Cover Story2008's Most Dubious
For a brief and delusional moment, we actually entertained the fleeting thought of offering our annual Dubious Achievement awards without having ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as the feature's centerpiece.
Maybe it was the result of extreme Kwamster fatigue.
But the thought passed quickly, like a flash fever, and we soon regained our senses. Like his oversized physical presence, the dubiousness of KK during this past year was of such epic proportions it just couldn't be ignored. In fact, we decided, just the opposite was true. To adequately recognize his negative accomplishments, the only proper action would be to establish a Dubious Achievement Hall of Fame, with Kwame Malik Kilpatrick holding the dishonor of being named our inaugural inductee.
Just think how proud all will be when we hoist that size triple-XL orange jumpsuit with Inmate No. 200834589 emblazoned across its broad back to the rafters of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.
Congratulations, Kwame. You earned it.
Here are just a few of the reasons why:
State of disgrace
What may well be the lowest of low points came in March, after the publication of text messages that showed Kilpatrick and Chief of Staff Christine Beatty had lied under oath about the firing of Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown — whose whistleblower lawsuit would prove to be the foundation of Mayor X's undoing. The steamy text messages also proved Kilpatrick and Beatty had perjured themselves when asked if they were having an affair. They lied and said no. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, KK continued to deny, deny, deny. And, like a battered boxer on the ropes, he dropped the gloves and pulled out a switchblade in a desperate attempt to save himself.
Instead of accepting responsibility for actions that had cost the city millions of dollars, KK lashed out at "unethical" media for illegally fomenting a "lynch-mob" mentality, going so far as to endanger his family all for the sake of Nielsen ratings. It was, in the words of one columnist, a "madman's tirade."
State of disgrace, Pt. II
As part of what will go down as perhaps the most dubious speech ever given by a Detroit politician, Kilpatrick used that televised State of the City platform to declare: "In the past 30 days, I've been called a nigger more than any time in my entire life. In the past three days I have received more death threats than I have in my entire administration." By that point we had come to suspect that Kilpatrick was a pathological liar, and that no falsehood was too outrageous to utter. So we filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for some proof of those claims. Surely, if the mayor's life had been threatened multiple times, there would have been records and police investigations. But no such evidence was ever produced.
State of denial
As Kilpatrick fueled the fires of racism and division, many of this area's business and civic leaders maintained a place safely on the sidelines. Instead of screaming for KK's resignation, supporters like businessman and auto racing legend Roger Penske and the Rev. Wendell Anthony, head of the Detroit NAACP, were AWOL; local legislators were largely the same, as were the leaders of New Detroit, an organization founded in the 1960s with the purpose of helping to bridge this area's racial divide. Instead, they watched silently as Kilpatrick stacked dynamite on those bridges and then lit the fuse.
Like father, like son?
Young Kwame's legal issues weren't the only problems being faced by the Kilpatrick family this year. In August, it was revealed that the mayor's father, Bernard Kilpatrick, was under FBI investigation for his possible connection to at least two cases, "both stemming from a wide-ranging federal probe that is focused on suspected cases of bribery, kickbacks and other potentially illegal acts," according to a story published in the Free Press. Among the things the FBI was trying to determine was whether Daddy K. was passing illegal kickbacks along to sonny.
Histrionics and (mistaken) history
Sharon McPhail, the former political foe recruited to be Don Kwame's taxpayer-funded consigliere, pulled out all the rhetorical stops in an attempt to persuade a slow-acting Gov. Jennifer Granholm to further delay removal hearings that could force Kilpatrick from office.
"From the wrongful charges leveled at the Rosenbergs in 1953 to the more recent release of wrongfully charged and convicted death row prisoners in Illinois, it is clear that officials sworn to uphold the law will use their power to persecute, and prosecute, without regard to the law," argued McPhail. "This is such a case.
There was just only one tiny problem with invoking the names of '50s-era lefty martyrs Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in an attempt to make the case that the Kwamster, like them, was the innocent victim of a political witch hunt: In spite of the prosecutorial excesses, there is now overwhelming evidence that Julius Rosenberg was indeed spying for the Soviets and Ethel knew as much.
