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February03 (Feb. 18-22)



Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Borders Coverage

" ... Borders Corporate Counsel Anne Roman said the strike did not put added pressure on the company to grant concessions.

"We've negotiated in good faith throughout the process," Roman said. "We are pleased with (the tentative agreement) because it is consistent with the two principles we kept during the negotiating process."

Roman said those two principles were: Treating employees nationwide fairly and consistently and remaining competitive with other book and music retailers. ... "

> From Crain's Detroit Business: "Union, Borders reach settlement in Ann Arbor"
> See also AANews: "Union, Borders settle strike"

Posted by Rob at 5:35 PM

Borders Strike Over?

Seven days after Borders officials walked out of negotiations with the union representing striking Borders employees at the downtown Ann Arbor store, the union is announcing a tentative agreement that would end the strike, "details to follow contract radification."

Posted by Rob at 12:54 AM

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Articles of note from the Ann Arbor News:

> "Democratic voting begins Tuesday"
> "Affirmative-Action Disfavor"
> "McKinley sues to raze old church"
> "Park-and-ride option ahead"

Posted by Rob at 12:42 PM

Sunday, December 28, 2003

From Ann Arbor Is Overrated, here's a website with many photos of Ann Arbor, including an interesting historical section titled "Lost Ann Arbor." Ever eaten at the Bruegger's on North University? You're dining at the former location of a local sandwich shop called Drake's (which closed in 1993), so famous as to have earned its own tribute website. Also, I didn't know that the city of Ann Arbor has the world's oldest municipal parking structure. A fitting honor for a city that now boasts ten city garages and lots downtown.

In that post, AAIO skewers those who would blindly support local businesses. While I might be a bit more in the local business fan club that AAIO, the point is well taken: "What local businesses, and what chains are they keeping out? If you could eat scented candles, then maybe we'd have the right mix of businesses downtown."

Posted by Rob at 7:40 PM

Just how alike are George W. Bush and Howard Dean? The New York Times profiles Dean in the last part of their series on the presidential candidates:

"... Even so, the comparison is instructive — and not only for the likenesses it reveals. The two men's paths diverged in the fractious, culture-shaking heart of the 1960's.

After a post-high-school year in England in 1966, Mr. Dean shrugged off many trappings of his background, including the Republicanism that his father preached at home. He grew his hair long, experimented with marijuana, played guitar and harmonica, switched from khaki to denim, cut his hair short again and emerged liberal, antiwar and resolutely Democratic.

His life also took a critical turn away from the Wall Street career that his father had desired for him. In deciding to study medicine, he was inspired by a zeal to help others that grew out of the political ferment of the era and was fueled by the mysterious disappearance of his brother Charlie in the jungles of Laos. [...]

After Yale, having received a medical deferment from the Vietnam draft because of a long-standing back condition, Mr. Dean meandered and resisted Wall Street's pull. He spent 10 months skiing and working odd jobs in Aspen, Colo. When the spring snows melted in 1972, he returned to New York. [...]

In 1980, he worked on Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign. Soon afterward, he wandered into a presentation by a University of Vermont professor, Thomas Hudspeth, about revitalizing Burlington's waterfront with a bicycle path.

"Howard came up after the presentation and said, `O.K., let's do it,' " said Rick Sharp, a lawyer.

The three men formed the Citizens Waterfront Group, to secure a nine-mile stretch of land along Lake Champlain for the path. ... "

> From NYTimes: "Challenging Bush: From Patrician Roots, Dean Set Path of Prickly Independence"

Posted by Rob at 1:43 PM

"In 1998, both sides -- Daimler-Benz executives in Stuttgart, Germany, and Chrysler executives in Auburn Hills, Mich. -- famously labeled the deal a ``merger of equals,'' a gauzy term without legal definition.

Kirk Kerkorian, the 86-year-old Las Vegas casino mogul who was Chrysler's top shareholder at the time of the merger, is suing DaimlerChrysler. He contends that the deal was fraudulently labeled a merger when it was actually envisioned as a takeover from the start by Schrempp, Daimler-Benz's chief executive, and the rest of his management team. ...

But Kerkorian is looking at a different Mack truck: the collapse of DaimlerChrysler stock, from nearly $108 in early 1999 to under $27 last March. Shares closed at $45.91, which was a new 52-week high, on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

His suit was prompted by a 2000 interview in The Financial Times of London, in which Schrempp said he had intended all along to relegate Chrysler to a division of the parent company and had used the term ``merger of equals'' only for ``psychological'' reasons.... "

> From: Daimler deal may not have been a merger

Other stories of note:

> DetNews: "Poverty in Michigan balloons by 25%"
> AP: "List of Michigan casualties in Iraq"

Posted by Rob at 1:30 PM

Saturday, December 27, 2003

6 Slightly Harder, More Expensive Things Ann Arbor Could do to Build a Better City
(See my post on "Five Easy Things")

1) Plow (some) sidewalks
Under current Ann Arbor law, the property owner is responsible for clearing snow from the sidewalk on their property. While this might make sense for lightly-traveled residential neighborhoods, in a dense urban environment it makes just about as much sense as requiring property owners to clear the street in front of their property. Currently, after snow storms in Ann Arbor, until you reach campus, the sidewalks are a treacherous patchwork of snow, ice, and slush, since some property owners don't clear it right away, and heavily trafficked areas can create shovel-proof ice. In my tiny Maine town of 6,000, the town government pays a local man to snowblow the sidewalk on Main street and an adjacent street - a length of about 2 miles. If my town can afford this, the 7th largest city in Michigan with a population over 100,000 could certainly afford to pay to have the busiest downtown streets professionally cleared, and sparingly salted and sanded to boot.

Why are our roads meticulously cleared, swept, salted in maintained, and the sidewalks are left to buckle, be flooded with huge puddles (one block from liberty near where I live there is one large enough to ice-skate on!). The minute people park their cars and try to walk somewhere they don't stop paying taxes, and don't suddenly less deserve a clean street. Indeed, if the city's real estate speculators expect to sell million-dollar condos to aging and retired people, they should be particularly interested in helping them move about - handicapped-accessible curbs at intersections and nicely cleared sidewalks to boot. And if a few students (whose existence single-handily maintains the vitality and diversity in your local economy) incidentally benefit, so much the better.

This of course begs the question who to hire to do this job. I think the answer is simple: there is one group of people who have lots of experience clearing a vast network of footpaths of ice and snow: the University of Michigan. They already posses the equipement and expertise, and with some city money, I assume could fairly easily also clear at least State Street and South University.

2) Approve Accessory Apartments
As part of a holistic policy of liberalizing zoning laws, the city should adopt zoning that allows for the creation of accessory apartments or "granny flats" within existing homes and outbuildings in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes. These 1 or 2 person apartments would increase the population density of the city (increasing taxes!) without requiring new building. The city's professional planning staff well knows that many residential neighborhoods have seen long-term decreases in population density as baby boomers have aged and the property values have increased. Allowing for small apartments would utilize these under-used buildings to provide housing in the city, and also perhaps have the incidental effect of increasing business for local merchants.

(perhaps the only requirements needed in a revised zoning code for "downtown": new buildings must be higher than a certain number of stories, and include a minimum of 10% floor space for residential OR commercial uses, and require retail on the ground floor - even a shallow storefront)

3) Build Mixed-use parking garages
If we continue to let the DDA to construct massive, ugly parking garages downtown, pretty soon downtown will be a bunch of blighted, deserted streets surrounding a corporately-owned Main/State/South University. Woops, we're almost there! Parking garages my be something of a necessary evil, but they can include rentable retail and commercial space on the ground floor. This increases pedestrian traffic (increasing safety), increases small businesses (making profit for the owner of the parking garage and increasing Ann Arbor's tax base), and make the city a nicer place to live (maybe even "cooler") To me, it's a win, win, win situation. In fact, the city already has one successful garage of this type: the Liberty Station garage, next to the Michigan Theater building. You may not even know its there, since on Liberty Street it houses a bank.

4) Build Pleasant, Multi-Use Streets
The city could convert ugly, wide, high-volume streets like Huron or Pioneer into boulevards with express lanes, local lanes, medians, crosswalks, and street-side parking.

Combined with simple zoning laws requiring developers build to the property line, well-designed streets can boost property values, and prevent the necessity for "traffic calming" and reduce speeding, without putting in huge speed bumps or hiring more police. If the city doesn't know what street I'd like to see, in my experience many in New York and Washington, D.C. fit the bill - buy me a plane ticket, and my friends and I would be happy to show you around.

5) Build a city-wide network of bike lanes
Yes, I know that technically Ann Arbor has bike lanes, but studying the map and talking with friends who bike I know the system could be much improved. The more interconnected the system, the better: perhaps paths along the Huron could be expanded and connected, allowing people to bike without interference with cars from North Campus to Kerrytown to shop at the farmer's market.

Again, studies have shown that the more paths exist, the more people use them, and busy paths will result not only in health but also make areas of the city safer.

6) Re-draw the wards around coherent neighborhoods
I've ranted about this enough by now most visitors should know what I'm talking about. Put short: the wards in Ann Arbor are drawn as pie shapes centered on campus, with the intended or unintended effect of splitting the student population almost evenly between each ward. Why anyone would want to do this is beyond me, but the shape of the city's wards should be re-designed in a democratic process involving the input of as many people as possible. Read more about this here.

To be fair, the ideas contained here and in my post about "5 easy things" aren't new. I am simply presenting them for discussion and debate, and fully intend to work to make at least some of them a reality as a member of the city's Cool Cities Task Force. I think that if presented clearly, there already exists a broad concensus on most of these issues: all that remains is to do them. To read more about this kind of stuff, see the "Cities, Suburbs, and Planning" section of my book list, particularly Jane Jacob's The Death and Life of Great American Cities, David Sucher's City Comforts. Also, I have recently added some planning-related links on the left, in addition to the many local bloggers I have listed which frequently write about planning.

Posted by Rob at 2:38 PM

I just registered for the South Asian Awareness Network's upcoming conference, to be held in Ann Arbor the weekend of Jan 30 - Feb 1. Although the registration fee is $40, I've been promised it will be well worth it: participants will get a t-shirt and four meals, including and a formal dinner at Burton Manor. The speakers include Trinity College Professor Vijay Prashad and Texas Green Party Candidate for Governor in 2002 Rahul Mahajan.

Posted by Rob at 12:35 AM

Friday, December 26, 2003

I just found out that actor Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings Trillogy, is a gay rights activist and a founder-member of the Stonewall Group UK, an equal rights advocacy organization. (I happened across the link on T.J. Wharry's blog, of all places.)

And this, from an article in Southern Voice, Atlanta GA's "most respected and most read gay and lesbian newspaper":

" ... The very notion that the hobbits had a romantic interest in each other is enough to send some people into apoplexy. Between the release of the first and second films, some fans were surprised to learn that actor Ian McKellen, who portrays the wizard Gandalf, is gay.

For a time, the official “Lord of the Rings” Fan Club message boards even censored the word “gay,” until McKellen found out and helped lift the ban.

So one can imagine the potential for hostility to any suggestion that Sam and Frodo, making their way towards the fires of Mount Doom, were also heating things up with a fire of their own. ...

McKellen posted a statement on his Web site about the relationship between Sam and Frodo.

"Frodo and Sam would not be the first young gentleman and his servant to be a little in love with each other, but Tolkien doesn’t make their affection explicit sexually, nor does every reader agree that he has dropped any real hints about it," McKellen writes. "Theirs is certainly a close interdependent relationship."

Even Elijah Woods and Sean Astin, the heterosexual actors who play Frodo and Sam, acknowledged that the pair could be gay during interviews after the release of the second film "Two Towers."

"I think the gay community has certainly embraced it as a beautiful, special thing, and I think it can be interpreted that way," Woods said at the time. "It’s good to know that people appreciate the relationship, because it is powerful, and it is integral to both individual journeys. Frodo wouldn’t make it without Sam, and Sam wouldn’t make it without Frodo."

The comic relief duo Merry and Pippin could also be interpreted to have a love relationship, according to the actors who play them...."

Posted by Rob at 11:54 PM

Hans C. Masing is an independent candidate running for U.S. Representative in Michigan's 15th District, which includes Ann Arbor and is now filled by none other than John Dingell. What's unusual about that? Nothing, except perhaps the fact he's created a detailed website and campaign blog many months before the election. Optimistic? In his own words: "As my friends and colleagues will attest, when I do something, I do it 100% or not at all."

His politics seem a mix of beliefs. He seems pro-choice, for some gun control, and supports freedom of speech and electronic freedom. However, I must take issue with his position on affirmative action:

"- Race-based affirmative action undermines the vision of the civil rights movement. A demographically diverse society serves the needs of the truly disadvantaged of every color and ethnicity.
- Affirmative action should help people in need, not people who have a certain skin tone.
- Socio-economic affirmative action is more fair in the long run, and addresses the true needs of underpriveleged persons."

Posted by Rob at 11:35 PM

I've heard that the U-M Center for South Asian Studies is trying to create a Bengali language program for next year, but they need to raise $20,000 by March, in combination with funds from the Depatment of Education.

Posted by Rob at 10:53 PM

"Cold Mountain," the long-awaited Civil War epic adapted by Anthony Minghella from Charles Frazier's acclaimed novel, is ruthless and realistic in its portrayal of the hardships faced by Southerners during the war between the states. The white ones, that is: There are about 12 African-Americans in "Cold Mountain," and if you don't blink you might catch them as they scoot by discreetly in a few select scenes, blending into the background in a "Don't mind me!" blur. But then, discretion is the county "Cold Mountain" lives in. Slaves are referred to, with exquisite drawing-room politeness, as "Negroes." Best to acknowledge their existence only minimally, lest the whole notion of slavery blight the chilly romantic sheen that Minghella has worked so hard to achieve. ... "

> From's review of Cold Mountain.

Posted by Rob at 10:36 PM

"Keep Ypsi"

Keep Ypsi what, you ask? Good question. Here's some ideas from Hillary about how to invest in local business.

Posted by Rob at 7:40 PM

Here's a few more holiday break-ins:

"400 block of North Thayer Street, 1 p.m. Wednesday. Entry gained through unlocked window; jewelry and other items taken. Total value: $180.

500 block of Catherine Street, 12:33 p.m. Wednesday. Screwdriver used to pry off window to business; a computer valued at $1,200 taken.

1100 block of White Street, 9:21 a.m. Tuesday. Front door forced open to gain entry; home ransacked and items moved, but unclear what was taken."

