Friday, July 26, 2013


If there’s an epitome for failure, it’s summed up in one word – Detroit. 

My birthplace’s tragic Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing could likely have
been avoided had its leaders worked to modernize the city and reversed
its many disturbing trends over the last 50 years.

No matter where you fall on Detroit’s woes – black or white, rich or
poor, cityemployee or private sector worker, Republican or
Democrat – you cannot be surprised it hit rock bottom. 

It was just a matter of time.

More than 60 years ago, Detroit boasted a population of nearly 2
million people; today it’s down to just over 700,000, with some
estimates saying the population drop continues.

As the Kresge Foundation reports, the city’s financial recipe led
it to this harrowing state:  Over the years, it cut services and borrowed
to pay off its previous debts, which are estimated to be about $16 billion
today; meanwhile, it’s tax base, which always consists of people, 
fled, meaning it didn’t have the revenue to cover its costs
or its borrowing expenses.

But Detroit’s calamities are so much more. 

They also include a former mayor jailed for a number of crimes,
including racketeering; the ones prior to him were simply incapable
managers, failing to reverse trends that ultimately put the city in
the tank. 

There are enough abandoned buildings in Detroit to form three or
four mid-size cities and about 80,000 abandoned homes, the Daily
Beast reports.

While it’s always easy to blame any city’s leaders for poor
performance, which, in this case, they rightly deserve, you cannot
blame them alone.

Detroit’s private sector, especially its automobile companies, which
long called it home, must be examined too.  They give every
impression of having thrown in the towel years ago.

The long-suspected rumors about the Big Three auto companies never
supporting a commuter rail system for Detroit and its neighboring 
suburbs, which would have helped draw people into the city, giving
it a chance to grow, are disturbing if true. 

But perhaps instead of killing the idea outright, the Big Three just
stopped putting effort behind the idea. 

The mayor, David Bing, a Hall of Fame basketball star, is third or
fourth in line when it comes to running Detroit, behind the emergency
manager charged with putting the city’s books back in order, the judge
overseeing its bankruptcy, and the creditors, not to mention U.S. 
bankruptcy law, which will loom large as Detroit’s finances are restored.

Anyone thinking nothing – at least with the city’s pensions – won’t 
change, better think again.  There are no sacred cows in bankruptcy. 
Everything will be scrutinized.

When I was hawking columns, comics, puzzles in the ‘90s, I visited
Detroit often, sometimes as much as four or five times a year. 
The crime never hit me personally, but it was more than apparent
the city was failing.

When editors in Michigan asked where I was based, I answered

“Oh, Chicago,” they would say, “that’s what Detroit use to be.”

(Chicago’s current ills are for another blog post.)

Detroit’s leaders, whether in the public or private sector, former
or current, should hold their collective heads in shame.

They ruined a great American city, once described as “The Arsenal
of Democracy” by the late President Franklin Roosevelt during
World War II.

FDR’s words offer a stark lesson:  We’re a democracy, meaning our
votes and our actions determine whether our communities, towns,
cities, states and, ultimately, our country, go forward.

If the people of Michigan and Detroit are looking for someone to
blame for this tragedy, they need only look at the first person they
see each morning in the mirror – themselves.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

A different twist

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – The newest social networking website comes with a whole new twist: Instead of encouraging its members to connect with friends and professional acquaintances, this one wants people to round up folks they may never have considered – their enemies.

“,” funded by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Alliance Capital, claims more than 10,000 members and another 1,000,000 enemies.

“Unlike your average LinkedIn member, or Facebook friend, our members aren’t full of shit,” said James Lee, the 24-year-old chief executive officer of LinkedIn was one of the first companies to establish itself in the social networking space.

“The average member of our site has around 100 enemies and they hate each and every one of them – with a passion,” said Lee.

“Let’s face it, no one who connects with someone on LinkedIn or any of those other social sites really wants to be someone’s friend,” said Lee. “It’s just a place for frenemies.

“Our members are honest. If they say they hate you, they really hate you,” Lee added.

Lee, who started during his freshman year at Stanford University, says that members of his site just list their enemies.

“There’s none of this BS like asking for permission to be someone’s enemy. Our members just list their enemies and that’s it. They’re done!”

Members can view one another’s enemy list, Lee said, to make sure they’re hating “the right people.”

“If you and another member have someone you hate in common, that’s even better,” said Lee.

When told that his site sounded like another version of President Richard Nixon’s enemy list, Lee, looking confused, asked, “What was he president of?”

Members of are encouraged to increase their enemies list as fast as possible.

“The member listing the most enemies any given week can win prizes, trips – even a car,” said’s membership vice president Toby Benwick.

Perfect people to list as enemies, Lee said, include “anyone who ever dissed you or anyone you refer to as ‘ex’. That could be an ex-girlfriend, wife, husband, boyfriend, lover, employee.

“Bosses are always good,” he added.

Members are encouraged, Lee said, to post pictures and video clips of the people they hate.

“Our staff always does a round of high fives if a member’s enemy dies,” said Benwick. “That’s just the coolest.”

Unlike Facebook, which has a “like” button people can click when their friends post something, at FuckYou-IHateYou.dom, there’s a button marked “BS”.

Membership to the website is free. Sponsors for it include divorce attorneys and various hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. Not to be outdone, the Nation of Islam is considering what Benwick describes as a “huge” sponsorship opportunity on the site.

Lee says he’s also heard from the Tea Party as well as groups identifying themselves as politically progressive.

“We’re bipartisan in our hatred,” he said.

Not to be outdone by a certain leading executive at a leading social networking website,’s CEO Lee announced that he, too, just signed a deal with Random House to write a book.

It’s entitled “Stop #@$%& Leaning on Me:  Get a Life, Damnit!!!!”

Details are being finalized, Benwick said, for some of the site’s members and their selected enemies to make special appearances on various daytime television talk shows.

“We look forward to our first smack down with the people,” Jerry Springer said through a spokesman for his television show.