To his credit, though, no one has (yet) accused KK of being a secret agent for the Ruskies.
Love & humiliation
As with the race card, Kilpatrick has always been quick to turn to God for PR help during troubled times. And so, after the incriminating text messages were published in the Free Press, he took wife Carlita in tow and went to church — where he offered a heartfelt, televised apology. Problem was, he never said exactly what it was he had done wrong. It was all beautifully vague, with Carlita sitting stone-faced beside him.
What is it about philandering politicians and their penchant for having humiliated wives stand at their sides as they tearfully beg for forgiveness once they've been caught cheating, and what is it about the humiliated wives of philandering politicians that causes them to go along?
When push comes to shove
It wasn't only the obstruction and perjury that landed Kwame in the clink. Not exactly what you'd call a strict law and order kind of mayor, Kilpatrick, already on probation for a bond violation, was also accused of assaulting a police officer who was attempting to serve a subpoena on Kilpatrick's close friend and fellow felon, businessman Bobby Ferguson. Kilpatrick eventually pleaded "no contest" to that charge.
Hell hath no fury ...
With pressure mounting and evidence against him building, Kilpatrick, facing multiple counts of perjury and the possibility of spending decades in prison, official misconduct and obstruction of justice, boldly claimed that Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy's case was "going to hell quickly." Kilpatrick also claimed that Worthy, one of the few who showed both guts and determination during this whole sorry debacle, was also "on the verge of committing some real prosecutorial misconduct."
He also played the race card yet again, saying of Worthy during a news conference: "Her hope is that the racism of this region will convict me instead of the issues of the law and justice.
Kilpatrick, as we now know, eventually pleaded guilty to two counts related to the perjury charges. Hell, as it turns out, really is a place of our own making.
Liar, liar, Detroit on fire
Throughout his six years in office, Mayor X has always maintained that he's been a responsible guardian of the Detroit's finances, and was working diligently to keep the city's budget in balance. Recently, it has been impossible to verify those claims because mandatory audits weren't being completed. It is taking the replacement administration time to sort through the tangled books, but as best new Chief Financial Officer Joseph Harris recently reported, it is now feared that the city might be as much as $300 million in the hole.
As the holiday season comes to an end, it is probably appropriate to think of Kwame Kilpatrick as the gift that keeps on taking.
Repentance is for suckahs
After pleading guilty to two obstruction counts and no contest to the charge of assaulting an officer, Kilpatrick took to the airwaves again to tell the world how he was feeling. Among those amazed by the response was Wayne County Circuit Judge David Groner, who made note of the speech while handing down his sentence — which included paying the city of Detroit $1 million in restitution: "Ultimately what shocked this court and much of the community was your press conference after your plea hearing. That night, the community expected to hear a message of humility, remorse and apology. Instead, we heard an arrogant and defiant man who accused the governor, among others, for his downfall."
That speech's most chilling line?
"Detroit, you done set me up for a comeback."
NUGE VS. DETROIT
...and vs. the Big Three, UAW, a hapless rabbit, etc.
It may seem like overkill to pick on "Terrible" Ted Nugent again this year — but, damn, the self-professed "Motor City Madman" just can't keep his mouth shut, especially when it comes to the city that gave him his nickname, his image and his first taste of fame.
The aging rock star did have an eventful year, presenting his 600th show on his 50th tour at Pine Knob/DTE Energy Music Theater last summer, only months after debuting a new song, "I AM THE NRA" (he insists on ALL CAPS for the title) at the NRA convention. With lyrics like "If you hate tyrants and dictators and are ready to give freedom a whirl/Celebrate the NRA and the shot heard round the world," we're imagining Dylan was shaking in his boots. Ted also found time to appear in a movie, Beer for My Horses, with Toby Keith, during which he shocked the entire crew by gutting an unfortunate rabbit that had made its way onto the set. The Nuge also delivered a new book, Ted, White & Blue: The Nugent Manifesto, via strident right-wing publisher, Regnery Publishing. The book, described as "16 chapters on how to fix America," not only hit No. 8 on the New York Times best-seller list but got added exposure when Nugent sent the first autographed copy to Sarah Palin. "As a proud fellow American hunter, fisherman and lover of Alaska's soul cleansing magnificent Spirit of the Wild, we who live our American Dream by God, truth, logic, goodwill and decency, thank you for bringing such defiant common sense and self evident truth back to the GOP and politics," he wrote to the politician whose IQ seemed to match the groupies Ted once attracted.