Posted by Rob at 3:14 PM

Apparently, even war-mongers understand the necessity of Keynesian economic stimulus to keep unregulated capitalism from self-destruction. Now, if we could only spend those millions on education, social programs, the arts, and zero-interest small business loans ...

" ... According to a military report that outlined the use of passenger and cargo airlines in the Iraq conflict, the government paid $636.2 million to 10 airlines that flew troops overseas during a 131-day emergency mobilization from February through June. It also paid $574 million to 14 cargo carriers to deliver equipment to Iraq and neighboring countries in that period.

The payments were made as part of the Pentagon's Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, in which airlines contract to transport troops and supplies on domestic and international flights in peacetime, and agree to participate in a mobilization during war. They must provide planes and crews for 30 days at a time, often with as little as 24 hours' notice.

This was only the second time the government has used the program in wartime since President Harry S. Truman created it in 1951. The first time was a decade ago, when the Pentagon spent $1.35 billion, the equivalent of about $1.7 billion today, preparing to eject Iraq's army from Kuwait in the Persian Gulf war. That mobilization, which involved four times as many troops, lasted much longer — 402 days — and involved far more flights and aircraft.
However, executives at several airlines, who would speak only if they were not named, said that while they valued the Pentagon's business, the industry as a whole would have fared much better without the disruption the war caused to the business climate and to the psyche of passengers. ... "

> NYTimes: "Pentagon's war needs are a lifeline for airlines"

Posted by Rob at 2:42 PM

I've fiddled with the links a bit. Comments? What/who am I missing?

Posted by Rob at 2:09 PM

This time, I'll waive my consulting fees.

5 Easy, Inexpensive Things Ann Arbor Could Do to Build a Better City

1) Build more crosswalks
Whether it's building more of the raised crosswalks at busy intersections, or simply building crosswalks where they are needed, this is a relatively cheap measure which can slow down traffic, and show roads aren't just for cars. Where are these things needed? Basically, anywhere you see people doging traffic to cross the street: in front of the Michigan Union, between South Quad and the Union, on Packard, in the student ghetto, and of course on Pioneer. When I lived in South Quad my sophomore year, I wrote a letter to the city asking them why there was not a crosswalk between Squad and the side entrance to the Union. The response said that crosswalks aren't proven to increase safety, and that they have a policy of not building crosswalks near each other: there was a crosswalk at the end of the street. Anyone who has walked down Divison near Community High School knows the city breaks this rule, because there there are three crosswalks within a few hundred feet. Clearly, when you are 18 you deserve a crosswalk, but when you are 18 or 19 in college, you must dodge traffic. Why are crosswalks good? First, the channel pre-existing traffic to clearly marked areas. Second, they give the pedestrian legal rights - failing to yield to or hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a specific crime. Lastly, streets are the rightful property of all. In Ann Arbor, there are many tax-paying, law-abiding citizens who do not drive or drive rarely: the streets are as much their property as the car owners. The least the city can do is facilitate the easy movement of everyone.

2) Construct bulletin boards
Yes, why doesn't the city construct bulletin boards around the utility poles that seem perpetually filled with flyers? They need not be very expensive or complex: a piece of painted plywood mounted with metal brackets, perhaps. This measure would make cleaning up old flyers easier, and might channel the activity a bit. Flyers are one of the most elementary ways that people develop community: you would think that a city like Ann Arbor, so concerned with its own "coolness" would jump at an opportunity build community.

3) Enhance Student-Police Relations
AAPD and the U-M student body currently exist in an atmosphere of mutual hostility. The city could alleviate some of this by using the neighborhood police station at the Maynard structure, keeping and expanding the beats of bicycle cops, and making enforcement of the city's noise ordinance more lenient, and abolishing processing fees so that being caught with a joint is actually the small fine the law intends. As with many big problems, the solutions need not be large or expensive, but may take some creativity and require some political risk.

4) Build street lights
Many parts of the heavily used but poorly lit student ghetto sorely need additional lighting, in addition to parts of virtually every downtown residential district. In fact, many places "downtown" when one strays from one of the corporately-administered "Development District" the whole quality of the build infrastructure - street lamps, sidewalks, garbage cans, etc declines significantly. This need not be the case.

5) Build sidewalk "bulbs" at busy intersections
This idea I had found in my experience, but also in David Sucher's book City Comforts, which I highly recommend. Basically, the idea is to enlarge the sidewalk near intersections, particularly where there is on-street parking. This narrows the road for bicyclists and pedestrians and has the added benefit of slowing traffic. Ann Arbor could investigate building these at certain intersections at Packard and Division, as examples. I think its done to a certain level on Main street, but why not elsewhere where there is busy traffic?

Coming tomorrow, "5 Slightly Harder Things Ann Arbor Could to to Build a Better City." Until then, read about the Ann Arbor New's wishlist.

Posted by Rob at 9:47 AM

Thursday, December 25, 2003

This from the Ann Arbor News:

"Borders, strikers make little progress

Borders Group and striking workers at its downtown Ann Arbor store bargained on Tuesday, but significant issues remain, and the two sides will return to the table Dec. 30.

Union spokesmen Hal Brannan and Tom Rekuc said they and the company made progress on lesser issues, but at 5 p.m., before the talk turned to wages, Borders representatives packed up and left. "Borders stalled all day, promising to discuss wages," said a written statement from strikers.

In its press release, Borders said negotiations were productive, that significant progress had been made.

The strike at the Liberty Street store began Nov. 8."

Posted by Rob at 1:07 PM

The White Stripes lead singer Jack White has been booked on a misdemeanor aggravated assault charge for an incident with Von Bondies lead singer Jason Stollsteimer on December 13.

Also, two men have been charged with violating something called the Economic Espionage Act for the alleged theft of axle secrets.

Posted by Rob at 1:50 AM

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Some local media activists have created an Ann Arbor Independent Media Center website. Currently posted stories are mostly about the ongoing Borders strike. For those unfamiliar with the Independent Media movement, anyone is able to post material on the websites.

Also, varsity football player Marcus Curry has been charged with a misdemeanor for driving without a license.

Posted by Rob at 4:24 PM

Two RSS Feeds

If everything goes well, I'll be tinkering under the hood at this website sooner rather than later. Until that time, here's another RSS feed, in addition to this one.

Posted by Rob at 1:17 PM

According to the Border's Union, Borders management had a gift for them for Christmas: they walked out of negotiations:

"Negotiations between Borders Downtown and the Borders Workers Union abruptly terminated at 5:00 pm today wben Company representatives walked out. Union negotiators complained that Borders refused to make proposals on major wage items. According to the Union, Borders attorney arrived late, promised to stay as long as it took and then announced that the Company was leaving when it was time to talk money.

It was "classic bad faith bargaining" said Tom Rekuc, Local 876 Organizer. "Borders stalled all day promising to discuss wages later. Then Borders attorney cut off talks so he could leave in his chauffeured limousine." ... "

Posted by Rob at 1:08 PM

Here's some "holiday wishes" from fellow Arborblogger Brandon Z:

" ... May we all find as much peace in the new year as possible, may we fight sprawl and increase density, and may the Borders strikers stay warm, WCBN stay on the air, and all the artists find affordable space. Peace on the Huron and good will toward the NIMBYs on whom our future rests."

Well, I may not be willing to cede that last part, quite yet, and I don't think Brandon is either. Here's from one of his earlier posts:

"... I'm not saying every pathetic apartment complex that comes along should be approved for density's sake, but if a project is well-designed along the lines of good urbanism it needs to be supported via letters to the editor, letters to officials, and at government meetings, rather than let developers fight alone in an uphill battle against what are often well-organized neighborhood associations. Stay on guard-- the voters essentially told the city to curb sprawl, and encouraging density in the city will be a far more powerful tool than the purchase of some scattered development rights here and there outside our borders. As long as we make it difficult for developers to build within Ann Arbor, they will head out to Scio Township and put the same number of housing units on ten times as much land."

Posted by Rob at 1:26 AM

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

I frequently find myself trying to explain to friends and acquaintances, "What is a blog?" This article, a short history of the blog phenomenon, seems of general interest:

"... By highlighting articles that may easily be passed over by the typical web user too busy to do more than scan corporate news sites, by searching out articles from lesser-known sources, and by providing additional facts, alternative views, and thoughtful commentary, weblog editors participate in the dissemination and interpretation of the news that is fed to us every day. Their sarcasm and fearless commentary reminds us to question the vested interests of our sources of information and the expertise of individual reporters as they file news stories about subjects they may not fully understand. ...

And what, really, will change if we get weblogs into every bookmark list? As we are increasingly bombarded with information from our computers, handhelds, in-store kiosks, and now our clothes, the need for reliable filters will become more pressing. As corporate interests exert tighter and tighter control over information and even art, critical evaluation is more essential than ever. As advertisements creep onto banana peels, attach themselves to paper cup sleeves, and interrupt our ATM transactions, we urgently need to cultivate forms of self-expression in order to counteract our self-defensive numbness and remember what it is to be human.

We are being pummeled by a deluge of data and unless we create time and spaces in which to reflect, we will be left with only our reactions. I strongly believe in the power of weblogs to transform both writers and readers from "audience" to "public" and from "consumer" to "creator." Weblogs are no panacea for the crippling effects of a media-saturated culture, but I believe they are one antidote."

> From Rebecca Blood's "Weblogs: a history and perspective"

Posted by Rob at 9:55 PM

Despite pickets by the workers, and a worker's website, the first you hear about the problems at the Del Rio in the Ann Arbor news is a story about how that bar is closing, heavy on quotes from management. (The subtext: I bet they're closing because of all that "freewheeling"!)

"The Del Rio Bar, known for its freewheeling roots in the 1970s, will close New Year's Eve, an apparent victim of financial problems, labor strife and changing times.

"The Del Rio had a good, long run, but it doesn't work anymore," said Karen Piehutkoski, who is married to co-owner Rick Burgess.

Located at the corner of South Ashley and West Washington streets, the bar had been run as an informal cooperative - decisions made largely by vote or consensus - since its founding in 1970. ...

> From "Owners: Financial tailspin forces The Del Rio to close" (Why not: "Workers: bad management forces to the Del Rio to close"?)

Also, popular Ann Arbor Police Chief Dan Oates recently turned down an offer to seek the position of Commissioner of Police in Boston.

And a U-M student was the victim of a bag-grabbing near campus. I bet it was because fewer people were around due to the holiday break, since more people on the street mean more safety, and this sort of crime rarely occurs when classes are in session.

"U-M student reports robbery from Friday

A University of Michigan student was robbed of his backpack while walking near central campus late last week, according to Ann Arbor Police.

The 21-year-old student said he was walking westbound in the 1700 block of South University Avenue around 3:30 a.m. Friday when he was approached by a man walking in the opposite direction. The man struck him in the left eye, stated he had a knife and ordered the victim not to look at him, reports said. He then took the student's backpack, which contained a laptop computer valued at about $1,000, cash and about $50 worth of miscellaneous items.

The victim did not report the incident to police until Monday afternoon. He was not seriously injured. "

Yet another postmodern slugfest: rich real estate developers battling bourgeois historical preservationists, using disingenuous arguments about the need to improve density (when they mean the need to fatten their bottom line) over the destruction of an abandoned church building. Last time I checked there was a vacant lot across from City Hall, an abandoned bank at the corner of Thompson and William, and a vacant lot next to Seva. Here's my message to the city's real estate developers, whom all seem to be 40 to 50-year-old white guys who live in the suburbs: Go forth and densify!

The downtown circulator service is headed towards its inevitable death, as the Ann Arbor News engages in a bit of sensationalism about the latest ridership figures. I wonder how AATA director Greg Cook will spin its death, which will happen within two years: maybe it'll be a lack of "density" downtown? Or maybe he'll admit he doesn't know the first thing about the transportation needs of downtown residents, who could care less about a ride someplace 3 blocks away, but might be interested in dedicated shuttles to Briarwood, supermarkets, and most of all, the Airport.

Posted by Rob at 8:24 PM

Well, apparently Walter Cronkite is with me on this one: Saddam Hussein should face charges before the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

" ... This year, the United Nations established the International Criminal Court at The Hague - a permanent Nuremberg Tribunal. This country, however, withheld its endorsement of the court unless Americans serving as peacekeepers are immune from the law and the court's jurisdiction.

There is an argument to be made for that position - given the fact that American troops bear the brunt of peacemaking and peacekeeping assignments around the world. But the Bush administration's insulting arrogance toward the United Nations in general, and individual members in particular, has so far made an acceptable compromise impossible. ...

Of course, the International Criminal Court has no death penalty, and it's my guess that Iraqis not only will demand that, but believe it their right to exact it. That does not mean, however, that a compromise could not be found - say, trying Hussein in The Hague for international crimes but letting the Iraqis have him last.

Most experts agree that we are not going to be able to bring our occupation of Iraq to an early and satisfactory conclusion until we internationalize the custodianship of the country.

Taking Hussein to the International Criminal Court not only would signal a change in the tone of American foreign policy, it might begin to heal the wounds in our relationship with the U.N. Security Council and with its members. It might even persuade such powers as France and Germany to join in the effort to reconstruct Iraq, to help it become a free, independent and democratic nation. It might also begin to restore our badly damaged reputation within the community of nations."

> From Walkter Cronkite's column, "The trial of Saddam Hussein"

Posted by Rob at 7:59 PM

Monday, December 22, 2003

Let's Talk Transit

Like many out-of-state students, this holiday break I flew home via Detroit's Metro Airport. I got to the airport using MSA's airBus service. According to the Airbus website, they will operate 29 trips to the airport and 24 trips from the airport back to Ann Arbor during this Winter Break. Assuming every trip is 80% full (not unreasonable, since many trips to the airport totally sold out) and each bus holds 50 people (an estimate, tour busses are about that) then the service will provide 2,120 "rides" either to or from the airport. Most likely the figure will be higher: during Thanksgiving break, some of the return trips were totally full as well. The success of the service is no doubt due to the hard work of its organizer, U-M undergrad Neil Greenberg, but also because the service provides a much-needed, inexpensive service. With comfortable tour busses, no boot.

I find it odd that such a successful and obviously needed service is operated by undergrads through the student government. They do a fine job, but both the University's transportation service and the Ann Arbor Transit Authority must be slightly embarrassed: here is a transit "amateur" who has developed a service to do exactly what they purport to do - provide needed transportation services. Here's what I had to say about it way back on October 24:
"It's an embarrassment to the University that this financially sustainable and much-needed service must be organized by undergrads through the auspices of student government: the administration should, like many other colleges and Universities, run a shuttle to and from the airport on a regular schedule, with extra trips when demand requires."

