deserved reputation for corruption and incompetence. The latter point was something not even Michael Moore in his Roger and Me documentary could ignore. While its elections are non-partisan, Democrats dominate Flint politics.

“I always wondered why this city was in the position it was and now I see why, it’s at the top,” Chief Johnson boldly tells the city council in a budget hearing.

Blogger last autumn in Michigan

Yet the rank-and-file Flint cops deeply care about the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect, despite toiling in the atmosphere of the cold-blooding killings in 2016, assassinations really, of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Is the love returned? For the most part, no.

Flint Town is rated TV-MA for graphic violence and foul language. While Netflix is promoting this batch of shows as Season One, there has been no announcement that a second season is coming. I’d like to see another helping.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Last week I had some time off from work and I did what few people do. Before sunrise I left home and drove to Detroit for a pleasure visit.

It was my second trip to the Motor City. My first Da Tech Guy account, from 2015, is here.

What follows is a progress report with a grade.

First of all, is Detroit back? Well, if you are like most visitors and you don’t venture beyond downtown, Midtown, Greektown, New Center, or its three casinos, you’ll say, “Yep, Detroit is a thriving city, it’s back.”

But most of the the neighborhoods, Corktown, Palmer Woods, and Sherwood Forest are exceptions, are either rundown and decrepit, or near-apocalyptic wastelands, such as Brightmoor. And as for Palmer Woods, just three blocks from its southeast corner, near where I parked my car to snap a picture of a feral dog–90 minutes later a store manager was murdered during an armed robbery.

But even in its rough patches–actually most of Detroit is one expansive rough patch–there are noticeable improvements.

The abandoned GM Fisher Body 21 plant

Two years ago I was able to walk into vacated schools and factories with only a nagging guilt about trespassing preventing me from entering. That didn’t work, I walked in anyway. Harry B. Hutchins Elementary School, where I spent an hour taking photographs in 2015, is fenced off now. The Packard plant, the world’s largest abandoned factory, has a small but aggressive security presence. I wandered around there undisturbed for hours during my previous visit. Fisher Body 21, an old General Motors factory, is a glaring eyesore at the intersection of the Edsel Ford and Chrysler freeways. While I was able to stroll into that one, the windows in the stairwells must be bricked-off. The stairways are now as unlit as a cave beneath the dark side of the moon. Only a fool, or someone wearing a miner’s hat with a supply of back-up batteries, would climb them now.

So for urban explorers such as myself, Detroit is no longer a free-range video, photography, and souvenir collection zone.

Two years ago no one with authority appeared to give a damn. I credit the attitude change to Detroit’s reform mayor, Democrat Mike Duggan–who lives in Palmer Woods by the way. Duggan was elected four months after the Motor City’s bankruptcy in 2013. Earlier this month Duggan, who is white, overwhelmingly defeated Coleman Young II, the son of Detroit’s first black mayor. The elder Young’s 20-year tenure can best be deemed as controversial. The former communist utilized race-based politics and dog whistle words–city (black) versus suburbs (white)–which kept him in office but drove businesses and of course jobs out of Detroit. He was the steward of the city’s descent. While the white population is growing for the first time since 1950, Detroit remains a super-majority African-American city. Yet Detroit voters rejected the younger Young’s own dog whistle call to “Take Back the Motherland.” Good for them.

While there still are vacant buildings downtown, two of the most obvious ones that I noticed during my first visit, the 38-story Book Tower and the former Wayne County Building, are being rehabbed. Both were seen in the premature Detroit-is-back Chrysler Super Bowl ad with Eminem from 2011. A mile up Woodward Avenue to the northwest is the gleaning new Little Caesars Arena, the new stadium for the Red Wings and the Pistons. Detroit’s NBA team has returned to the Motor City after a nearly three-decade absence. Across the street from the arena are the luxurious Woodward Square Apartments. With Ford Field, the home of the Lions, and Comerica Park, where the Tigers play, as well as some theaters and other new or rehabilitated apartments, the result is the new District Detroit, an entertainment and residential area that rivals any in the United States.

Alley in Delray

So there is a lot of good going on in Detroit.