The Detroit News actually ran a few editorials by this crank this year ... and yet the Motor City Madman has recently said things about our city that make Jack White sound like Detroit's biggest fan in comparison. During a Glenn Beck interview, Nugent described Detroit as "a scab" on the state of Michigan," and then made similar comments on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes program when asked about Barack Obama (a man Nugent once suggested "suck on the barrel" of his gun before referring to him as "a piece of shit").
"Well, you know, I come from the good — the once great city of Detroit and the great, great state of Michigan," said the famous draft-dodger. "If America wants this country to smell and conduct themselves and be this huge sucking sound like Detroit has become, then by all means vote another Democrat in, because Detroit and Michigan is a case study in liberal Democrat policies being forced upon a once great state." (You can read the entire tirade at tinyurl.com/8cdyjb.) Finally, the Nuge recently condemned the UAW and called for the government to not bail out the Big Three in an editorial on humanevents.com (tinyurl.com/98q7b3) entitled "Bankruptcy Now or Later?" In other words, like most dogmatic GOP morons, the Motor City Madman is rabidly anti-union and against the working man ... after building his career as a Detroit common man.
"While the UAW may believe GM, Ford and Chrysler are in business to provide automotive workers a salary and other costly benefits," he writes, "the reality is that car companies are in business to make a profit. Period. Write that down."
Dubious. Dubious. Dubious. —Bill Holdship
Thanks to Ken Hreha and George Smith
From dumb crooks to dumb auto execs
Born to strum and slack off
Republican U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia probably rates a Dubious Achievement just for being lead guitarist in a congressional rock-and-country band known as the Second Amendments. The way we see it, better a bullet to the head than listening to them ruin "Born to Run." But what really elevated the guy some call "Mad Thad" to DA status is a Michigan Messenger investigation revealing that "in two years of membership on the House Financial Services Committee, McCotter failed to attend a single committee or subcommittee hearing on topics directly related to the current financial crisis." The website went on to report that, although he was largely missing in action when it came to staying ahead of the curve in regard to this country's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Thad had time to sponsor resolutions "supporting National Dog Bite Prevention Week and the pope's visit to the United States ..." He also sponsored a resolution "to wish hockey star Gordie Howe a happy birthday and submitted a bill to prohibit all government employees from attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics."
Hey, we all have to prioritize.
Native son's company muck
It hasn't been a great year at the guns-for-hire corporation Blackwater, founded by native Michigander Erik Prince — brother of former Michigan Republican Party Chair Betsy DeVos and brother-in-law of former gubernatorial candidate and Amway honcho Dick DeVos. In July, the company was voted America's "most abusive corporation" in a contest held by Corporate Accountability International, a public-interest nonprofit organization that takes what it considers to be bad corporations to task. Blackwater captured this year's top dishonors by "killing unarmed Iraqi civilians, hiring paramilitaries trained under military dictatorships, and using its close political and financial ties with the Bush Administration to secure lucrative contracts." To top things off, the U.S. Justice Department in December unsealed its case against five Blackwater mercenaries accused of taking part in a 2007 incident that The New York Times said left "17 unsuspecting Iraqi civilians dead at a busy Baghdad traffic circle." A sixth Blackwater employee has "described how he and the other guards used automatic rifles and grenade launchers to fire on cars, houses, a traffic officer and a girls' school."