I'm not aware of any reason why the University hasn't operated a similar service either now or in the past, and I hope the example set by airBus convinces them to begin regular shuttles to the airport. I know that the AATA has refused to operate such a service because the administration of the Detroit airport has insisted they pay fees to operate regularly scheduled service to the airport - something almost never done for other bus systems at airports across the nation. Back in September, fellow blogger Richard Murphy posted a letter to the editor from the Ann Arbor News suggesting the AATA operate an express shuttle to Detroit's Metro Airport. He opined the AATA should begin operating such a service, and then contest the fees later. I agree: I don't particularlly care how unreasonable Ed Macnamara's cronies are being, transit comes first. The AATA is a non-for-profit service, and while charging a fee might be unfair, refusing to provide a much-needed transportation service because of a petty disagreement seems more unfair.

Also, you may wonder why the Daily hasn't asked Transportation Services why they don't offer airport transit year-round. It may just be they're too busy looking for "problems" with the service at actually think about the underlying issue: the only way to get to or from the airport without a car (or friend with a car) shouldn't be a $50 cab.

Posted by Rob at 2:12 AM

A Zingerman's employee was held up for an undisclosed amount of cash at 10:30 PM Friday night. I wonder why the description of the suspect doesn't include race?

And a few holiday season break-ins (from the same link):

"900 block of Greenwood Street, Friday. Computer taken. Entry through unlocked door.

1200 block of Hill Street, Saturday. Unknown what was taken. Entry though unlocked door.

2700 block of Jackson Road, Saturday. Cash taken. Window smashed. "

Posted by Rob at 12:18 AM

" ... The mayor, City Council members, and DDA members say owning the Y keeps many of their options open.

For interest-only payments of about $34,000 quarterly, 100 single-resident, hotel-style rooms (no kitchen, shared baths) are preserved indefinitely to provide low-cost housing.

The city nets a prime piece of real estate with endless options for redevelopment as retail, office, commercial or residential space, and therefore the leverage to ensure future buyers or partners mold the new property according to what elected leaders feel is best for downtown. The DDA is footing half the bill for the quarterly balloon payments, so the city only has to pay about $17,000 quarterly, Hieftje said.

And the Y is the crown jewel among three other properties the city also wants to control, DDA members say. They include parking lots or structures at First Avenue and William Street, First Avenue and Washington Street and on Klein Street.

"One of the reason we got involved was we felt it was important for someone to take some leadership roles" in those parts of downtown, said Rob Aldrich, president of MAV development and a DDA board member.

The site at First and William is a logical location for a parking garage, he said. But the other two offer ideal sites for mixed-use developments, such as combinations of retail, housing and commercial spaces.

"Our goal is to preserve those 100 units of housing," said DDA director Susan Pollay. "But our second goal is to plan for redevelopment of these sites that best benefits the downtown."...

> From AANews "Aesbestos cleanup could cost $1 million"

Posted by Rob at 12:16 AM

Friday, December 19, 2003

The Detroit Greens have decided to hold an informational picket at the new Borders Store in downtown Detroit on Monday:

"The Detroit Greens calls for all to join in an informational picket at the Borders store in Detroit at 1012 Woodward Ave in the Compuware Headquarters. We'll be on the street on Monday December 22, from 4:30-5:30pm.

At their meeting Wednesday evening, the Detroit Greens decided to endorse Borders Readers United and support the Borders workers in Ann Arbor who are seeking to collectively bargain with Borders Management. Until Borders negotiates a fair contract with its workers the Detroit Greens urge everyone to boycott Borders and Waldenbooks bookstores and their on-line provider ... "

Posted by Rob at 2:07 PM

Articles of note:

AANews: "New U-M medical unite OK'd"
-- "U-M staff's health costs to rise"
-- "Salaries at U-M: Who makes most?"

And, a break-in:

"900 block East Ann Street, Thursday. Taken were a wallet with cash and credit cards. Entry through unlocked door."

Posted by Rob at 2:03 PM

Spotted today on a telephone pole on Williams - flyers reading "Boycott the Dell."

Also, I discovered yesterday that Bella Napoli, the pizza restaurant next to In and Out Party Store has closed.

Hill Auditorium will reopen January 8. See the renovation website here. (See the U Record story)

Posted by Rob at 12:27 PM

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A friend of mine who works for the Kerry campaign has sent me a link to a story in the New York Post about Gen. Wesley Clark's support for the notorious terrorist training camp run by the U.S. Army called the "School of the Americas," called "School of Hard Knocks for Wes":

"WASHINGTON - In a position that's likely to alienate some Democratic primary voters, retired Gen. Wesley Clark is a big booster of the controversial "School of the Americas" - which critics charge has history of graduating Latin American soldiers accused of rape, murder and torture.

Clark fought for years to keep the school at Fort Benning, Ga., open, even testifying on its behalf in Congress, despite graduates like imprisoned Panamanian ex-strongman Manuel Noriega. ...

The school has served as a training ground for thousands of Latin American officers, whose instruction had reportedly including how to torture and assassinate.

Aside from Noriega, the school is known for alums like Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina, Haitian coup leader Raoul Cedras, Salvadoran death-squad organizer Roberto D'Aubuisson and former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

One of the most controversial school incidents occurred in November 1989, when a Salvadoran army patrol executed six Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter. The United Nations found that 19 of the 26 soldiers graduated from the school.

In response to complaints, the Pentagon "closed" the school in 2000, but reopened it in 2001 under a new name. "

Posted by Rob at 1:31 PM

Lest you think Ann Arbor is some sort of liberal paradise, here's yet another cold splash of reality: the Ann Arbor Public School's policy of providing same-sex partner benefits is being challenged by 17 residents as a violation of Michigan's "defense of marriage act." Richard Florida might point out that if Michigan wants to try to keep their economy from totally moving to Seattle and Mexico they might have to consider repealing this kind of Puritan morality legislation. Tom Monahan's Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center's press release about the University's involvement in the lawsuit makes for interesting reading.

"Judge to decide suit on same-sex benefits

A Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge will issue a written opinion on whether the Ann Arbor Public Schools' policy of providing insurance benefits to same-sex partners of the district's employees is a violation of state law.

After listening to oral arguments from the parties in the case on Wednesday, Circuit Judge David Swartz said he would take the matter under advisement. He did not indicate when he would release his opinion.

The school district has been sued by 17 local residents who allege that it recognizes same-sex unions by offering partners of school employees insurance benefits.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Patrick T. Gillen of the Thomas More Law Center, argued Wednesday that school officials are violating Michigan's Defense of Marriage Act by recognizing same-sex unions. The 1996 act defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

James Cameron, the attorney representing the school district, argued that the Public Employees Relations Act, which governs school employees, does not prohibit contracting for benefits for same-sex domestic partners. Cameron said that providing benefits to same-sex domestic partners is "not an attempt to redefine marriage."

The Ann Arbor Education Association, the union that bargains health benefits for the district's employees, has intervened in the case as a defendant. The AAEA is represented by Arthur R. Przybylowicz, who told Swartz that state lawmakers have amended PERA, most recently in 1994 and 1996, but did not change it to ban bargaining over same-sex domestic partner benefits."

> See also, Freep: "School sued over same-sex partner benefit"

Also, read about this scary attack at EMU.

Posted by Rob at 11:32 AM

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

" ... The threads are awesome, but it's the weave—of the epic and the intimate, the airy and the visceral, the lofty and the blood-curdling—that's spellbinding.

This is the best of the three Rings movies—more than that, it makes the others look even better. ..."

That from Slate's glowing review of the latest Lord of the Rings movie "Return of the King," which opened yesterday. The movie shows until January 8 at the Michigan Theater before moving to the State.

Posted by Rob at 3:42 PM

Here's the website of Dr. Philip Zazove, who is planning to run for the Michigan House seat for the 52nd District, which includes Ann Arbor, now filled by Republican Gene Derossett.

Posted by Rob at 11:29 AM

"If they want the University of Michigan to be South Dakota State, they need to tell us that. Then we'll have a different discussion," he said. ...

Univerity of Michigan Provost Paul Courant said the cuts are not small cuts.

"A quarter of a billion dollars has been stripped out of the higher education budget in the last 12 months. On the Ann Arbor campus, that's a reduction of $1,400 per student. These cuts are not small and they're doing real damage," he said.

Courant said higher education has taken more than it's share of cuts in the state's general fund. "These cuts dial the clock all the way back to our state funding levels of seven years ago, in 1997. And this is happening at a time when we are teaching more students than ever before." he said. ...

Granholm declined to respond when asked whether the public perception that universities are spending too much is driven in part by the $677,500 salary of University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, the highest-paid public university president in the country.

"I'm not going to comment about her salary, but I think that there are outward indices that citizens have pointed to as areas where universities can trim. I do think they have been trying to do that, but I think they've got to go back at it again, just like state government does," she said. "

> AANews: "Universities told: Cut more"

Posted by Rob at 11:20 AM

Two leaders in U-M's College Democrats, Jenny Nathan and Paul Spurgeon, have created a blog, "Common Sense Liberals," because they're "sick and tired of the conventional notion that "liberalism" is somehow separate from pragmatic and realistic solutions that can make the United States a better place to live for all citizens."

Posted by Rob at 11:16 AM

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

It looks like Dean's lurch to the right has already begun. Maybe he'll give a speech railing on nonexistent welfare mothers and praising our sacred right own guns soon, I'm looking forward to it! Maybe the new party will be called Dempublicans? Republicrats?

" ... Taken together, it was a radical revision of Bush Abroad, carefully structured to include all the relevant vocabulary. Dean knows that WMDs and terrorism are threats that scare Americans; instead of ignoring this, he sought to prove that he could be tough, too.

"I will call on the most powerful armed forces the world has ever known to ensure the security of this nation," he said.

He rolled out his "kitchen cabinet," a mix of Clinton-era diplomats, former generals, and other think tank types, including the Brookings Institution's Ivo Daalder. The names will hearten moderates, and assuage the Democratic leadership, worried that the presumptive nominee was a bit on the crunchy side. ... "

I don't know about you, but I'm not too worried about those mythical "WMD" and I think the proper response to 9/11 should have been a set of indictments for and trial of those deemed legally responsible by International Criminal Court. (Woops, I guess we need to sign up, first!)

Posted by Rob at 6:12 PM

U-M Professor and Middle East expert Juan Cole has an interesting take on Sunday's capture of Saddam. (Quoted in this Village Voice article.)

Posted by Rob at 6:08 PM

"Negotiations between Borders Group and the union representing hourly workers at its downtown Ann Arbor store were canceled Monday morning, the result of vandalism outside the store.

According to Borders spokeswoman Anne Roman, negotiations have been postponed to late December because two members of the Borders negotiating team - the East Liberty Street store manager and a regional manager - were needed in the store following the damage.

Either Sunday night or early Monday morning, vandals tampered with locks on both Borders Books & Music and Starbucks Coffee across the street. They also sprayed slogans on the sidewalks and buildings. The slogans included "Blood Money" and "Slaughter Diversity." ... "

> From AANews: "Borders-union negotiations postponed"

Posted by Rob at 3:31 PM

Next March, Dr. Richard Florida (the author of the book that is popularizing "creative class" economic development theory) will be leading a "Regional Transformation Process" for the Detroit area. The corporation-heavy, top-down event seeks to create One Giant Master Plan, since that has worked so well for Detroit in the past. They've launched a website: And they're hoping the "creative class to be there in large numbers." I think the "creative class" should get busy on their discussion board.

"Create Detroit is a regional group started by the Detroit Regional Chamber [of commerce] in partnership with The Henry Ford [Museum], Wayne State University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Sloan Ventures, the Van Dusen Endowment, the Governor’s office and the City of Detroit as part of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s ‘Cool Cities Initiative.’ Planning dialogue was led by Ann Slawnik, director of the Detroit Orientation Institute at Wayne State University.

The idea behind Create Detroit is to create a long-range plan, focused on making the Detroit Region a magnet for new economy talent. The stakes are high. Those regions that do not flourish in the new creative economy will fail, according to Carnegie Mellon University professor Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class.”  Florida, whose groundbreaking book is heralding a new age of economic-development effort for metropolitan areas, is scheduled to keynote a Regional Transformation Process workshop slated for March 2004 and sponsored by Create Detroit."

If you're not familiar with Dr. Florida's theories, or you are a Daily columnist who thinks you know what this is all about, here's an interesting tidbit of his writing, responding to a critic:

"So how do gays and bohemians fit into my analysis? I am not saying that these people literally "cause" regions to grow. Rather, their presence in large numbers is an indicator of an underlying culture that's conducive to creativity. Gays and artists (as well as immigrants, like Ramon Alvarez) are often regarded as being on the fringes of society. The places where they feel at home and thrive tend to have a culture of tolerance and open-mindedness. Gays and bohemians are leading indicators of a place that has a "creative ecosystem" – a regional habitat which is open to new people and ideas, where people easily network, connect; where bright ideas are not shot down or stifled, but are turned into new projects, new companies and new growth. Regions and nations that have such an ecosystem — that can do the best job of tapping the diverse creative talents of the most people — gain a tremendous competitive advantage. Which regions would you bet on as growth centers of the future: San Francisco, Boston and Seattle, with their consistent ability to generate major new industries, or Kotkin's favorite places like McAllen, Fresno, and Riverside that offer cheap housing and low-wage labor?

The creative economy we've built thus far in the U.S. is neither a panacea nor a finished piece of work."

This is why I am attracted to his ideas: I believe the core of his approach can be very political. He's saying that if people in Michigan are serious about economic growth, they'll have to get serious about equal rights for gays, affirmative action, affordible housing, and a host of other highly controversial issues. In Ann Arbor, actually retaining creative youth (Yes, even Ann Arbor, a "cool city," is losing its highly educated 25-35 demographic Florida thinks is so important, according to census data) means the city might have to finally approve accessory apartments, reverse their authoritarian crack-down on events like Punk Week and Hash Bash, cut back on the detested "party patrol," keep the fine for marijuana low, and maybe refrain from tearing down any building where young people meet to create art. But then again, they can ignore us, and we'll all move to Ypsi. Or Seattle.

Posted by Rob at 2:26 PM

Payroll information will be moving to the University's M-Pathways / Wolverine Access system:

"In a change that impacts all faculty and staff, the Payroll Interactive Voice Response phone line, (734) 764-8253, will be replaced with Web-delivered pay information called View Paycheck.

"Payroll information was the only service remaining on the phone system, and we can deliver more information using the Web. We can also save money by eliminating the costs associated with the phone system, which were too high to support this single service," says Norel Tullier, director of the University Payroll Office. View Paycheck will provide current pay stub and leave-balance information, as well as pay stub information from the past two years."