As for the bad, let’s discuss those forsaken areas, and it goes beyond the crumbling and abandoned housing stock and the crime. Most pedestrians in “the other Detroit” walk on the streets, because the sidewalks are for the most part crumbing. Some are overgrown with weeds. Nearly all alleys are impassable. Even large trees can be found growing in some. Keep in mind that in 1950 not only was Detroit America’s fifth largest city but it enjoyed the highest standard of living of any city in the world. Municipal alley garbage pick-up ended decades ago and many garages of otherwise well kept-up homes are collapsing. Why maintain a garage when you can’t access it from your alley? And besides, there are plenty of vacant lots, with a bit of elbow grease, that can be converted into grassy parking lots. Rubbish can be found everywhere. Illegal dumping–much of it done by suburbanites–is a serious problem in Detroit. Side streets have many potholes and even more cracks. On the other hand, Duggan has made good on his promise to install more street lights.

Urban prairie in Brightmoor

And that post-apocalyptic neighborhood of Brightmoor? A few sections that were once packed with residents have devolved into the kind of emptiness that you expect to see from a country road, a phenomenon known as an urban prairie.

Critics from the left will lash out at me as I take measure of Detroit’s unpleasant underside and yell, “What about racism?” Yes, for decades Detroit’s blacks suffered from institutional racism. So did black Atlantans. The year after Detroit elected Coleman Young, Atlanta, whose blacks endured Jim Crow laws, followed suit and elected its first black mayor. Atlanta became the city that was “too busy to hate.” In 1996 Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, which is something pre-Young Detroit unsuccessfully bid on an unprecedented nine times.

Back to the good: Most Detroiters are generally friendly people, strangers say “hello” to each other. That’s a commendable behavior I’ve never seen in any big city.

Sidewalk in Petosky-Otsego

Back to the bad: Detroiters are the rudest and most reckless drivers I’ve encountered outside of New York City. And remember, Detroit’s streets are in terrible shape, so such road effrontery is especially hazardous.

Detroit is not “back.” but it is coming back. But some unfinished business remains that could send the onetime Arsenal of Democracy back in the wrong direction. While the deadly 1967 riot and the contraction of the Big Three auto makers, as well as fiscal malfeasance, corruption, and numbing levels of crime are largely responsible for Detroit’s demise, the municipal income tax, a commuter tax, and loads of burdensome regulations also played a role. Those taxes, largely idiosyncratic to Detroit among big cities, still remain, along with those regs. And Detroit’s property tax system, according to the Detroit News, is “fundamentally flawed” and was “particularly devastating in the cycle of decline and renewal Detroit has undergone.”

“New Detroit” has emerged from the starting block but the Motor City is wearing ankle weights.

My grade for the city is “incomplete.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Last week the 50th anniversary of the five-day long Detroit Riot passed. Or uprising or rebellion, depending on who you speak with.

I’m going with the first one, riot. It started after midnight on July 23, 1967 in the city’s Virginia Park neighborhood when an illegal bar, known locally as a “blind pig,” was raided by Detroit police officers. After arresting 85 patrons who had gathered to celebrate the return of two soldiers from Vietnam, the cops were confronted by 200 more people who threw rocks and bottles at them. The police left and crowd started smashing windows and looting stores.

Which is why I’m calling it a riot.

Rosa Parks Boulevard and Clairmount in 2015

It took 17,000 people, a mixture of Detroit and state police officers, federal and national guard troops, and firefighters to quell the riot. Over 2,000 buildings were destroyed and 43 people were killed. Only the 1863 New York City Draft Riot and the 1992 Los Angeles Riot were worse among domestic urban disturbances. Many of the buildings that were laid waste were never rebuilt, and 12th and Clairmount–now Rosa Parks Boulevard and Clairmount–was like most of the rest of Detroit when I visited in 2015, forsaken and quiet.

Sure, there were solid reasons for black Detroiters to be angry 50 Julys ago. Police brutality was rampant in the Motor City, and as had thousands of blacks migrated there from the Deep South for automobile industry jobs, many whites made that northern trek too. And the latter brought their prejudices with them. Yes, many blacks had good-paying jobs with the Big Three but often they were clustered, make that segregated, into the less desirable segments of the assembly line, the sweltering foundries or the fumous paint rooms. After World War II urban renewal and expressway building came to Detroit, as it did in other major cities, but African-American neighborhoods were usually targeted for these “improvements,” which caused blacks to sardonically label these programs “negro removal.”

What the 1871 Chicago Fire was to that city, or the 1906 earthquake was to San Francisco, the ’67 riot was to Detroit. It’s a historical demarcation line. Only Chicago and San Francisco successfully rebuilt and emerged as better and more livable cities afterwards. After 1967 white flight accelerated in Detroit–and thousands of businesses followed. Jobs too. Crime soared. In 1960 Detroit had over 1.6 million residents–now there are fewer than 700,000 Detroiters.

