“Democracy is the worship of jackals by jackasses.” – H.L. Mencken

Ooh scandal! A Miller Canfield lawyer from Mayor Bing’s crackerjack turnaround team was indicted with the Highwaymen last week. Outlaw bikers, like la cosa nostra, are a grand mythopoetic symbol of the outlaw culture. They capture our imagination but when was the last time you actually crossed paths with a one-percenter motorcycle club? Sometimes trouble finds you but the trouble allegedly caused by one-percenters? You have to seek that out.

Meanwhile the real criminals, who cause trouble whether you’re looking for it or not, went work at city hall. Business as usual. Convicted felon Charlie Beckham is back in a seat of power. Norman White will mismanage the books just like he did for Team Kilpatrick. Freman Hendrix even went on tv explaining away Highwaymen associate Tim Attalla’s involvement with Team Bing. The guy just volunteered…it’s crazy.

Maybe Henry Hill can volunteer to take Attalla’s place. Or better yet, Tony Soave. Dave Bing probably doesn’t care about highjacking Lufthansa but a transportation monopoly highjacking Metro Airport travelers? He’ll want to be persuaded into supporting that. Consolidating the city’s towing contracts as well.

With less than a week on the job, Dave Bing’s has betrayed his outsider/businessman credentials. As if they were ever legitimate. In most cities, businesses produce goods and services for the marketplace while government maintains order and paves the streets. Detroit is different. City government is the city’s largest employer and the city’s largest landowner. With the possible exception of the Big Three, name one significant local corporation that doesn’t require government patronage to stay in business? The business of Detroit is government.

No one should be surprised that a businessman-turned-mayor operates just like the “regular” politicians. It is oxymoronic to describe someone in Detroit as both a businessman and an outsider to local politics. Business in this town has relied on and supported these “regular” politicians for the last half-century.

It would be easy to call this arrangement socialism but that isn’t a complete description. To be sure many a Detroit politician came to power spouting mangled Marxism. The Shrine of the Black Madonna made a religion of it. But socialism involves government actually producing something (however dubious) of value. The Yugo was a shitty car but it got you from Point A to Point B, at least for the first 15,000 miles or until it encountered high winds on the Mackinac Bridge (whichever came first).

The synergy between Detroit’s government and business community produces nothing of value except maybe an incinerator. Also a combined DPS-city deficit of $600,000,000. Say what you will about Fulgencio Batista but at least his casinos operated in the black. Detroit can’t even do that right.

Detroit is on an island of its own making. No one denies that the city’s political class is a corrupt dump truck of fail. It’s folly to expect that same business community that, through the Regional Chamber endorsed Monica Conyers in 2005, to be the savior. Half of what’s left of the city’s population is either living below the poverty line or functionally illiterate or both. It’s hard to imagine a true people’s revolution arising from Detroit’s masses. Those sorts of things never really work out anyway. People may wear their Che t-shirts but no one floats from Miami to Cuba on an old wooden door.

Someone needs to step up and offer something different and better. Detroit cannot last much longer if bail bondsmen on Woodward are considered progress. Perhaps the best parallel for Detroit, and a model of hope, is Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution. One absurdist playwright and a bunch of Eastern European Lou Reed fans don’t look like much of a revolutionary movement but Vaclav Havel and his merry band of hipsters managed to topple a Soviet puppet state and build a functioning government.

Of course, the Czechs and the Slovaks didn’t waste their days drinking PBR and contemplating the irony of Sally Jesse Raphael eyeglasses. Prague Spring, Charter 77, and the Velvet Revolution itself were carefully planned, brilliantly orchestrated campaigns against agents of a superpower. Detroit’s fledgling artistic and entrepreneurial scenes could become that kind of agent for real change in Detroit. That is provided they aren’t co-opted by the kleptocracy’s Creative Class panel discussions or their own fascination with ghetto chic and fabulous ruins.

Kleptocracy is over…if you want it.

Categories : Jackals & Jackasses



Socialism also requires workers’ democratic control of industry, so we’re a bit far from that. But with the semi-recent Republic Windows and Doors strike and victory, strikes going on in the slums of Ireland and Iraq – I would hardly discount a revolution on our side of the third world.


Well I will be hanging by my thumbs waiting for the Peoples Glorious Revolution of Detroit. The Great Purges should be fun too.

Ah the shining path of the Trumbullplex!


Our fledgling artistic and entrepreneurial scenes couldn’t even keep Mercury Coffee Bar open for more than a few weeks, let alone stage a revolution. I still hope we can bring down the kleptocracy, but that would need extraordinary leadership.


@Paul: The owners’ own stupidity, arrogance and complete misunderstanding of the neighborhood is what doomed Mercury. Eight bucks for an anemic Panini? Next to Michigan Central? Riiiiiiight…

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