> U Record: "M-Pathways upgrade planned for February; payroll info shifting to Web"

Posted by Rob at 10:54 AM

City Council has struck down the infamous pet ordinance.

Posted by Rob at 10:46 AM

Monday, December 15, 2003

This just in:

"SOLE Response to Borders Vandalism, Cancelled Negotiations

Ann Arbor, MI - December 15, 2003

The membership of SOLE was disheartened at the news of this morning's vandalism at the downtown Ann Arbor Borders Books & Music store on Liberty St. SOLE would like to express its disappointment with the tactics used by the perpetrators.
SOLE emphatically denies any involvement, direct or indirect, in the planning or execution of this action and stands beside the Borders Workers Union in condemning it. Not only is this action contrary to the stated practices and purpose of SOLE, but it has served only to hinder progress at the negotiating table.

SOLE would also like to express its dismay that Borders, Inc. prematurely ended negotiations this morning as a result of the vandalism. In the previous bargaining session on December 2, 2003, Borders, Inc. had indicated that they would bring a proposal to the table this morning, the first since the beginning of negotiations.

SOLE, a University of Michigan student organization, has been working closely with the Union in their struggle with unfair labor practices and their attempts to negotiate a fair contract with Borders, Inc. SOLE has participated in and helped to organize many of the Union's strike activities, including picketing, flyering, and supporting the boycott.

SOLE, in solidarity with the Borders Workers Union, sincerely hopes that Borders, Inc. will not allow one senseless act to derail the bargaining process that had just begun to be productive. SOLE expects that Borders, Inc. will step up and prove that they are willing to give the Union the respect it deserves by continuing to negotiate in good faith.

Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality [SOLE]
530 S. State St.
3909 Michigan Union,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1349

Posted by Rob at 8:43 PM

I just switched from blogads to Google-hosted text ads. (See farther down in left column). Let me know what you think.

Posted by Rob at 5:05 PM

Meanwhile in Maine, a few employees are getting $20,000 Christmas bonuses.

Posted by Rob at 4:32 PM

The Borders Employee Union has released the following statement about last night's vandalism and the state of negotiations:

"Monday, December 15, 2003

Negotiations between Borders workers and Borders Group Inc. were cancelled by the company shortly after talks were to begin this morning.

Borders blamed the delay on vandalism to the downtown Ann Arbor Borders store, committed sometime after the store was closed at midnight Sunday night and before 5 am Monday morning when it was discovered by the Ann Arbor police.

The Borders Workers Union denies any involvement and strongly condemns this action. It is completely counter to the way we have been operating and its timing only served to sabotage negotiations.

Borders has gone so far as to suggest a union member may be directly involved, an outrageous claim given the fact that at the end of our last negotiation session Borders indicated that they would bring a proposal to the table today, the first one since negotiations began.

We are concerned that Borders is using this incident to give us a black eye. There is no reason why this minor bump in the road should delay negotiations for the two week delay they want.

In spite of the vandalism, the unfair labor practices and contract issues remain the same. Negotiations should be resumed immediately.

Borders Workers Union"

It goes without saying, but the vandalism did nothing but hurt the worker's efforts to win a just contract, and it seems has become yet another excuse Borders is using to delay settling the dispute. Activists seeking to help the cause should help picket or flyer - efforts which someone may actually see aside from the Ann Arbor Police and a few Borders suits. Another idea: Christmas Carols!

Posted by Rob at 4:25 PM

Here's Michael Moore's take on the capture of Saddam:

"America used to like Saddam. We LOVED Saddam. We funded him. We armed him. We helped him gas Iranian troops.

But then he screwed up. He invaded the dictatorship of Kuwait and, in doing so, did the worst thing imaginable -- he threatened an even BETTER friend of ours: the dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, and its vast oil reserves. The Bushes and the Saudi royal family were and are close business partners, and Saddam, back in 1990, committed a royal blunder by getting a little too close to their wealthy holdings. Things went downhill for Saddam from there.

But it wasn't always that way. Saddam was our good friend and ally. We supported his regime. It wasn’t the first time we had helped a murderer. We liked playing Dr. Frankenstein. We created a lot of monsters -- the Shah of Iran, Somoza of Nicaragua, Pinochet of Chile -- and then we expressed ignorance or shock when they ran amok and massacred people. We liked Saddam because he was willing to fight the Ayatollah. So we made sure that he got billions of dollars to purchase weapons. Weapons of mass destruction. That's right, he had them. We should know -- we gave them to him!

We allowed and encouraged American corporations to do business with Saddam in the 1980s. That's how he got chemical and biological agents so he could use them in chemical and biological weapons. ... "

> From "We Finally Got Our Frankenstein"

Something tells me Rumsfeld won't be shaking Saddam's hand again anytime soon.

Posted by Rob at 12:42 PM

An exhibit of documents, photos, and audio documenting the U-M admissions lawsuits which culminated with last summer's Supreme Court decision has opened in the Media Union, called "U-M's Case for Diversity."

Posted by Rob at 12:32 PM

Also, they're back: the notorious cult surrounding religious leader Fred Phelps' "Westboro Baptist Church." Although the Ann Arbor News has a nice disclaimer on their story, they don't have much in the way of background. Here's some information about this group, notorious for picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, and known on campus for holding a protest on the diag during National Coming Out Week a couple years back.

> AANews: "Antigay group pickets in Ann Arbor"

And this:

"Vandals spray paint downtown businesses

Vandals struck two downtown businesses with spray paint Sunday night, Ann Arbor Police said.

The Border's Books and Music, at 612 E. Liberty, and the Starbucks Coffee, at 222 S. State St., had various slogans painted across their front windows in black spray paint.

The slogans included "Blood Money," "Slaughter Diversity," and a Swastika next to the word "shop" on a Borders window. Locks on the front doors of both businesses appeared to be tampered with, causing about $100 damage, officials said."
(From Today's Police Beat)

Also, see coverage of the U-M Winter commencement: "U-M graduation includes 'one tough chick'"

Posted by Rob at 12:29 PM

I've heard that Dance Marathon has decided to discontinue their fundraising activities wrapping gifts inside Borders, although they remain "neutral" on the strike. If anyone from DM would like me to post an explanation, I'd be happy to oblige - send it this way.

Posted by Rob at 2:15 AM

Sunday, December 14, 2003

No WMD, according to Saddam, at least.

Posted by Rob at 8:41 PM

"DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Men kissed each other on the cheek and grasped hands. Women let out a traditional Arab celebratory cry. People threw candy.

Iraqis in the Detroit suburb that forms one of the hearts of Arab America rejoiced at the capture of Saddam Hussein. ...

As snow fell around them, dozens danced, banged drums, chanted in Arabic and waved Iraqi and American flags. Passing drivers honked their horns as Dearborn police tried to shoo celebrants off the roadway.

Muhammad Albustani smiled and grasped a U.S. flag as he walked toward the noisy crowd of more than 100.

Albustani, 40, of Detroit said he took part in the 1991 anti-Saddam rebellion in southern Iraq after the first Gulf War, then fled to Saudi Arabia before coming to the United States a year later.

"We are so happy. This is the best day," he said as he approached the crowd gathered in front of the Karbalaa Islamic Center, attended by many Iraqi emigres. ...

About a third of Dearborn's 100,000 residents identify themselves as of Arab heritage, making up the nation's densest Arab concentration. Southeastern Michigan has about 300,000 Arab Americans."

> From AP: "Iraqi Americans celebrate Saddam's capture" (See some photos here)

Posted by Rob at 8:25 PM

Here's Ypsi blogger Mark Maynard's take on all this cool cities madness:

" ... The secret, it seems to me, is to find places with the right demographics, proximity to cultural events, and yet affordable space. Right now is a good time for Ypsi. There's a lot of energy, as is evidenced by JenniferÂ’s hip store, and (dare I say it) the return of Crimewave. Now, people are beginning to invest in our downtown, rehabbing buildings and such. Soon, and it won't be too far off, everything will be out of the price range of this "creative class" that the Governor wants to keep. I suppose that's inevitable …

If you eat, you're gonna shit.

One day, there will be a Starbucks on Michigan Avenue.

Oh, one of the things that bothers me the most about this is the fact that the end-game, politically speaking, isn't having a thriving arts community. Success in the minds of city planners is the gentrification which follows the creative class. The creative class in this scenario is like the canary in the coal mine. They go in and test the waters. They see if an area is safe. Then, and only then, does the real investment start pouring in. Success, to these people, I'm quite sure, isn't Jennifer's store, it's the shopping complex which might follow it. I think that's what concerns a lot of us. We don't want to let Ypsi get away from us. There are things about this community that we love. And, there's a reason why Linette and I have moved back here twice after getting out... The good news is, lots of other people feel the same way and there's a chance that we can organize and direct things to some extent. I don't know if it's possible to keep Ypsi's downtown franchise-free, but we can try."
(Post citation)

I think he's onto something. While gentrification is certainly a problem, I think it's useless to call it inevitable and give up. This is part of the reason why cities MUST be fine-grained. For example, lot sizes should be small, and buildings should have many uses - so that there's a lot of odd corners where people can start businesses and generally be creative, while Starbucks has colonized the prime space. I think the State Street area is a good example of this: although the street-level shops have largely given away to corporate monoliths (Starbucks, Sprint Store, Potbelly's) there are still a few record shops, head shops, tattoo parlors, used book stores and the like sprinkled about. This is because the older buildings have spaces that are available for these uses (even a record shop inside Bivouac!). If Peter Allen had developed the whole street as one giant new urbanist development, none of these small businesses would survive, and Ann Arbor would not have what little cool it retains. It also occurs to me there are several easy solutions to these problems that I'm sure the decidedly uncool people who run the state would shout down as socialist, as they relish their socialist gasoline (price kept cheap by ruthless imperialism) and socialist roads. Municipalities may need to look into rent control, tax credits for small businesses, interest free loans for people who want to start businesses, and perhaps restricting chain businesses outright - although I'm not sure what limits there are within the law.

Posted by Rob at 3:24 PM

The Ann Arbor News finally covers the conversion of the U-M parking garages to an automated system:

"U-M tells illegal parkers: Free ride coming to an end"

Posted by Rob at 2:51 PM

Governor Granholm's office has created a website to ask young people in Michigan what could be done to make our cities "cooler." I posted about it yesterday - the survey on is online. However, I've heard you won't hear much about it through traditional channels until January 15, when the Governor will send an email to every college student in the state, asking them to take the survey. In the meantime, the people behind the website are advertising it through blogs and other "alternative" channels - and they'll be compiling the results received before the January 15 launch. Bottom line: go take the survey - they're listening.

Posted by Rob at 2:45 PM

If you haven't heard, U.S. forces in Iraq have captured Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, the one man truly responsible for 9/11 remains at large: Osama bin Laden.

Posted by Rob at 2:36 PM

I know the website says the seller is in California, but something tells me this expensive LCD projector wasn't an unwanted gift - maybe it's the metal bracket that gives it away. I think I know someone missing a few.

Also, my friend tipped me off to this interactive electoral map. With presidential election results dating back to 1980, it promises hours of fun to the politically minded.

Posted by Rob at 3:26 AM

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Articles of note:

"Unfortunately, it is inevitable that these further cuts will affect our academic programs in ways that students will notice," Courant said.

> From "Proposed 5% cut alarms U-M"

> And "State OKs petition to ban affirmative action"

Posted by Rob at 2:39 PM

I just found this excellent Washington Post feature called "Faces of the Fallen."

Posted by Rob at 2:32 PM

Friday, December 12, 2003

Here are David Sucher's 'three rules' to follow to build an 'urban village', from his book "City Comforts: How to Build an Urban Village":

1) Build to the sidewalk
2) Make the building front "permeable" (i.e., no blank walls)
3) Prohibit parking lots in front of the building

"The Three Rules are the "one big thing" we must follow to create pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods. Even when rebuffed by large institutional forces such as the big-box store, the state highway department, or the nonprofit institution, the Three Rules focus the discussion on the few key variables that really count to create pedestrian-oriented streetscapes. [...] Supporters of comfortable cities must have a set of easy-to-grasp mental tools and standards by which to judge new development. I believe that the Three Rules provide such a framework. They are simple to understand and go to the heart of the issue in creating walkable neighborhoods. [...]

The Three Rules are a distillation of what actually works to make interesting places. They are a post hoc observation rather than an a priori conjecture. And they imply mixed-used neighborhoods of residential-above-retail."
(P. 56)

Now, if the University would keep these in mind when building their laboratories, the DDA keep them in mind when building parking garages, and developers keep them in mind when building new buildings ANYWHERE in the city of Ann Arbor (The suburbs can be urbanized!), then we'd be getting somewhere - and maybe the increase in retail space would help small local businesses from being forced out by Sprint Stores and Starbucks (or, forced to move out to cheaper strip malls).

Posted by Rob at 11:49 PM

A Michigan blogger has just posted some photos taken in the abandoned Michigan Central Station and the Fisher Body Plant #21.

Posted by Rob at 10:40 PM

Think you know what makes for a "cool" city? Michigan state government wants to know - they've posted a lengthy survey on the web at

Posted by Rob at 10:37 PM

Wondering why the flag on the U-M diag has been at half mast recently? On December 10 Governor Granholm ordered flags in Michigan to be flown at half-mast "whenever one of Michigan’s own is killed in the line of duty. "

Posted by Rob at 10:14 PM

" [...] Chicago is a city alive, a pulsing metropolis that stands out in 21st century-America's muddy urban landscape. Except for a handful of West and East Coast cities, American cities are either struggling (Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore) or are not really cities in the first place (Houston, Phoenix, Las Vegas). It's easy to romanticize those struggling cities and to react strongly against the kneejerk reputations they have acquired. (I do it all the time.) But ultimately those cities show us more about how not to build a city than how to properly build one. I love cities like Detroit, but it has a long way to go before we can compare it with Chicago.

This is not to say that Chicago is without its problems. The city is highly segregated, its suburbs are growing exponentially, and its high-rise housing projects redefine the word debacle. But the city is alive, and that's worth more than a lifetime of plans and visions and projects.

This blog, then, will serve as a record from my Ravenswood apartment of life in a thriving city. It is my dubious goal that this will help me (and you, whomever you are) get closer to discovering what makes great cities great."

Yes, that's right: another blog. My friend and U-M graduate John Honkala has started "First City."

Posted by Rob at 10:06 PM

Thursday, December 11, 2003

This looks very interesting, I'm sure the wider Ann Arbor community would be very welcome:

" presents...