Blogger at Detroit’s abandoned Packard plant

“The riot was the seminal moment in Detroit’s history, the point from which nothing would be the same,” the Detroit News’ Nolen Finley wrote eight days ago.

Riot or rebellion? If it was the last one, I know who lost. Detroit did.

But bankruptcy–and the confession of defeat–like an alcoholic finally admitting addiction–offers Detroit a chance to turn things around. When I stood on the corner of Clairmount and Rosa Parks two summers ago, there was no attestion of the historical significance of the site. But last Sunday a Michigan historical marker, “Detroit July 1967,” was dedicated there.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Update: DTG Welcome Canon212 readers check out my interviews from the Catholic Marketing Network both here and on Youtube, Take a peek at my new book Hail Mary the Perfect Protestant (and Catholic) Prayer, Listen to my Catholic Radio show Your Prayer Intentions premereing on WQPH 89.3 Fm this saturday at noon EST and if you are so inclined give me a hand to help my newly laid off self succeed in our layoff bleg goal (details here)

Update December 17: Today at DTG I review Kathryn Bigelow’s movie Detroit, which provides an update of sorts as I recall last month’s return trip to Rosa Parks Boulevard and Clairmount. Also, the old retail space and with second floor apartments pictured above has been razed, a vacant lot sits there, of which Detroit has plenty.

Grixdale
Grixdale

By John Ruberry

Type “Detroit revival” or “Detroit comeback” into your Google search box and you’ll collect a lot of hits and discover glowing yarns about the turnaround of what was once one of America’s greatest cities. Here’s one from Forbes just last week. There is even a Pure Michigan TV commercial about Detroit.

But as John Adams once famously wrote, “Facts are stubborn things.”

Yes, there is a Detroit bounceback underway but it is centered in downtown and the neighborhoods that border it. That’s it.

Then there are the facts.

The fiscal year for Detroit Public Schools ends on June 30. On July 1 there is no money for summer school or physical upkeep, unless the state rushes in for a rescue. Such a rescue should not be confused with a proposed $720 million one that will deal with DPS’ long-term debt.

Adding an exclamation point to the problems of DPS last week was a former school principal who pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks from an allegedly crooked supplier. A dozen other DPS officials, most of them former principals, have also been charged with collecting kickbacks.

Abandoned Detroit school
Abandoned Detroit school

When I visited Detroit last summer I ventured into the neighborhoods outside of its downtown ring. Places like Grixdale. This is a typical 21st century Grixdale block that in 1950 that had twenty homes each with wage earners with fat wallets: Two occupied homes, two abandoned homes, the rest are rubbished filled vacant lots with coarse weeds.

Detroit has some millstones that will impede its recovery. Its commercial property tax rates are the highest in the nation and city services are substandard. Detroiters are burdened with a municipal income tax and possible future Detroit residents who want to dip their toe in the Motor City water by taking a job in the city are subject to a commuter tax. And Detroit is still a very violent city.

Just last week a study was released that discovered that Detroit has the least storefront concentration of any big city.

Look for the Detroit comeback, such as it is, to proceed very slowly.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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Lake Huron
Lake Huron

By John Ruberry

The Flint crisis–dangerous levels of lead have been found in its drinking water–is a travesty, but one that the left is using to advance its agenda.

Background: Two years ago after telling the the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in a cost-cutting move that it would stop buying its Lake Huron water by 2017 when a new Huron pipeline project would be completed, Detroit ended its agreement with Flint, which compelled the impoverished city to turn to the Flint River for its water. But somehow Flint authorities made a colossal and possibly deadly mistake by not adding an anti-corrosive that costs $150-a-day into the water supply. That toxic error allowed lead from old pipes to get into the drinking water and yes, into the bodies of Flint residents. Had that additive been used, the expert who uncovered the Flint debacle says the lead crisis never would have occurred.

Rather than uncovering what went wrong and finding out who was responsible, the left is looking beyond the Flint water crisis to intensify a long-running political battle. Businesses and governments from all over the nation are shipping bottled water to Flint. Liberal bomb-thrower Michael Moore isn’t interested. The self-described Flint native–he actually grew up in a wealthy neighboring suburb–lists his demands for Flint which include the arrest and removal from office of Rick Snyder, Michigan’s Republican governor.

Flint and Detroit Public Schools are under control of an emergency manager because of longtime corruption and malfeasance perpetuated by its so-called public servants. Until recently so was the city of Detroit. Not coincidentally these government entities are cash honey holes for Democratic bureaucrats, which is why the left hates the emergency manager law. Snyder appoints Michigan’s emergency managers. Get it?

