Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Album Review: The Bellrays: Black Lightning

The BellRays
Black Lightning

To start things off let me show the my twitter post after I listened to the first track.

Rock should be the punch in the gut that reminds you you're still livin'. And thank God right now I think I got some bruised ribs.

The I only started listening to the Bellrays catalogue about two years ago, but damn it was some good stuff and this doesn't album disappoint. To be fair most of it sounds like that wierd place between hard rock, metal and punk in the late 60's and early '70s. Lots of interesting stuff going down man.

The studio was becoming an instrument and at the same time bubbling' below the surface, young rebels were howling at the moon in rage. The idealism of the left was beginning to fade into angry cynicism, and eventually nihilism. If the time to do good is over than you might as well have good times and screw the rest. That fucking malaise of Obam...uh Carter's.

Anyway so I'm probably giving it bonus points because that's my favorite musical era.

But the past month has been waaay too indie for my tastes. I just want old school blazing fast, blazing hard rock and roll. And the Bellrays deliver. God do they deliver.

Don't get me wrong there are some slow songs on this. But the slow songs never seem like they're pandering. Mostly this is due to Lisa Kakuala's voice. She could lift your heart or bend steel with that voice. Hell sometimes she can do both in the same song. The woman has soul. Which is something that disapoints me about the music industry. Over the past year I've heard no shortage of vocal talent and yet ... well that's a tangent.

Anyway look if you want a blast from rock's past this will do you good. If you listen to your parent's old records and go, "Da fuck" you'll do the same here. It's like the old joke in that 70's show. A guy likes this dude's music but he was a douche to him on tour so he tells the clerk, (Hyde) "You got any X but not X" If you want hard rock jams from the 70's but not, The Bellrays will do you good. You can only listen to "Kick out the Jams" so many times.

President Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address

Southfield City Council Meeting January 30, 2012

City Council Meeting Held in Southfield, Michigan on January 30, 2012
Topics Include
  • Alleged Police Misconduct
  • The purchase of new broadcast for the City's cable channel
  • An update on the Neighborhood Stabilization Plan
  • 2012-2013 Budget Preview
  • The Possibility of receding the City Council's previous decision regarding Golden Corral
  • A follow up regarding public notices
  • A FEMA Grant that would allow the fire department to purchase new resuscitation equipment

You can find an agenda and related documents here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Where You Can Find Video of the Farmington Hills January 23, 2012 Meeting

Last week I made a bit of a stink about the posibility of Farmington Hills opting out of SMART. They ultimately voted to allow the SMART millage to go to ballot.

Video of that meeting can be viewed at the links below.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

While I'm at it here is video of the January 17, 2012 meeting where the neighboring city of Farmington decided to opt out.

Farmington January 17, 2012 Meeting

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wolf's Quickie Guide to Local Government Version 1

As the national election comes closer more and more people are discussing politics. People often forget about local government in the discussion. While the federal government sets policy it's often local government that determines how those policies are executed.

City Council
First off make no assumptions about municipal bodies. When they meet, who gets to vote in them, and what powers they have are all determined individually normally by a charter. While it would probably be a good idea to read it there are other ways to get a feel for a body. Sit in on a few meetings. You'll get an idea of who votes, which city departments attend and the general style of the council. In addition many cities have "citizen's guides" which explain in general how the city is governed.

Generally municipal bodies are required by law to post a calendar of upcoming meetings and hearings for the public. Most of these meetings are open to the public to observe and even make comment.

Furthermore city bodies as well as city executives often have websites where they list their contact information. My general experience thus far has been as long as you are respectful they will reciprocate.

Levels of Government
One of the difficult things about navigating government is determining what is whose responsibility. State, county, and local governments often overlap in responsibilities and divvy out in the specifics. For instance one road may be owned by the state another by the county and yet another by the city. This is important because it determines who has the authority to do what. For instance let's say that I want to complain that a road has a pothole. I have to know who to complain to. The city government is going to be reluctant at best to maintain a road that belongs to the county and vice versa.