---Whatever You Destroy---

a film by Yoni Goldstein and Max Sussman

Saturday @ 8:50 PM
1324 East Hall
totally free

come early to make sure you're there when it starts.

Ann Arbor had a community of poor, working artists in an abandoned downtown building named “The Technology Center.” Between 2002 and 2003, their home was raided, evicted, sold, bulldozed, and burned to the ground. This experimental documentary features the last existing footage of the space before its destruction and interviews with the few remaining tenants of that community.

The screening is part of the The Lightworks Festival: A Showcase of Student Production, which begins at 7PM and goes until 11PM. Stick around to see Priest & Razorface, and feel free to come early to watch some animation and who knows what else.

Posted by Rob at 5:15 PM

DC resident, professional reporter, and my friend Mike Grass has started a blog about DC called "The Oculus: Observations of the Nation's Capital and Its Culture." A U-M grad, in Ann Arbor Grass was a news reporter, editor, and editorial page editor at the Michigan Daily. Grass has a deep knowledge of DC, I'm excited to follow his blog (He got 13th place in the most recent Urban Challenge competition in the city, after all.) And if another one of my friends starts a blog, I will officially have no time to do homework. Screw 15 minutes of fame - in the future, everybody will have their own channel. Here's a quirky press release he sent some friends:

December 11, 2003

Grass Enters Weblog World

WASHINGTON -- Michael E. Grass, 24, has, on his day off, created his first weblog. While "The Oculus: Observations of the Nation's Capital and Its Culture" won't talk much about politics, it will explore the art of living in D.C., along with discussions on architecture, the popular virtues of intellectual urbanity and a whole host of "other topics that will become evident over time," Grass said.

Grass, who writes for Roll Call, is a 2002 graduate of the University of Michigan and was a reporter and editor at The Michigan Daily. While Grass grew up in East Grand Rapids, Mich., most of his family is from the Washington area. The first Grass family members arrived in the nation's capital 140 years ago and were prominent in the German and Swiss societal
circles. His great-grandfather, August Grass, was the city's top residential woodcarver and carpenter. The famed Heurich Mansion, near Dupont Circle, is the nation's foremost example of Beerhouse Baronial architecture and has the largest amount of Grass woodcarvings in the city.

The two-time National Geography Bee state runner-up has never lost Trivial Pursuit and wows his friends and colleagues with random useless knowledge. They also call him up frequently for directions, as his navigation skills are unmatched in their accuracy.

"This will be an organic process. We'll see where it goes," Grass said, adding that he doesn't want it to be some time waster. "But it probably will be, but someone out there will find what I have to say interesting."

Posted by Rob at 5:10 PM

While I'm sure you'll hear plenty from me about today's cool cities conference, here's some media:

> Michigan Radio discusses Ypsilanti and "cool cities" (via Steve)

I also heard that there was an NPR piece with Richard Florida and Governor Granholm that "talked about Ann Arbor a lot," I haven't located it anywhere on the web yet. Also, the small business owner interviewed in the story above participated in a group break-out session about Ypsilanti. No, nobody from Ann Arbor was giving presentations, but we were well represented, and ironically, I heard "a lot" went to the Ypsilanti presentation. Meanwhile, I was meeting some interesting people from Detroit in a session about how a group of local artists renovated an aging industrial facility in St. Joseph Michigan to use for artist studios, galleries, performance space, and a gift shop in something called "The Box Factory for the Arts."

Posted by Rob at 4:51 PM

In addition to Peter Allen's Broadway Village project, there seems to be a lot of interesting activity in the area just across the river from Kerrytown. After attending a community meeting, Brandon posts the following:

"The most interesting thing I learned is actually in the works already. Mr. Jim Moran, who told me he was a founder of the Performance Network and instrumental in converting the Technology Center to artistic space, is, in combination with the owner of the Northside Grill, in the process of purchasing the entire block surrounded by Broadway, Moore, Pontiac Trail, and Swift. The plan is to make a sort of "arts village," with a theater and affordable studio space in the old Suzuki building, live-work spaces, office space, restaurants, gallery space, and possibly other retail. This seems perfect for Lower Town-- instead of the total gentrification of the area, it looks like we are heading toward some really innovative uses of the core of the neighborhood. Maybe everyone won't need to move to Ypsi after all."

Posted by Rob at 4:11 PM

I'll be spending today at the "Creating Cool" conference held as part of the Governor's statewide cool cities initiative. The keynote speaker will be Richard Florida, who is behind this whole fixation with "coolness." I'm sure the conference will be a bunch of urban hipsters mixing with state politicians telling them to get liberal and get new urbanism, not chamber of commerce types exchanging business cards. I heard that Mr. Florida's talk will be webcast somewhere on the web, but I can't find it for the life of me - if anybody knows, post it in the comments. In the meantime, here's a column about the conference:

> Freep: TOM WALSH: Cool cities drive creates more hot air

Posted by Rob at 2:08 AM

According to a letter to the editor that has been written to the Daily, student volunteers with the U-M Dance Marathon organization have been gift-wrapping merchandise at a local store as part of their efforts to raise money for pediatric rehabilitation programs. One problem: that store is Borders, whose employees have been on strike since November 8. UMDM volunteers stepped in after the Family Book Club, a local charitable organization, decided not to wrap gifts after hearing of the strike. In the as-yet unpublished letter to the editor, Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality member Mike Meadow calls the cause they fundraise for "commendable," but notes that "they need to recognize that their actions are tantamount to scabbing and are disrespectful to the striking workers and to the community at large." He notes its unclear if Dance Marathon knows about the strike, and urges them to reconsider their decision. I've also been told that "SOLE is now trying to contact DM in order that we may talk directly to them about this issue."

Since the last Daily of the semester was yesterday (Wednesday), it's likely the letter won't appear until January, so here it is:

"Dance Marathon is scabbing for Borders

To the Daily:

Dance Marathon, one of the most well known student groups on the University of Michigan campus, is providing scab labor to the Liberty Street Borders Bookstore where workers have been on strike for over a month.

Right now, Dance Marathon is raising money for sick kids by gift-wrapping books and CDs inside Borders. While the money Dance Marathon is raising will likely go to a good cause, they need to recognize that their actions are tantamount to scabbing and are disrespectful to the striking workers and to the community at large.

Dance Marathon raises tens of thousands of dollars every year for pediatric rehabilitation programs. This is truly commendable. Their website boasts the laudable claim that they strive "to engage and empower the campus and community to build relationships and heighten social awareness." But Dance Marathon's decision to cross the Borders workers' picket line shows a disturbing lack of said "social awareness."

As is well known in the Ann Arbor community, the Borders Workers Union is currently on strike in order to pressure Borders Inc. to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair contract with workers. Borders workers want to be paid a living wage. They want Borders Inc. to stop intimidating and firing pro-union workers and to honor their fundamental right to a union. They want to return to their jobs and be respected.

There has been a tremendous amount of community support for the striking workers. This is made visible every Friday at 5 p.m. where 60-70 community members have been turning out to the weekly rally supporting the striking workers.

In another show of solidarity, The Family Book Club, a charitable organization that usually raises money at this time of year by wrapping gifts at Borders, chose not to wrap gifts at the store after hearing about the strike. Dance Marathon is filling the Family Book Club's place this year. Apparently Dance Marathon does not share the latter group's respect for what a strike means.

I do not mean this letter as a hostile attack and I will presume for the benefit of the doubt that Dance Marathon members are simply unaware of what it means to be strike or of what solidarity means. But if the group wishes to retain its respectability, it should cease collaborating with Borders so long as workers are still walking the picket line.

Mike Medow
Students Organizing for Labor & Economic Equality"

Posted by Rob at 1:02 AM

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Yes, those LCD projectors keep vanishing from the classrooms of local colleges and universities - at the rate of 25 since last March. Although none of the local media reports the total stolen since they first began to be installed in the 1990s, I wouldn't be suprised if the total losses were rather high, hence the large reward being offered: around $10,000 total for information.

> Daily: "University loses $130K in thefts"
> AANews "In Brief: WCC, U-M seeking information on theft"
> U-M PR: " U-M, Washtenaw College offer rewards in equipment theft"

The winter commencement speaker will be diplomat and embassador to Greece Thomas Miller while the President and CEO of NPR radio is schedule to address graduates over at EMU. (Source, U-M Press Release)

Posted by Rob at 3:21 PM

This is in addiiton to the U-Club's annual holiday buffet, this year running from December 17-19.

"Need Brain Food? or Just a Break?

(all you can eat!)

Sunday, Dec. 14 10pm-1am
Michigan Union's U-Club
Special guest servers..can you guess who they will be?
Contests, giveaways and more!

Eggs, pancakes, hashbrowns and more!
only $3.00 per person or receive 15% off (or $2.50/person) if you bring
in an "A" paper or test from this semester!
Pay at the door with entree plus, credit card or cash!


Posted by Rob at 9:20 AM

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Washtenaw County Government is holding a series of workshops to help create a plan for the county. Their next meeting is Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7PM at Washtenaw Community College:

"The public is encouraged to attend the following free workshops to help shape a comprehensive plan for Washtenaw County's future. Topics of discussion will include open space, traffic, taxes, recreation and jobs. Workshops will be held on the following dates at 7 p.m.:

- Dec. 4, York Township Hall, 11560 Stony Creek Road, Milan

- Dec. 10, Washtenaw Community College, Morris Lawrence Building, 4800 E. Huron River Drive, Ann Arbor Township

- Dec. 11, Manchester Middle School Cafeteria, 410 City Road, Manchester

- Dec.18, Whitmore Lake High School cafeteria, 8877 Main St., Northfield Township"

Posted by Rob at 11:51 PM

Apparently, the genre extends beyond Ann Arbor: a suite of critical websites about Seattle motivated the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to write a story about the online dissident culture, "Seattle-bashing takes hold in cyberspace," concluding:

"Brewster, though, perceives the anti-Seattle sentiment as a self-effacing brand of civic pride. He doesn't see the Seattle-slamming Web sites as evidence of a city filled with whiny malcontents, but of a strong Internet culture and one marked by hyper-criticism of its institutions, including the "boosterish" local media. Seattle's economic boom of the 1990s, he pointed out, was spawned by unorthodox thinkers who took a skeptical view of the establishment. [...]

Brewster believes the future of Seattle rests on its ability to attract fresh voices, particularly minorities and younger people, to the table. In the '90s, he said, people were too busy working and making money to think about civic reinvention. The current economic lull, Brewster said, provides a chance for renewal.

"Now there is both the opportunity and the responsibility of shaping this place," he said. "The question to me is, will it be done by the usual people -- the Chamber of Commerce and the business interests -- or will it be done by a broader base of people who care about the city?

"Will the people on change the place into something they like and which reflects their values, or would they rather throw darts?" Brewster said."

The story raises a couple of issues for me: first, if the Seattle Post-Intelligencer could write this long story about a few websites which seem for the most part infrequently updated (, Seattle Shmeng, Sick of Seattle) where's the Ann Arbor News' coverage of Ann Arbor's vibrant online culture? Sure, they mentioned Ann Arbor Is Overrated in their Talk About Town column, but I think the explosive growth in the number of local bloggers in the last six months is a phenomenon worth covering. Then again, would we really want to be celebrated by the "Boosterish" local media as evidence of how great Ann Arbor is? This reminds me of Herbert Marcuse - who famously thought capitalism necessarily co-opted all criticism. Which leads me to my second thought: is online sniping actually a form of civic pride, as claimed by the man quoted in the SPI story above? I think his question: whether the online critics will play a role in changing the city remains to be seen in Ann Arbor, although I intend to do more than throw darts.

Posted by Rob at 12:56 PM

Michigan IMC has posted a story about Moment, a progressive magazine whose second copy had a run of 4,000. Although I like what they're doing, their website could use some help.

Posted by Rob at 3:14 AM

Wondering about that strange sculpture between the Art Museum and Angel Hall? It's a sculpture by British artist Barbara Hepworth, part of a corresponding exhibit in the U-M Art Museum.

Posted by Rob at 2:54 AM

The DDA is considering a rule that would require byclists walk their bikes in the State Street area: "Proposal would turn riders into pedestrians"

Here's the News' helpful sidebar:
"It's legal for a bicyclist to ride on the sidewalk in Michigan, but he or she has to yield to pedestrians. State law says they must give an audible signal (bell, horn, etc.) before overtaking a pedestrian.

A commonly used method is to approach slowly and call out "bike on your left," and then pass on that side.

Anyone riding a bike on the road has the same rights and is subject to the same responsibilities as the driver of a car. State law says cyclists must stay as near the right side of the road as is practical, while Ann Arbor's ordinance says they must stay as near as is practical (and useful) to the right side. "

Here's some Break-ins:

"2100 block of West Stadium Boulevard, 2 a.m. Saturday. Front door to business smashed to gain entry; cash register drawer and $150 in cash taken.

1000 block of Arbordale Street, 11:36 p.m. Friday. Front door kicked in; $100 in cash, VCR, two laptop computers, CD player, credit cards and radio taken. Total value: $2,250."

Posted by Rob at 2:46 AM

Ann Arbor Is Overrated is planning a meetup this Wednesday at 10:00 PM at Leopold Brothers, the proprietor of which has promised us half-off beer. I plan on attending.

Posted by Rob at 2:39 AM

A report about Eminem's lyrics have put that Detroit artist in hot water with the Secret Service, luckily they've decided not to investigate further. Sounds like another case of "you have freedom of speech, but" that has dogged the First Amendment since the days the alien and sedition acts made criticism a crime.

"[...] The Secret Service made preliminary inquiries because of lyrics in Eminem's song, "We Are American." The lyrics say "(Expletive) money, I don't rap for dead presidents, I'd rather see the president dead."

Representatives of the Detroit rapper could not be reached Monday night for comment. Eminem's spokesman told CNN recently the song was "unfinished" and that "there was no determination where, when, how or if it was going to be used."

Gill said the Secret Service must balance its duties of investigating such communications with its respect for the constitutional right of freedom of speech.

He added, however, that it was necessary for the Secret Service to look into communications that could be considered threatening to the president.

"The Secret Service takes every potential threat against the president seriously," Gill said. "We don't have the luxury to do otherwise.""

Posted by Rob at 12:24 AM

Monday, December 08, 2003

My friend and MSA-LSA representative Sam Woll has created a blog, Not Just Another Brick in the Wall, making her one of a handful of female Ann Arbor bloggers.

Posted by Rob at 6:47 PM

It's not clear to me whether or not any of these people are in Ann Arbor, but they sure seem to be taking seriously the Borders' boycott.