John "Lee" Ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry

If you don’t, then read last week’s Washington Post column by leftist Dana Milbank. He blames the entire Flint travesty on Snyder and he of course sub-divides his finger-pointing on the emergency manager law.

Was Snyder–who should not be entirely blameless–the one who made the decision not to spend $150 on anti-corrosives? He almost certainly was not. Do Moore and Milbank care who it was? No, they would rather attack a Republican and push their idealogy.

A Students for a Democratic Society radical once mused, “The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.”

Some things never change.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Ford Field
Ford Field, site of the Quick Lane Bowl

By John Ruberry

One has to wonder if college football is headed to an every-participant-gets-a-ribbon level of competition. Not including the NCAA championship face-off, there will be a record 40 college bowl games this season, which means 63 percent of FBS programs will play in a bowl contest. And despite some of these teams fattening up against next-level-down teams in non-conference games, for instance Illinois clobbered Western Illinois 44-0, there aren’t enough teams with 6-6 records or better to fill all of these bowl slots.

Which means some 5-7 FBS teams–Illinois could be one of those squads–may still be graced with a bowl entry. At least two losers–and as many as five–will be bowl invitation winners. But another 5-7 Big 10 team, Nebraska, may have a leg up. The NCAA has a loser contingency plan–I’m sure they call it something more palatable–which rewards schools with the highest Academic Progress Rate. The Cornkuskers have the highest APR among the 5-7s.

Hey, studying finally counts for something in college sports! That’s an improvement. On the other hand, Nebraska’s fans are intensely loyal and even a Cornhusker team with a losing record makes them an attraction for a low-level bowl. Follow the money.

And what about the games themselves? Let’s take a look at Detroit’s Quick Lane Bowl, which will be played at Ford Field on December 28. It has tie-ins with the Big 10 and the Atlantic Coast Conference. But because there are not enough B1G or ACC bowl-eligible teams, Campus Insiders projects that another Big 10 loser, Minnesota. will face off against Central Michigan of the Mid American Conference. The Chippewas are 7-5–good for them.

NCAA football: Where you can be a winner and a loser at the same time.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

by baldilocks

Colorado also says no. Credit: NPR.org
Colorado also says no. Credit: NPR.org

At least half of the governors in the United States have refused to take the Syrian refugees and “refugees” or called for a halt to the resettlement which the federal government, meaning President Obama, is intent upon seeding in cities all around the nation. But, it appears that these governors have no legal leg on which to stand, since it is the US Congress that establishes “an uniform Rule of Naturalization” and, back in 1980, the Democratic Party-majority 96th Congress passed the Refugee Act, which, of course, was signed by Democrat President James E. Carter. (I would say something cutting about Democrats here, but I’m sure that the Act seemed like a good idea at the time. However, it is important to know which party did what.)

And of course, President Obama knew this going in, or at least his advisers did. So, in spite of state executive orders, like the one accomplished yesterday by Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA), the die is likely cast.

So what can we expect?

My friend, Everett Powell, says this:

The one thing the Feds can’t do is force the states to provide services and support for Obama’s refugee program – which by all accounts makes it EXTREMELY difficult for them to continue the resettlement.

I suspect what you will see done is vast numbers of people just being dumped at bus stops and train stations in the States resisting for the sake of creating images for a media campaign of people suffering sleeping in the streets. We are entering winter and there will be such a caterwauling out of the White House about cruel uncharitable Christians and GOP barbarians as the world has never seen.

That is certain, but there is something else to expect. If the mean, horrible Red and Reddish states (like Michigan) will not provide services for these people, they will migrate to those which will, like California and other states which are already overloaded with people on various forms of welfare. This will speed up the financial reckoning for these states–and for the country–something which is already in view.baldilocks

And even if there is not one terrorist among the new arrivals, this will bring chaos.

As was planned; as in Europe.

(Thanks to Jeff Bishop)

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel, tentatively titled, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.

Please contribute to Juliette’s Projects JOB: HER TRIP TO KENYA! Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

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Detroit city limit
8 Mile Road

By John Ruberry

I spent most of last week slowly driving–to avoid potholes–and walking the streets of Detroit. Yes, I took in some time downtown, but most of my travels were in the forsaken neighborhoods far from the casinos and the sports stadiums.

When Detroit celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1951–it enjoyed the highest standard of living of any city in the world. Its population was 1.8 million. Now there are barely 700,000 Detroiters. Motown is at the top or near the top of all American cities in poverty and crime rates.