Forget Hell, you're going to Detroit
Among the refuse that came spilling out of a federal raid on the offices of Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch — a Bush appointee who used to oversee protection of federal whistle-blowers until he was forced to resign by the White House — was this tidbit reported by NPR:
"One of Bloch's first official actions was to refuse to investigate any claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation. When news of his refusal was leaked to the press, career employees in his office say, Bloch blamed them for the leak. In an attempt to punish staffers considered disloyal, Bloch attempted to transfer a dozen of them to an office he sought to create in Detroit, giving them a choice to either accept the horrid assignment or resign."
Detroit is Hell, Part II
The headline in The Sunday Times of London pretty much told the whole story: "America's darkest fear: to end up like Detroit." The article went on to explain that a three-bedroom home at 8111 Traverse St. made news "around the world" when it sold for $1 last summer. It's all part of life in a city reporter Tony Allen-Mills described as "the Motown that lost its mojo."
"The house on Traverse Street tells part of the story of a decline so dizzying that other cities around America have begun to talk fearfully of 'Detroitification,' a seemingly irreversible condition of urban despair that slowly takes grip of once-flourishing communities and strips them of value and life," continued Allen-Mills. "For much of the world it might seem unthinkable that a house in a large American city could be sold for a single dollar, but the shocking reality of Detroit's urban implosion is that there are tens of thousands such homes in varying states of calamitous disrepair, with no hope of finding buyers." All of which simply proves the person who declared, "there's no such thing as bad publicity" didn't know what the fuck he was talking about.
Sorry, really wrong number
The number in question being 14 — as in 14 years old. Which happened to be the age of the Pinckney girl who used her cell phone to take about 20 nude and lewd photos and two revealing 30-second videos. She then sent the pics to two lucky boys, who forwarded them to a couple hundred of their closest pals. Oops. Kids were suspended from school and authorities called. Fortunately the Livingston County prosecutor had enough good sense not to charge any of the minors involved with trafficking in child porn. An inmate in a New York prison did earn an A for effort (as well as a P for perversity) after filing a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the police report on the investigation as well as personal info on the girl and, of course, the photos and videos. The whole thing appears to be part of a trend known as "sexting." Kids in Dexter, Fowlerville and Brighton have all recently gotten in trouble for their dirty ring-a-ding-dinging.
A whiter shade of Spartan green
Last year, under the leadership of Kyle Bristow, the conservative Young Americans for Freedom organization at MSU earned a "hate group" designation from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Bristow protested the label and threatened to sue. This year, when responding to a "hate-filled letter" posted on the website of Penn State's The Daily Collegiate, Bristow made it clear exactly how loving and open he really is. Upset over the assertion that the YAF spews "anti-gay, anti-Semitic, anti-feminism and anti-Islamic propaganda," Bristow leaped to the defense of his organization by declaring the letter writer was "only partially correct."
That's telling 'em.
"YAF hates all things that are antithetical to Western civilization, freedom and tradition," explained Bristow. Just to make sure people got the point, he added that Islam is a "wicked, vicious faith whose adherents would stone liberals ... if they ever took control of Western countries." In November, Bristow — who previously helped in the effort to bring a Canadian neo-Nazi to speak at his university's East Lansing campus — announced that he's seeking to become the Michigan Republican Party's Youth Chair. Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis, according to the Michigan Messenger website, was ready to welcome young Bristow with open arms, saying the MSU student was "exactly the kind of kid we want."
God told us it's OK to lie for His causes
We've grown used to seeing political campaigns fueled by falsehoods, but rarely has one sunk to the level exhibited by the group MiCAUSE, as it flooded the airwaves with commercials attempting to convince voters to go "no" on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would clear the way for embryonic stem cell research. With backing from anti-abortion groups and others, MiCAUSE reportedly received a whopping $5.5 million from the Michigan Catholic Conference. That cash helped fund a propaganda campaign so venal even conservative media outlets had to cry foul. From spreading fears that passage could lead to creation of "man-cow hybrids" to commercials equating the proposal to those infamous Tuskegee experiments that infected unsuspecting black men with syphilis, opponents found no blow too low to deliver. Despite all that, voters were able to see through the blanket of prevarication. Which has us thinking that maybe there is a God after all — One that believes in progress and science and above all in smiting shameless sanctimonious liars.