Posted by Rob at 2:40 AM

Have you ever been to Del Rio? Apparently things aren't so pleasant there right now for the employees, one of whom has started a Del Rio Workers Union blog, which I heard about on this Borders Readers United blog comment.

"Dear friends of the Del Rio,

I know that many of you, like myself, consider yourselves 'regulars' at the Del Rio. We go there to relax, for affordable eats, for camaraderie, for the funky art, and for conversation with friends and servers. In some cases, our kids have grown up there. Sadly, our "home away from home" is being taken away from us. Terrible changes are happening at the Del Rio. Another Ann Arbor community institution is dying; one of our favorite hangouts is being killed.

One of the factors that gave the Del Rio its special appeal was that the Del Rio Workers were able to cooperatively manage the business's daily functions with dignity. But now the collective has been dismantled and has been replaced with a repressive, top-down management structure.

A "memo to all staff" hangs on the kitchen wall. It reads: "A positive attitude about your job and the Del Rio in general, is important. Failure to represent the Del Rio in a positive way to customers and other employees WILL RESULT IN IMMEDIATE TERMINATION."

If you drop by the Del Rio now, you will notice a change. A broken spirit. An atmosphere of fear. Familiar faces are absent. This is the "New Del Rio."

This end of the collective was announced in September, coinciding with the arrival of Karen Piehutkoski - a new part owner of the establishment. Karen is also the owner of Kilwin's. The transition has been cruel, uncaring, and ugly. In the new and shifting context, the staff have sought to keep their jobs, their livelihoods. But the "new" bar's policy is to abuse and mistreat staff - some of whom have been there ten years or longer - in attempts to force them out. Systematically, the most dedicated employees are being fired (and banned from the Del!) without cause. Throughout the fall, seven employees have been fired and ten more have quit due to harassment, disgust, and emotional pain. The owners refuse to explain their
actions. [..] "

Posted by Rob at 2:26 AM

Arts at Michigan is sponsoring a contest where student artists can compete to have their artwork exhibited on AATA busses from February through September 2004. But hurry, the deadline is December 15!

Posted by Rob at 2:13 AM

The Ann Arbor News is crowing about reduced complaints about panhandling. I think the key here is to understand pan handling isn't down, only the reporting of it - and I suspect the only think to change is that the overly vocal wealthy elites that oppose student participation in city politics and write reactionary letters to the city council over modest proposals about accessory apartments are being bothered less.

Posted by Rob at 12:16 AM

Sunday, December 07, 2003

This from an article linked to by Ben:

"There is this yearning to live not in a faceless suburb anymore but in a real community with a downtown in it," said James W. Hughes, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University. "These people don't want their town to be known by the big mall nearby."

In all but a few fast-growing communities, there is no room fpr another million-square-foot regional mall. Mall development reached a peak in the late 1980s, a decade when developers built out 16,000 of them nationwide. But construction has fallen sharply since. "It's pretty clear we are over-malled," said Gregory Leisch, chief executive of Delta Associates, an Alexandria-based firm that tracks real estate development. "
(Washington Post: "Retailers embrace the great outdoors")

And sure enough, always on the cutting edge of all things sprawl, Michigan has three new lifestyle centers: "The Village of Rochester Hills" (So much nicer than "MeadowBrooke Village Shopping Center" that it replaced, it's it? It almost sounds like a genuine place!) and something called Fountain Walk in Novi:

"Novi's Fountain Walk, which is scheduled to open this fall off I-96 and Novi Road, is a little more than a lifestyle center. The outdoor complex will have 65 stores, an 18-screen movie theater, a comedy club and five restaurants. Retail shops weave around a Main Street lined with lampposts, park benches and greenery. A fountain is being built in the middle of the center. Anchor stores The Great Indoors and Galyan's already are open as well as Vans Skatepark. Also open are Cost Plus World Market, Buffalo Wild Wings and Chuck E Cheese." (Source, see also this Detroit News story)

That's right: it has the state's first private skatepark. It occurs to me that if the developers add a few apartments to one of these things, they've essentially come full circle back to traditional, pedestrian-oriented urbanism that looks a whole lot like new urbanist developments such as Peter Allen's Lower Town project in Ann Arbor. Yes, it's corporate and privatized, (and tuned to make a profit, the only people who will afford to live there are rich, and the only stores that will survive are corporations, so long as these things are built in one big shot - with genuine cities you get a mix of ages and tyes of buildings, and a corresponding mix of residents and businesses) Sure, in most states you won't have freedom of speech or assembly in these totally private environments, but in a handful, including New Jersey, courts have recognized free speech rights in malls. And perhaps the corporations will realize that aging, rust belt cities have lots of old buildings they can use to generate a "historic" feel, and use them in their corporate complexes, not unlike what's happening in Milwaukee with Pabst City.

Posted by Rob at 11:43 PM

I think my fellow cool cities task force member Eugene Chan is on to something:

"Chan says what makes Ann Arbor's college scene cool is the blending of ages.

"It is actually integrated," Chan said. "Look at any coffee shop. StarBucks on State Street. It is these students studying. You can see residents talking about families and children and business people talking about their work. You see a whole variety of people doing their own thing in the same place."

Ann Arbor is recognized by Granholm as a cool city because of its vibrant downtown and cultural diversity."

I think the vague cultural phenomenon known as "cool" is in part result of diversity of age, race, and income. This is why the accessory apartments are so important: the meet a basic housing need in the city, and allow more people to live where they like, affordably. "Cool" is also a state of cultural production - frequenly the product of a fine-grained, diversified urban environment, where a variety of spaces (for a variety of costs) are available for people to live, work, and create. Thus, the destruction of the Technology Center is an example about how the city actively destroyed something which sustains the economy - tearing down an old building where entrepreneurs and artists could start businesses and create art with a low economic investment.

Posted by Rob at 9:01 PM

Lest Ann Arbor's ruling class think they've got it figured out:

"Cities across the state have lost large numbers of adults age 25-34 from 1990 to 2000. According to the census:

- Lansing lost 12,067, or 54.7 percent from 1990 to 2000;

- East Lansing lost 27.6 percent or 4,601;

- Ypsilanti fared better, losing 3,544 from that age group, or 16.8 percent;

- Ann Arbor lost 20,340, or 10.7 percent of its 25-to-34 year olds;

- Nationwide, there was a 7.6 percent drop in that age group."

Posted by Rob at 8:55 PM

The New York Times writes about urban farming in Detroit:

" [...] Urban farmers face a number of challenges, from finding water (renegades tap into fire hydrants, Brother Samyn said) to eliminating broken glass, concrete and unsavory contaminants like lead from the soil. Hayfields, mistaken for "ghetto grass," have been mowed down by the Department of Public Works just as they are ready to be cut and baled. Greenhouses are sometimes claimed by the homeless, and pilfering is a fact of life.

None of the farms are profitable, and all depend on students and volunteers — more than 1,000 citywide, Ms. Atkinson said. Members of her network have received about $300,000 in grants and donations, she estimated, including a few grants from the United States Department of Agriculture normally aimed at rural growers.

Advocates often say profits are secondary to building a sense of community. "It's a means for people to take control of their neighborhoods and get tangible results that they can see and eat," said Yamini Bala, coordinator of Detroit Summer, a youth gardening group.
He and others would like farming to become a permanent part of the Detroit landscape. But much of what they do falls below city officials' radar. The chief city planner, George Dunbar of the Planning and Development Department, was surprised to learn that some farmers had claimed plots as large as an acre.

"Outstanding," he said. "If that's the case, then I commend the individuals who do that, but I tell you, if we advertise the property and it's city-owned land that we can get a housing development on, then I'll take that. I am always trying to increase the tax rolls to keep city services going."

> NYTimes: "In the Capital of the Car, Nature Stakes a Claim"

Posted by Rob at 5:21 PM

The Friends of the U-M Library are sponsoring a book collecting contest, with prizes of 3, 2, and $100 for first, second, and third places in two divisions: one for graduate students, and one for undergrads. It's a start, I suppose: Harvard's contest has a $1,000 prize.

Posted by Rob at 5:14 PM

"The Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy questions whether a state-government-led effort can produce cool cities.

Michael LaFaive, the center's director of fiscal policy, says cool developments, such as the SoHo area of New York, succeeded because they "flew below the radar screens of control-seeking bureaucrats, politically connected developers and local zoning bureaucracies."

LaFaive argues that had today's complex urban building and zoning regulations existed in the 1960s, Barry Gordy would have been unable to start his legendary Motown recording studio in a house in a Detroit neighborhood.

"The entrepreneurial energy that could be unleashed in this state if the barriers to entry were lowered would be incredible," LaFaive said.

But Jeff Kaczmarek, senior vice president for business and community services at the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said state government tools have been critical in the cool cities effort, including a program that gives developers tax breaks for building on "brownfield" sites in older cities.

"That has really spurred a lot of activity in the cities," he said. "And developers are becoming more comfortable in using these tools, which are creating a critical mass of development projects."

Glazer says Granholm's continued focus on creating cool cities will be critical in keeping the development momentum going. "

From the AANews' article (which quotes me), "Cities learn it's cool to be cool," also "Some see chilling effect in cities trying to be hip," and an interview with fellow cool cities task force member Brandt Coultas.

Posted by Rob at 4:45 PM

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Antiwar Action! and are sponsering a showing the documentary "Uncovered" about Bush's invasion of Iraq at 7PM tomorrow (Sunday) in the Pendelton Room of the Michigan Union. Attendence is expected to be high, so come early to get a seat.

Posted by Rob at 11:29 PM

Granted, I haven't read them all, and not that many people are participating, but the number of comments on my post about affirmative action has set a Goodspeed Update record, as far as I know.

Posted by Rob at 11:06 PM

Articles of note:

> AANews: "Apple handed to history professor"
> And a sparkling gem of local journalism: "Midnight Madnes a Tree Town Tradition"

And new blogs keep popping up all over the place, here's a mysterious one that links to me: "The Last URL"

Posted by Rob at 10:54 PM

Friday, December 05, 2003

Jayson Blair, the young journalist whose unethical journalism caused a crisis at the New York Times last sprint has written a book scheduled to be published in March. Judging from the cover and title, it sounds interesting. The book's title? "Burning Down My Master's House: My Life at the New York Times"

Posted by Rob at 8:25 PM

Daily editorial page editor Zac Peskowitz writes the following article for the online magazine Slate: "A Winter Thaw - Can India and Pakistan compromise on Kashmir?"

Posted by Rob at 12:39 PM

It sounds as if Greg Cook's song has changed, somewhat - wheras before he said the AATA would only have sold air rights over a proposed one-story bus station, he now thinks there might be "space avaliable" for affordable housing. Luckily, the city has purchased the property, so they can perserve the housing irrespective the whims of Mr. Cook:

" [...] At the DDA meeting Wednesday, downtown developer and former DDA Chairman Ed Shaffran strongly advised against the loan. He told the DDA that AATA should buy the property, then work with the city on redevelopment. AATA has federal funds that wouldn't have to be repaid. The AATA also has a plan to redevelop the property, whereas the city does not, said Shaffran.

Shaffran on Thursday said that while he has been an unpaid consultant to the AATA on the Y deal, his company would not be interested in redeveloping the property.

AATA Executive Director Greg Cook confirmed that Shaffran has advised his group, and that as part of redevelopment, AATA would likely make space available for an affordable housing project.

DDA member Leah Gunn said the loan would be appropriate use of the DDA's Housing Fund.

"I'm excited about it," said Gunn, who has served on the DDA a number of years. "I'm very much concerned about preserving those 100 units of housing."

> From "DDA may help city buy YMCA"

Articles of note:

> Democratic candidate Kucinich draws crowd at U-M
> Affirmative action petition ruling stalled

From the Police beat:

"A homeless woman sleeping in a fire-damaged building was raped by two men sometime before Thursday morning, Ann Arbor police said.

The 42-year-old woman told police that she was sleeping in the vacant building in the 200 block of North Division Street along with other homeless people when the assault occurred.

The former apartment building, boarded up for renovation after it was damaged by fire last year, is used for shelter by homeless people, said Lt. Mike Logghe. He said police are working with the owner to have it made more secure. ..."

Posted by Rob at 11:47 AM

I recently spoke to a reporter from the Ann Arbor News for a story they are planning for next Sunday about the Ann Arbor Cool Cities Task Force. Our first meeting was this week, and I am excited - there seem to be some interesting and like-minded people on the task force. I am advocating at least one town hall forum, and it looks like we might plan one for next semester. They News also took my photograph to possible include in the story. They wanted me to post in front of the Corner House Lofts, but I suggested also standing in front of the closed Decker Drugs, which has sat empty for seven months after it was forced to close when the owner of the building jacked up rent. (Daily coverage, info on the building owner) I reasoned one of the things I like about Ann Arbor is the small businesses, and phenomenon such as the closing of a locally operated drugstore is exactly the kind of thing cities should worry about if they want to stay "cool."

Our first assignment? Come up with ten concerns or areas of improvement for the city, and also ten things that Ann Arbor does well. Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments, and I'll bring them to the meeting!

Posted by Rob at 11:27 AM

Residential College Professor Carl Cohen, a longtime ideological opponent of affirmative action at the University, has sent an email to the large "RC.Political" email list in support of the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative. Here's an excerpt of his email, followed by my response:

"You will have noted that the battle over race preferences in Michigan has begun. It is not a battle over affirmative action; affirmative action, vigorous steps designed to extirpate all discrimination by race and ethnicity, are untouched by the proposition to be voted on. Ours is a country in which racism has penetrated very deeply; one would be foolish indeed to suppose that there is no need to continue the battle to uproot it. But that battle, in a decent society, will certainly not involve the very discrimination that is to be eliminated. The proposition on which the people of Michigan will vote in 2004 aims only to forbid all discrimination by the state and it agencies, including the University of Michigan, and to forbid all preference by race, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

If you come to believe that it is wise to oppose the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, that can only be because you believe that the State or it agencies must be permitted to give preference by race, sex, or ethnicity. I find it hard to believe that our university colleagues, proud of the principle of equality that we universally profess, would on reflection support such preference. [...] "

What the fans of "colorblindness" fail to understand is that discrimination itself isn't the issue. Discrimination is itself a neutral, yet powerful tool. With or without this ballot initiative, state government and state universities will continue to be extremely discriminating in every competitive decision they make, whether for hiring, admissions, contracts, or in other areas. The issue is simply whether we believe in taking into consideration a broad array of criteria, or whether gender and races are in fact irrelevant to understanding individuals.