What went wrong? Detroit’s apologists quickly name off what they believe are causes, such as the building of the interstate highway system and the resulting suburbanization, as well as the decline of the American automobile industry. Almost all northern industrial cities were impacted by the former but they managed, with varying levels of success, to claw back or at least stop the bleeding in the 1990s. But by 2000, Detroit became the first United States city that once exceeded 1 million residents to have fewer than that landmark figure.

Burned out Detroit
Burned-out home

As for the car business, Michigan doesn’t have a single foreign-owned automobile plant, unless you count Fiat-owned Chrysler. The states on Michigan’s southern border, Indiana and Ohio, together host five foreign-owned car factories. You can attribute Michigan’s absence from this late 20th century manufacturing shift to muscle from the United Auto Workers and compliant Democratic politicians.

As for the latter, from 1974 until 1994, Coleman Young, a onetime member of the Communist Party, was Detroit’s mayor. His acidic rhetoric convinced many of Detroit’s remaining white residents as well as many businesses to flee to the suburbs--where they were unable to escape Young’s demonizations. While no government funds were used to build the gorgeous but money-losing Renaissance Center, he was among its biggest cheerleaders. Young was a strong proponent of massive Stalin-esqe public works projects such the also beautiful People Mover trains downtown that was expensive to build and is expensive to maintain–and it doesn’t move very many people.

Packard MP
Author at Packard plant

In 2013 Detroit declared bankruptcy.

The neighborhoods outside Detroit are pathetic sights. Vacant lots and abandoned homes dominate most streets. Retail stores are non-existent. Even better districts such as Corktown and Boston-Edison have boarded-up homes on every block. Residents usually walk on the streets as opposed to sidewalks because the walkways are often in worse shape than the roads–and they are sometimes overwhelmed by vegetation.

Outside of the world’s largest abandoned factory, the Packard plant, a man pulled up in his old Pontiac Grand Am and told me, “I hope you’re a publicist. Because the world needs to know how bad it is in Detroit beyond Packard. All the schools in this neighborhood are closed.”

I promised that I would tell the world–and I’m a man of my word.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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By John Ruberry

Online commentators, particularly those on blogs, are known for their vitriol and sometimes cursory devotion to the truth.

But the accumulation of comments on a since-pulled online version of an article from a free weekly newspaper and a blog have led to the indictment on child molestation charges of a 94 year-old retired suburban Chicago physical education teacher and former Boy Scout leader, William Bricker, who now resides in northern Michigan.

The unraveling of his reputation began in 2005 when the Glen Arbor Sun of Grand Traverse County Michigan published a hagiographic human interest piece on Bricker, which included his recollections of combat in World War II and his summers as a counselor at a Wyoming summer camp near Grand Teton National Park, titled Old Cowboy, New Tricks: Lessons from Bill Bricker’s Adventurous Life. Comments, some vaguely accusatory, some supportive of Bricker, began appearing on the Sun’s website. But after the arrest of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky for numerous molestation and rapes in 2011, the comments became more numerous and nastier.

Judy Linklater, who writes Mrs. Linklater’s Guide to the Universe blog, had her suspicions about Bricker, took the lead on the story–although the establishment media has mostly ignored her efforts–after the Sun yanked the article from its website in 2012. Her half-brothers had noticed Bricker’s odd behavior. The gym teacher’s overly affectionate actions around children, both male and female, for years had raised eyebrows in Winnetka, Illinois, where Bricker taught and where Linklater was raised.

Accusations of Bricker’s inappropriate contact with students at Hubbards Wood Elementary School, where he was employed as a teacher and then a substitute for over 40 years, go back to the 1950s and school officials were aware of them in 1968.

Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park

But the statute of limitations in Illinois on such crimes prevents charges against Bricker in Illinois, but that is not the case in Wyoming. Bricker was arrested in September–he’s accused of molesting boys at the Wyoming summer camp in 1962 and 1985. The 1992 Winnetka Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year, who now breathes with the aid of oxygen tanks, is fighting extradition to Wyoming.

Linklater did more than blog, she reached out to the alleged victims and she has been the lead reporter on the Bricker story–she’s a true journalist.

Other than their status as alleged victims of Bricker, there is a common link they share. Each thought they were alone–only they were reportedly harmed by him. They weren’t–when these emotionally-scarred individuals typed “Winnetka” and “Bricker” into an internet search box they discovered others who also have repulsive memories of the Old Cowboy.

UPDATE January 11, 2015: AP is reporting that Bricker died in Michigan two days ago.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.