The same also goes for finding out general information. You have to know who to ask. There is no guarantee that the city is going to know the particulars of what the county is doing and that the state is going to know what the city is doing.

School Boards
Most school boards I know of operate independently of municipal government. This includes collecting their own taxes. They have their own meetings.

Local governments often take taxes in the form of mileages. A millage is based on the property value of your home and various millage rates. A mill is 1/1000 or .1% of the assessed value of a property or So for instance if I had a 50,000 home I would have to pay $50 per mill. Most people have to pay more than one millage.

As stated previously each city is different. The city council may handle the day to day administration of a city or it might fall to an administrator, manager, or various city departments. Also stated previously, in order to solve problems or find out information you need to know who to talk to. My general experience is the best way to do this is to make a phone call. If someone can't answer your question they'll probably point you in the direction of the department that can.

One of the offices that have a good amount of general information is city clerk's office. Generally this department is in charge of keeping and managing city records, including council minutes.

Freedom of Information Act
By law citizens have the right to request city documents. There are various procedures and regulations regarding it but in general, fill out a form listing the documents you want give it to the FOIA coordinator and wait about a work week. You'll at the least get a response and if they deny the request the government is required by law to give you a reason, which must fit within the purview of the Freedom of Information Act's exemptions. To make things quick be specific to which documents you want and give the form to the right person.

It might seem like a lot of red tape and for most things it is, but remember the purpose of the law is to allow the citizenry to have information the government might be reluctant to hand over. Filling out a FOIA request makes it likely that the government will be required to give you the information.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Miles' Log Date 1.25.2012 A.D.

On this day I have decided to re watch Star Trek Next Generation Episodes regarding Worf, son of Mogh. I have just finished watching "Sins of the Father." While watching I am contemplating what I can do to be productive. There is a fictional story I have started on yet have not posted. I am pondering whether or not to work on that in the remaining hours of the day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Southfield City Council Meeting January 23, 2012

Southfield City Council Meeting held on January 23, 2012

  • Possible errors in public notices
  • Smart Meters
  • The selection process for a new police chief
  • Freedom of Information Requests
  • Recent closure of the Lodge Freeway due to accidents and weather

An agenda and other related documents can be found here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Wolf and The Thunder

In the dark wood a wolf roamed, master of it's land. Here it knew it was king and that all trembled at its howl. One stormy eve came the rain. And the wolf gazed up at the sky. A loud boom crashed and the the wolf leaped to it, for that night it beheld something mightier than itself.

It gazed at the sky and wanted that power for itself, to not only be master of the dark wood but so terrible that all, even those not of its wood, feared it enough to heed its voice.

But the wolf thought, "The sky is big. And though fast and strong as I am, I am small compared to it. " It asked itself, "How do I gain the power of thunder?"

How do I gain the power of thunder?

Farmington Hills and The Possibility of Opting Out of SMART

I broke my own rule last night and wrote to local politicians in the hopes of affecting policy. In the interest of keeping myself honest here is a copy of the email I wrote.

Hello. I’m Greg Miles, Jr. and am a resident of Southfield. Recently I received an email regarding the possibility of Farmington Hills opting out of SMART. The email stated that many of the routes that serve my community such as the 400,405 and 740 would be eliminated if Farmington Hills decided to opt out of SMART. The point I suppose I am making is that this decision does not only affect Farmington Hills but also other communities. I respect that supporting the program costs a lot of money and that you must look after the best interests of your constituency, but a regional transportation system is regional. Your decision affects several other communities. While SMART is not perfect it is the only mass transit system I can think of that currently does what it does. If these routes are eliminated there are several people including myself who would be left in the lurch.

Some say that the abandonment of SMART would allow for a better option to be created. However, what are people suppose to do while that option is being created? While not impossible, I doubt that even a local municipal system could be arranged in less than the time before service would be halted. As for a state sponsored regional transit system, again I doubt that it could happen. We are currently in a climate of “cut, cut, cut”. Especially after the debacles of the Detroit light rail program, I realize that such a project is incredibly ambitious and unlikely to come to fruition anytime soon.