Good science has shown again and again that criteria of "merit" itself contains a tremendous bias towards maintaining the status quo, and in many cases works to discriminate against some irrespective of ability, talent, or potential. In higher education, the work of Claude Steele and others have shown standardized tests and other measures of so-called "merit" are in fact rigged against minority students, who experience a phenomenon known as stereotype threat - if a negative stereotype exists for certain groups, in a high-stakes testing situation they score lower than if they were simply told to just take the exam and the results would mean nothing. In addition, many other criteria and qualifications which on their face have nothing to do with race or gender often in fact contain unearned privileges. The subtle and nuanced reality of prejudice mean in order to ensure true access to state resources, the state must be given the ability to take into consideration a broad array of criteria, including race, sex, and ethnicity.

In fact, this realization: that discrimination exists, and can have a positive or negative effect on society has been broadly accepted. Whether it's the work of the Center for the Education of Women to help women achieve in academe (where in many departments they remain to be underrepresented) or the support of affirmative action from many sectors of our society, it is a commonly recognized fact. Once one begins to believe there may be more qualified candidates in almost every discriminating situation, and that is it impossible to rigidly rank human beings according to "qualifications," then one sees the proper way to view selection is in fact from the point of view of the organization selecting. The question isn't how best to select the "most qualified," because clearly people harbor a broad array of qualifications, talents, and privileges, most of which can't be expressed on a resume or as a number. The question then becomes what type of qualified people should be selected to move this university, organization, or society towards where we'd like it to be.

Those who insist on “colorblindness” are intellectual dinosaurs fighting for an outmoded, simplistic, and most importantly disproven way of thinking.

Posted by Rob at 10:53 AM

The drive to put Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative action initiative on the ballot will be opposed by an organization called "Citizens for a United Michigan," which includes a broad array of participants - from big business to the AFL-CIO, the NAACP and religious organizations. Connerly's organization, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, has a website designed by frequent commenter on this website Chetly Zarko.

> DetNews: "Coalition fights race ballot drive"
> Connerly's organization: Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

Here's the text that will appear on the ballot:

"The proposal would amend the State constitution by adding a Section 25 to Article I.

Article I, Section 25

Civil Rights.
The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and any other public college or university, community college, or school district shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

For the purpose of this section "state" includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the state itself, any city, county, public college or university, community college, school district, or other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the State of Michigan.

This section does not affect any law or governmental action that does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

This section does not prohibit action that must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, if ineligibility would result in loss of federal funds to the State.

Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting bona fide qualifications based on sex that are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

The remedies available for violations of this section shall be the same, regardless of the injured party's race, color, religion, ethnicity, or national origin, as are otherwise available for violations of Michigan's anti-discrimination law.

This section shall be self-executing. If any part or parts of this section are found to be in conflict with the United States Constitution or federal law, the section shall be implemented to the maximum extent that the United States Constitution and federal law permit. Any provision held invalid shall be severable from the remaining portions of this section.

This section applies only to action taken after the effective date of this section.

This section does not invalidate any court order or consent decree that is in force as of the effective date of this section."

Posted by Rob at 2:41 AM

The Michigan Daily sings the praises of Prof. Matt Lassiter in their staff editorial today, "One great apple: Lassiter a great choice for Golden Apple":

"Students of Prof. Matthew Lassiter's "History of American Suburbia" were surprised yesterday to find their lecture interrupted by the presenters of the annual Golden Apple award to grant the prize for outstanding performance in the classroom to this young, promising assistant professor of American post-war history. It is clear that Lassiter is an excellent choice for this year's award.

While the Atlanta native has only been on campus for a few years, his humor, ability to match his own experience with American history and accessibility to students has made his American suburbia class one of the most popular classes in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. [...] "

And this, from the news story:

"... As he paced across the stage of the Lorch Hall auditorium where his lecture is held, a group of students sitting in the front stood and told the class that they also had an announcment to make: Lassiter was this year’s winner of the Golden Apple Award.

As Lassiter’s students applauded and cheered — one surprised student responded with a loud “Oh My God” — Lassiter stood on the stage looking modest and slightly embarrassed.

“Well, let’s do your evaluations. Thank you,” Lassiter finally said as the applause died down.

“I thought I was under investigation,” he later told his students, saying that he had had no idea what was happening. “But the Borders strikers got some free publicity out of this,” he added, pointing to a pin he wore on his shirt. [...] "

Posted by Rob at 2:30 AM

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Borders Readers United has posted some pictures of Denis Kucinich walking the picket line today.

Posted by Rob at 10:42 PM

It's rough, I know: ArborBloggers. Want in? Email me to be added as a contributor: rob (at)

Posted by Rob at 4:12 PM

I've heard that History Professor Matt Lassiter has won the coveted "Golden Apple" award for teaching excellence. This teacher, who created the highly popular and successful "History 364: History of American Suburbia" has single-handedly motivated dozens of undergrads to either attend or consider attending planning school, and provided them with a new vocabulary to challenge those who insist that ugly, wasteful, intellectually and spiritually dead sprawl is in any way "American." Prof. Lassiter has has not yet achieved tenure, but is working on a book on the history of the sunbelt.

Posted by Rob at 3:33 PM

It's hard to keep up with the petty crime these days:

"Woman sees peeper in bedroom mirror

A man apparently climbed the fire escape of a home early Wednesday to peer into a bedroom at a woman as she was getting ready in the morning, Ann Arbor Police said.

The incident occurred at 8 a.m. in the 600 block of Catherine Street.

The woman said she was looking into a mirror when she noticed a man looking at her through the window, reports said.

She said she closed the blinds, and when she left, she saw the same man walking up a driveway across the street, reports said."

Stories of note:

> AANews: "Phone threats to U-M students investigated"
> AANews: "Affirmatve action ban battle is on"

Posted by Rob at 12:41 PM

"Minneapolis — Workers at Borders Books and Music in Uptown still don’t have a contract, but they sent management scrambling Wednesday when they said they’d accept Borders’ last contract offer ­ an offer the workers previously rejected. The catch? Borders would agree to neutrality and card-check recognition in union organizing attempts at seven other local Borders stores.

Borders’ management quickly recessed negotiations to make “What do we do now?” phone calls to corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., said Bernie Hesse, organizing director for UFCW Local 789, which represents the Uptown Borders workers.

It was the first time Uptown management didn’t immediately say “no” to a proposal from its workers, Hesse said. Nonetheless, about an hour later, store management returned ­and said “no.”

Workers at the Uptown Borders have been trying for more than a year to gain their first contract. It would be the first union contract at any Borders store nationwide. Workers at the flagship store in Ann Arbor ­ the only other unionized Borders ­ have been on strike since Nov. 8 in an attempt to get their first contract.

Hesse said the Uptown workers are willing to accept a contract they rejected if it makes it easier for other Borders’ workers to organize. A card-check neutrality agreement skips the usual National Labor Relations Board election process. Instead, a company agrees to allow union organizers access to its employees, agrees not to engage in union-busting meetings, and agrees to recognize the union as soon as a majority of affected workers sign cards requesting union representation. The union generally agrees not to carry on any public campaigns against the company. [...[ "

> From Workday Minnesota: "Borders workers give company offer a twist"

Posted by Rob at 12:18 PM

Are you one of "those" people?

Letter to the Daily today:

"A while back, Joel Hoard wrote a column venting his frustration at people who hand stuff out on the Diag (Is that a flyer in your hand? 11/13/03). The other day, I quartersheeted for an hour, and it really brought home the fact that that column couldn't have been more wrong.

The first person I talked to was an old friend who chanced to walk by. he took a flyer and said good-naturedly, "Oh, you're one of "those" now."

My initial response was an embarrassed shrug, but by the end of the hour I had reconsidered. The flyers I passed out were advertising for a worthy cause, and I felt I should be proud, rather than ashamed. And I was amazed at the friendly manners of the passers-by. The sheer number of people who said "Thank you" (or even "No, thank you"!) as I handed them sheets was incredible.

I realized that I normally don't mind getting flyers as I go by. Sure there are certain groups I avoid, but in general I like hearing about events and such around campus. So here's to quartersheeting - as another quartersheeter explained to me, "it's good karma!"

Chaim Schramm
LSA sophomore"

Posted by Rob at 3:19 AM

Every little bit of extra revenue helps, I guess.


St. Louis, MO (December 5, 2003) - According to traffic safety statistics from the federal government, teen drivers are among the highest-risk groups of drivers on the road but policy makers are directing not enough attention at them. However, thanks to the reporting of Meredith Franco Meyers in Ladies' Home Journal, the level of policy debate could be on the rise regarding what to do to help prevent accidents among new, inexperienced teen drivers.

Franco was named the winner today in Anheuser-Busch's fourth-annual Safe Driving Platform contest for professional journalists. A panel of judges selected her entry from news stories submitted by fellow journalists that focused on public policy solutions to better deal with these dangerous drivers.
As a result of being chosen as national winner, Franco has designated her alma mater, the Residential College at the University of Michigan, to receive a $5,000 grant to help students interested in a career in journalism or public policy. Franco graduated from the University of Michigan in 2000 and worked as a White House Intern and as assistant editor of Ladies' Home Journal. She is presently a free-lance magazine writer who lives in New York City with her husband, Tom. ... "

Posted by Rob at 3:06 AM

Part of the U.S.A. Patriot Act allows the Director of the FBI to ask a secret court for permission to seize or demand "any tangible thing" from any person or place in the U.S. as long as it's part of an "investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." What's wrong with this? According to the U.S. Constitution, searches must be based on "probable cause," and according to longstanding American jurisprudence be obtained by asking a judge for a warrant. The PATIOT Act requires neither the same legal standard, or the warrant. And admitting you've turned over any materials is itself a felony. The ACLU of Michigan has challeged this provision of the act, the first such challenge in the nation:

"DETROIT (AP) -- The USA Patriot Act gives federal agents unlimited and unconstitutional authority to secretly seize library reading lists and other personal records, civil liberties advocates told a judge Wednesday.

A U.S. district judge in Detroit heard arguments in the first legal challenge to part of the Patriot Act that lets agents obtain library reading lists, medical information and other personal records.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in July on behalf of the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor and five other nonprofit groups. The U.S. government asks that the case be dismissed, saying there is no basis for the plaintiffs' complaints since the provision being challenged has never been used.
The ACLU says its clients have already been hurt by the Patriot Act because fear of the law has kept many people from attending religious services and making charitable donations.

The Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor said in an affidavit that mosque attendance had dropped dramatically and that donations to the group are about half of what they were before 2001.

A member of the association, Homam Albaroudi, said few people want to take leadership roles since the Patriot Act and the organization has had difficulty filling offices.

"Two or three years ago, people competed to get offices," he said after the hearing."

> AP: "PATRIOT Act allows limitless secret searches, ACLU says"
> ACLU Press Release and Legal Filings

USA PATRIOT Act, Section 215:

" (a)(1) The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a designee of the Director (whose rank shall be no lower than Assistant Special Agent in Charge) may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution. ... "

U.S. Constitution, Amendment IV:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized"

And this, on the secret court known as "FISA":

" ... In weighing eavesdrop requests, the special court, which was created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and was recently expanded from to 11 members from 7, is responsible for enforcing provisions of the law that limit the sharing of electronic surveillance from intelligence or terrorism cases with criminal investigators; the limitations are intended to uphold the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

Because the standards of evidence required for electronic surveillance are much lower in many intelligence investigations than in criminal investigations, the authors of the law wanted to prevent the dissemination of intelligence information to criminal investigators or prosecutors. But in a number of cases, the court said, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department had made "erroneous statements" in eavesdropping applications about "the separation of the overlapping intelligence and criminal investigators and the unauthorized sharing of FISA information with F.B.I. criminal investigators and assistant U.S. attorneys." ...

> NYTimes: "Secret court says FBI misled judges in 75 cases"

Lest we forget, the FBI has a long history of domestic surveillance, harrassment, and occasionally assassination of a wide variety of radicals and dissidents in the U.S. in the COINTELPRO program and others, activities which have included the tapping of Martin Luther King's telephone, and the assassination of activist Fred Hampton.

Posted by Rob at 2:42 AM

Border Readers United, the community group supporting the striking Borders workers, has launched a new and improved website. The workers seem optimistic after negotiations with Borders' management this week:

"Dear Friends,

Monday was a milestone for striking workers at Borders in Ann Arbor. They returned to the bargaining table with Borders Inc. for the first time since the strike began (on November 8). Negotiations went somewhat better than expected. Borders Inc. was finally willing to discuss the actual contract with the union, which they had refused to do prior to the strike. However, Borders Inc. still offered no concrete proposal and the next earliest negotiation date the company would offer is almost two weeks away.

That Borders is finally willing to negotiate on the contract is no doubt due to the unity and perseverance of the strikers, but also to the tremendous support from local community members and supporters nationwide. Thank you to everyone who made calls on Monday and for everything you've done to publicize the Borders boycott! However, we need to step up the
pressure now more than ever. The next two weeks may be the most crucial period to let Borders know that they need to negotiate in good faith and respect the rights of workers to unionize.
[ ...]
Here is the calendar for the rest of the week:

THURSDAY: Dennis Kucinich will join the picket line at 12:30PM! Rally begins at 12. Thursday evening is costume/fun night at the line! Wear a wig, mask, feather boa or whatever wild thing you can find.

FRIDAY: Weekly rally at 5PM!

SATURDAY: Union (Christmas and otherwise) Carolling at 3pm in front of the store. Musicians, singers, and Santas welcome!!

SUNDAY: BRU meeting at 6PM at GEO office. Candlelight vigil at 7:30PM

Thanks again for your continued support!"

Posted by Rob at 1:57 AM

This film screening is tomorrow:

"Amnesty International is sponsoring a viewing of "Senorita Extraviada" a documentary on the murders rapes and domestic violence against women in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico.
The showing is in Room 126 in East Quad on Thursday December 4th.
The movie will begin at 7:00.
A discussion will follow.

Come and show your support for the women's rights movement and learn about the
tragic events going on in Ciudad Juarez."

Posted by Rob at 1:48 AM

This from the excellent Memory Hole:

"In May 2003, white supremacists in Texas were caught with a sodium cyanide bomb, other bombs, illegal weapons, hate literature, fake I.D., and chemicals, including hydrochloric acid and nitric acid. In mid-November, three people pleaded guilty to related charges, while seized documents indicate that there are other co-conspirators at large. The feds have served "hundreds of subpoenas across the country," and the plot has been included in he President's daily intelligence briefings. ... "

Have you heard about it in the news? Read more about the story.