We can only hope.
Call them the straight dope twisters
A close runner-up to MiCAUSE in the race to the bottom of the campaign trough was the coalition that came together in opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Michigan. As activist Bruce Mirken noted in a blog, one TV spot sponsored by the so-called Citizens Protecting Michigan's Kids was "so egregiously dishonest that even my very jaded jaw dropped when I saw it. It may set an all-time record for the most lies ever packed into a 30-second commercial." Joining in the condemnation of deceitful tactics employed by opponents of the proposal was former state Rep. Dianne Byrum, who headed up the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care. Particularly galling was a stunt pulled by John Waters, the Michigan native appointed our nation's drug czar by that well-known expert on illicit drugs, President George Bush. At taxpayer expense, Waters journeyed to his home state towing a marijuana vending machine seized in California. The only problem with Waters' prop was that the proposed Michigan law, as one columnist pointed out, "does not permit dispensaries, much less vending machines." Byrum called the whole effort a "desperate campaign of lies and outrageous distortions." Fortunately voters saw through the toxic smokescreen and approved the use of weed for medical purposes.
Of all the lousy professional football teams that have ever donned helmets and stepped onto the gridiron, none can lay claim to being, indisputably, the worst ever. None, that is, except our very own Detroit Lions. Since the NFL established a 16-game season in 1978, no team has gone winless. No team, that is, until this year's Lions squad did the nearly impossible in a league geared toward establishing parity. So, fans, here's a hallmark of loserdom that — unless a 17-game season is someday instituted — can never, ever be surpassed.
His cup runneth over — yuck
The next time you see a champion hockey player taking a celebratory sip from Lord Stanley's elegant silver Cup, recall this revelation Red Wings star Kris Draper plopped on the Toronto Star newspaper.
"A week after we won it, I had my newborn daughter in there and she pooped in the Cup," Draper disclosed. "That was something. We had a pretty good laugh." But, hockey players being hockey players, Draper didn't let a truly shitty situation get in the way of his enjoying the Cup to the fullest. "It was, well, clean it out. I still drank out of it that night, so no worries."
Except that the straw kept getting clogged up.
Criminal masterminds, Part I
Here're a few friendly tips to all you potential carjackers out there:
No. 1: When choosing a target vehicle, lean toward the inconspicuous. For example, it's probably a less-than-stellar idea to go after, say, a Hummer plastered with a specialized paint job promoting, say, a local radio station.
No. 2: Try to stay away from stealing a vehicle owned by someone who has the capacity to immediately alert tens of thousands of people that said vehicle is being swiped.
Unfortunately for the brainiacs who jacked radio station HOT 102.7's "heavily branded" Hummer, this sage advice arrives too late. Immediately after the vehicle was taken at gunpoint from station employee Keith "Shug" Gillespie while stopped at a downtown Detroit gas station, a DJ went on the air soliciting tips. Hundreds of calls flooded in. Less than an hour later the Hummer was found and the suspects apprehended.
Criminal masterminds, Part II
We could tell you about the two Macomb County men who took pictures of themselves — and the gun they used — using a cell phone they'd stolen in an armed robbery, and how those pictures were used as evidence against them after they'd been apprehended. Or we could tell you about the three men arrested in Ferndale after robbing a place while wearing Spiderman jackets and hoods that covered their faces — the same costume worn while robbing about a dozen fast food places, pretty much guaranteeing they'd be connected to the entire crime spree. But we prefer to remind you of the 20-year-old Three Rivers man arrested for trying to steal posters for the new Batman movie. He wasn't hard to spot. He was the one wearing a purple suit, green wig and white face paint with a smile stretching from ear to ear. Police, apparently having some sense of humor, took mug shots of him both with and without the makeup. You might say the Joker was on him. Hahaha.