Posted by Rob at 1:46 AM

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

This crime alert was issued today:


Date: December 2, 2003
Location: Various
Offense: Extortion
Summary: Two female victims received telephone calls from a male who claimed he was holding their parents hostage. In each case the caller made sexually explicit demands of the victim in exchange for not harming her parents. In another instance the mother of a student was contacted by telephone, told her daughter was being held hostage, and ordered to engage in activities in exchange for her daughter's safety.

Suspect: Male with an unknown foreign accent."

Posted by Rob at 3:52 PM

U-M Regent Olivia Maynard and her husband have given $2.25 million to the School of Social Work, where Maynard herself received a M.S.W. in 1971. According to the Ann Arbor News story, she is a "democrat" and is "currently president of The Michigan Prospect, a think tank that looks at state public policy issues such as charter schools and zero-tolerance laws." Her political donations in recent years includes repeated donations to Lynn Rivers, Debbie Stabenow, Carl Levin, even $1,000 to Walter Mondale in 2002.

Posted by Rob at 11:11 AM

As a reminder, here's a few more names of Michigamua members I was sent recently but haven't added to the main page yet. I only just now discovered a pleasant comment left for me anonymously after that post: "Don't you have anything else better to do. Seriously you need a life," writes a "John" who enters "Who the fuck cares" as his website URL. Perhaps he's right and nobody does care, but if that's the case I wonder why he seems angry!

Posted by Rob at 3:46 AM

" ... [Melissa Lopez] Pope said she and others have stepped forward over the years to protest the group’s stereotypical use of drums, loincloths, headdresses and the taking on of "Indian names."

Native American students and Michigamua members have gone to the negotiating table multiple times to discuss these improprieties, Pope said, but Michigamua violated agreements. While she said they no longer hold offensive initiation rituals on the Diag, issues such as the name of the group still remain.

"It got to a point where it was made very clear that what they would never give up was their name," she said, referring to past conversations with members of Michigamua. Many Native Americans see the group’s name as disrespectful and as just another "pseudo-relation" to the culture, Pope said.

She said she was committed to trying to change the environment for future Native American students, and to increasing the Native American presence on campus.

Discussion between audience members arose following her speech — passionate words from students opposed to Michagamua as well as from three Michigamua members, who said they attended the event out of curiosity and interest.

Confronted with accusations about his group, LSA senior and Michigamua member Sean Carmody stood up in the back of the Angell Hall auditorium to voice his opinion.

"We're here for one thing, to fight like hell for Michigan through Michigamua. It’s about us working together through our organizations to improve this University to the best of our ability," he said.

While Carmody recognized that there are some people who are still upset with past events, he said the organization looks to the future while remembering its history.

"I just want it to come across, the truth, that we’re not a racist organization," he said. "We don’t want this stigma to be a part of our organization 20 years from now."

Another Michigamua member, who would not give his name, told the crowd of more than 50 people that Michigamua practices have changed. While he doesn’t feel the group’s name should change, he said Michigamua is involved in a different kind of pursuit.

"I don’t dismiss what happened but I am taking the stance that this happened and that things have changed," he said. "We're moving in a different direction, and I want to be part of that moving in a different direction, I want to be part of that movement." ... "

> Daily: "Secret society bashed for use of Native American traditions"
> Michigamua Information Page

Posted by Rob at 3:41 AM

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


"*Interested in non-violence and social justice??
*Sick of "Politics as Usual??"
*Want to provide the American public with a REAL choice come November???
*Want to get BUSH out of OFFICE???
Come see Presidential Candidate
Dennis Kucinich!!!!!

THIS Thursday, December 4th
11:30 am - 1:00 pm
Michigan League Room D (third floor)

**Introduction by Steps for Peace Walkers!
**Dennis Speaks and Q&A followed by a rally at Borders to support local labor!"

Posted by Rob at 10:49 PM

The ACLU is alarmed about an FBI memo they've obtained that suggests law enforcement officials should report peaceful protestors to the FBI as terrorists if they break any law: "Law enforcement agencies should be alert to these posible indicators of protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts to the nearest FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force." Meanwhile, the AAPD is a member of the Detroit Joint Terroism Task Force, and although I can't seem to find the link, I remember recieved money from the federal government for their help fighting "terror."

> ACLU Action Alert: Oppose Government Surveillance of Peaceful Protesters
> The FBI Memo

Reminds me of this quote:

"In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possibe, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist."

Posted by Rob at 10:10 PM

The youngest daughter of John Kerry, Vanessa Kerry, a student at Harvard Medical School, will be in Ann Arbor Thursday leading a discussion on "health care and public health" at 1:30 PM in MSA Chambers in the Michigan Union: "Thursday will be an excellent opportunity for student leaders in Ann Arbor to learn about John Kerry's run for the White House and the future of health policy in America." Serious politicos will have to plan their time well: Dennis Kucinich will be speaking near the Diag at 12:00 and then walking the Borders Picket Line.

Posted by Rob at 9:46 PM

Here's a few break-ins:

"2100 block of Pauline Boulevard, 11:45 p.m. Sunday. Entry to unlocked garage; bicycle valued at $300 taken.

100 block of South Fourth Avenue, 10:41 p.m. Sunday. Unknown method of entry; comforter, coins and medical records taken. Total value: $90.

2100 block of Pauline Boulevard, 12:30 a.m. Sunday. Entry through sliding door on balcony; laptop computer and video game unit taken. Total value: $960.

2900 block of Birch Hollow Drive, 8:51 p.m. Saturday. Front door kicked in; Sony PlayStation II, CDs, DVDs, Xbox and safe taken. Total value: $4,220.

100 block of North Revena Boulevard, 7 a.m. Monday. Entry through unlocked back window; foreign coins, a watch and change taken. Total value: $1,300.

600 block of East University Avenue, 4:39 p.m. Monday. Entry gained through open window; Sony PlayStation II, CD players, a DVD, camera, tripod, computer, coats, a cordless phone, PDA, tool box and stereo taken. Total value: $2,650.

900 block of South Forest Avenue, 1:17 p.m. Monday. Window screen ripped and entry gained through open window; laptop computer valued at $1,500 taken."

Posted by Rob at 9:27 PM

Pedestrians Have Rights Too

The city council has decided to think some more about installing a traffic light on Plymouth Road, although many community leaders "have been lobbying for a traffic light at the intersection near the Islamic Center since 1988." Let me repeat it again: roads are public spaces created for everyone to use to travel no matter whether on foot, on a bicycle, or in a bus or automobile, or other means. (Perhaps petal-driven taxis or Segways) Successful roads must meet the needs of all of their users, and yes, that sometimes means each must compromise, and it also sometimes means they must be equipped with sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks.

"There is one number that should loom larger than the traffic numbers and that is the number three, for the three people who lost their lives at the intersection," she said.

In addition to the two students, a patient from the University Geriatrics Center was killed at the intersection in April 2002 while crossing to get to the bus stop."

> From Daily: "Council opts for more analysis of traffic at deadly intersection"
> See also AANews: "Muslims fret city will renege on traffic light"

Posted by Rob at 9:21 PM

The Making of "Objectivity"

Yesterday, I received a call from Michigan Daily reporter Amy Kim, who was working on a story about MSA's AirBus service. Having used the service this past Thanksgiving break, the reporter asked me about how my experience was, and I explained that there were no problems, and I was always impressed with the professional organization of the bus service. I then proceeded to tell her I thought the cost of airport transportation without Airbus was extravagant, and explain although I was glad that student government provided the service, it was something the University should operate, year-round. With prospective students, visiting scholars, conference attendees, and many others constantly coming and leaving from Ann Arbor, I'm sure a regularly scheduled airport shuttle - whether operated by the AATA or the University's transportation department - was needed. The reporter then asked me if there were any problems with the service, and if I knew anyone who had a "bad experience."

Of everything I told her, what made it into the paper? Not my complaints about how taxi cab fares are "extortion." Not my suggestion that the University operate airport transportation year-round. And not even very much of what I actually said: the reporter clearly intended to do a story about the "problems" of Airbus, no matter what her interviewees told her. When I worked as a reporter, I always tried to balance the approach I was taking with a story with what people were telling me: if the story seemed to change as I worked on it, I modified my focus accordingly. To insist the story fit your rigid, preconceived mold is a disservice to both the people you interview, and the reading public.

> Daily: "Airbus overflows during holiday"

Posted by Rob at 11:29 AM

The campaign to re-elect President Bush has put a short video of the kick-off event for Students for Bush that was held during the Michigan / Ohio State game on their website.

Posted by Rob at 12:55 AM

Got a free speech zone? No, it's not the whole country, only about a half a mile from where anyone will hear or see you. If there's a protest in the middle of the woods ...

Posted by Rob at 12:15 AM

Monday, December 01, 2003

Wondering why the city is littered with so many Wall Street Journals? Yes, it might be because the residents are too lazy to read them, but it also could be because the folks at WSJ refuse to cancel subscriptions:

"In a pile in front of the Viscount apartment complex on Geddes Avenue were papers with addresses for Norway Road, Austin Avenue, Wilmot Avenue and Woodside Street. None of the papers had the address of the Geddes residence.

"All these papers in front of the house are from people who lived here two years ago. We called to cancel them, but they wouldn't." Jim Dinner said. Other students interviewed were also receiving the previous residents' subscriptions."

> Daily: "Student Subscriptions result in yards littered with unread papers"

Also, the Daily explores the animosity between students from the "East Coast" and the "Midwest," in "Snobs vs. Slobs," a story that overall seems to reinforce existing stereotypes, however unfounded they might be. It also occurs to me that much more prevalent and dangerous stereotypes exist on campus - those associated with ethnicities. The part of their story which seems most interesting analyzes stereotypes which exist for Jewish students. A serious, in-depth treatment of relations within and between various ethic groups on campus would seem to me a good story to write - and the Program on Intergroup Relations might be a good place to start - a very popular and successful program which, according to a quick search of the Daily archives, hasn't been discussed in print very much in that newspaper.

Posted by Rob at 8:19 PM

I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered over 100 bands had collaborated on a youth voter mobilization effort called Even more surprising: that website's blog yesterday featured detailed information about higher-education funding bills being considered by congress, and bashes Bush for cutting overtime pay for over 600,000 middle-class American workers. [While his friend, millionaire, and corporate criminal Ken Lay remains free, rich, and uncharged of any crime.] Here's an excerpt from their FAQ:

"The progressive principals that parallel the punk movements' guiding strength drive Punkvoter. This is the time for the punk scene to unite around issues we all care about and that we have all sung about. We must all stand together as one voice in shaping the future of our country. This is not about who is a sellout, who is too hardcore or who is from the west coast, etc …This is about getting everyone to mobilize as a block of concerned voters. Punk bands, punk labels, and punk fans must form a union against the chaotic policies George W. Bush has put in place. He must be exposed.

Even amongst this coalition of free thinkers, we may not agree on every issue. Nonetheless, we are united around these four basic principals and feel it is time to stand together in questioning our current administration's policies

Music has always been ahead of societal change and a major influence on both the culture and the politics of the day. Punk rock is about taking an in-your-face attitude in order to rebel against the problems of our society. Its time to engage the punk rock spirit into todayÂ’s political battles.

Remember, some of punk's greatest inventors back lashed against the norms of their society. Punk rock has clearly broken down the prudish undercurrents of many Puritanical yet supposedly "modern" governments. Punk bands like the Sex Pistols, MC5, The Clash, Subhumans, Minor Threat, Crass, and Propagandhi have all been a voice for the working class and other minorities in times of strife. Punk musicians have never been afraid to speak out on such topics as drug abuse, suicide, and forms of discrimination such as sexism and racism. In addition, small bands have been local voices for their communities' grassroots concerns. From benefit concerts (California's NOFX, Green Day), to running shelters (DC's Fugazi and Positive Force) punks have always preached social change. Even though punk's diversity spans the political spectrum from the far right to the far left (and even includes those that advocate for the complete breakdown of government as we know it), punk has always preached in the hopes of making change a reality."

Posted by Rob at 3:16 PM

This is a busy time of year: here are a couple more events of interest this week: Tomorrow, U.S. Rep. John Dingell will be hosting a "community forum" in the Michigan Union from 6-7:30 in the Pendleton Room of the Michigan Union. Mayor Heiftje will introduce Dingell and make some brief remarks.

Also, I've heard Dennis Kucinich is planning to visit Ann Arbor Thursday. While all his plans haven't been announced, I've heard tentatively he will speak at a rally near the Diag at 12:00 PM and walk the Borders picket line.

Posted by Rob at 2:23 PM

Here's a couple editorials about last week's landmark MIP decision, however neither note the ACLU brought the case.

> Daily: "Search and seize reasonably"
> Det. News: "Stick to Bill of Rights in Fighting Underage Drinking"

Also, here's The Court's Decision (PDF)

Posted by Rob at 12:19 PM

When you only have one side of the story, it's difficult to determine exactly what happened:

"Pedestrian says he punched panhandler

An Ann Arbor man said a panhandler rushed him Sunday night after he told the man he had only $1 to spare, so he punched the panhandler in the face to avoid being attacked, city police said.

The 39-year-old man said he was walking in the 700 block of South Main Street at 11:15 p.m. when a man sitting on a window sill asked him for money, reports said. He said he had $1 and was retrieving it from his pocket when the panhandler became angry and rushed toward him, reports said.

The man said he was fearful that he was about to be robbed or attacked, so he punched the panhandler in the face, reports said. Both men fled, and the panhandler was not located."

Posted by Rob at 12:12 PM

This lecture at the Detroit Observatory sounds interesting, the Bentley recently acquired a number of materials related to Mr. Kahn:

"Albert Kahn subject of talk

Renowned architect Albert Kahn is the focus of a talk Tuesday at the University of Michigan Detroit Observatory, 1398 E. Ann St. Sally Bund, assistant archivist of architectural collections at the Bentley Historical Library, speaks on "Albert Kahn, Master of American Industrial Architecture." Kahn, who established an architectural firm in 1895 in Detroit, implemented Henry Ford's vision of an assembly line at plants in Highland Park and River Rouge. He also designed buildings such as Hill Auditorium and the William L. Clements Library on the main U-M campus, as well as the Fisher Building and the General Motors Building.

The talk is at 3 p.m. and is free."

Posted by Rob at 12:09 PM

This event is tonight:


Monday, December 1, 7:00pm
Michigan Union
Kuenzel Room

A presentation by the tribal leaders of the Whitefish River Ojibwe community regarding the struggle for the repatriation of the remains of their ancestors that were illegally excavated in the early 20th century and remain in the hands of the University of Michigan."

Posted by Rob at 11:28 AM

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