But he was a nice shotgun-toting goon
One of Ambassador Bridge mogul Matty Moroun's security guards messed with the wrong guy when he hassled blogger Joel Thurtell for having the audacity to tread on public parkland the bridge company preferred to treat as its own.
Thurtell, a former newspaper reporter who now writes a blog, was taking pictures of the bridge from public property when a muscular guy with a shaved head, goatee, tattoos on both arms and a shotgun in the front seat of his pickup began harassing him.
Moroun's people initially said the Department of Homeland Security had authorized erection of a fence adjacent to the bridge as a way to thwart terrorists. When this rag picked up on the story, we reported that no such authority was ever granted. After the story gained amplification in other media, the city took Matty and his company to court, claiming construction material was being illegally stored on public land and that a fence the company put up had to come down. The legal wrangling continues.
Thurtell's writing stands in sharp contrast to that of ace Detroit News feature writer Charlie LeDuff, who earned a Dubious Achievement Award of his own for the fawning puff piece he recently did on the reclusive billionaire. LeDuff's Moroun is a modern-day Horatio Alger who wants his legacy to be a second bridge he's attempting to build.
This is Thurtell's view of him: "Why, he lets his guards drive across the lawn and push law-abiding citizens around. I saw it. It happened to me. What he is, fundamentally, is a squatter. A freeloader. A rich mooch."
Now that's really baaa-d
A Battle Creek guy didn't bother with no stem cells as he conducted a highly personal experiment apparently designed to produce a man-animal hybrid young'un that would enter this cold world already equipped with a warm wooly sweater. We're talking about Jeffrey Haynes, a convicted sheep sodomizer who was serving time in Adrian's Parry Highway Correctional Facility when he received welcome news from the state appellate court that he wouldn't have to register as a sex offender after his release from the pen. As it turns out, state law specifies that for someone to end up on that list, the "victim" has to be a "person." That legal fine point dismayed Martin Mersereau of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who told The Detroit News: "I think the appellate court is being too literal in interpreting the letter of the law. It seems in this case, it's an issue of what's good and right being constrained by verbiage. ... It seems about a dozen times a year we hear of cases involving people who sexually abuse a child, who have in the past done the same to a dog. The two go hand in hand, and any time the law does not help contribute to the awareness of a predator in their midst, the community suffers."
Teach your children well, in reverse
After Monica Conyers — who assumed the job of Detroit City Council president after Ken Cockrel Jr. moved into the mayor's office to fill the vacancy created by the jailing of hizzoner Kwame Kilpatrick — called Cockrel "Shrek," she received some good advice from someone apparently wiser and more mature — an eighth-grader. As the Freep reported, Kierra Bell took advantage of Conyers' visit to Courtis Elementary School to respectfully tell the then-president pro tem to grow up. When Conyers tried to defend her sophomoric behavior by asking Bell if she'd ever wanted to call someone else a name, Bell accurately noted, "We're children, you're an adult."
On autopilot at the wrong time
It's hard feeling sorry for a bunch of wealthy white guys who've guided the U.S. auto industry to the point of ruin. So we won't. The heads of the Not-So-Big Three who went to D.C. with hands out seeking what could well be a bridge loan to nowhere made all the wrong moves, beginning with separate flights on private corporate jets. Worse, they came with neither a clue nor a plan to show that the more than $30 billion being asked for would do anything more than see them through the next couple of months. They weren't even smart enough to read up on a little recent history to see how Lee Iacocca had the PR savvy to announce that he'd take a pay cut to a dollar a year before going to Congress in 1980 seeking a much smaller federal bailout for Chrysler.
In a book released last year before all this current shit really hit the fan, Iacocca wrote: "We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car."
"I hardly recognize this country anymore," he wrote.
Now there's a guy who knows a dubious situation when he sees one.
Sources: Daily Tribune (Oakland County), Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Hot1027detroit.com, JoelontheRoad.com, Michigan Messenger, Mlive.com, New York Times, National Public Radio, Livingston Community News, Sunday Times (London), Toronto Star and WXYZ-TV.