Many of the criticisms of SMART point to cuts in service and while I do agree that quality of service has declined I also understand that much of the money SMART uses comes from a mileage. Just like municipal governments SMART is taking in less money overall due to the collapse of the housing market. I honestly believe they are doing the best they can with the resources at their disposal.

As for arguments that the service isn’t being used, I don’t have the numbers. All I can say is that first impressions can be misleading. Just like roads there is more traffic at certain times of the day. The busses seem packed around 5 in the evening and empty at noon.

In general, I fear that if communities continue to opt out of the program the only regional mass transit system we have, as inefficient as it, is will collapse and the people will be left with nothing but empty promises. Again I understand that the choice is yours and you will do what you feel is right, but I just ask that you keep in mind that this decision affects more than just Farmington Hills.

Thank You
Greg Miles, Jr.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Miles' Log Date 1.18.2012 AD

After spending nearly a week attempting to fix my computer it has finally booted. I suppose I should go to the local planning commission meeting but instead I will indulge myself in laze and watch old episodes of Andromeda and play Minecraft.

Before the crash I was nearing completion of the base level of my castle.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Southfield School Board Meeting January 10, 2012

Meeting of the Southfield Public School Board held on January 10, 2012

Topics Include
  • A performance from the Levey Middle School Honors Choir
  • Cultural Exchange With Mexico
  • The results and awards from a recent can food drive
  • A presentation of appreciation to the board from Councilman Kenson Siver on the behalf of the Southfield City Council.

An audio file of this meeting can be found here.

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Southfield City Council Meeting January 9, 2012

City Council Meeting Held in Southfield, Michigan on January 9, 2012

Topics include
  • A Waste Management Contract that would help allow for private investment in streamlining the recycling process
  • Changing the process of the communications portions of meetings.
  • Amendments to and organizing of a related public hearing regarding changes to the city's neighborhood stabilization plan.
  • Allegations of police misconduct
  • The State Liquor Control Board
  • The police chief selection process

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

An audio file of this meeting can be found here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Angry Black Man: The Black Politic

Alright so as the Iowa caucus has passed it's one more milestone on the way to the election. And as usual folks are starting how race might factor in to it.

Often times I hear people describe the black vote as a singular entity and I can't blame them because let's face it traditionally over the last half century the democratic party has had it. But beyond that there are several different and competing political ideologies among African Americans. I want to touch upon some of them.

Social Conservatism
A while back I wrote a critique on black conservatism. I suppose that I should have specified black social conservatism. And furthermore I guess I should define it for the purposes of this paper. Social conservatism is a reluctance to accept social and cultural change and abnormality.

I don't remember where I read it so I apologize, but I once read that during the 1960's apart from racial issues Africa- American were becoming more socially conservative as the rest of the country was becoming more socially liberal. The explanation was simple. A white long haired hippie had more resources to survive than a black long haired hippie.

There is a belief amongst the African-American community that the societal standard for us is higher because of subtle prejudice. In order to make it to the same positions blacks have to be better. Part of that means matching society's expectation of what better is.

I disagree with the man on the point, but my father said it's the rich and powerful that get to change and buck the system. Everybody else has to toe the line, otherwise you look like a kook.

Furthermore, again I disagree; there are those who would say that individuals have a responsibility to represent the race, to show mainstream society the best of us.

In addition to all of that social conservatism in general has always been tied to the church and the church for at least the last has century has been an instrumental part of African-American society. I am a social liberal and when all the other social liberals complain about the church pushing a societal agenda I have to take a step back and cough civil rights moment.

Social Liberalism
As before allow me to define my take on social liberalism, a willingness to embrace social and cultural changes and abnormalities. Something I should have made a bit clearer earlier is that I want to stick to arguments dealing with race. I am tempted to get on my soapbox and describe all of the reasons why I feel social liberalism aligns itself with American core values. But I would be here all day and it would defeat the purpose of this post.

As an African American almost every opportunity I have I owe to societal change. If things were the same way they were in great great-grandfather's day I would be in chains, and in my grandfather's day in poverty.

Furthermore several injustices have been committed and ignored in the name of maintaining the status quo. How many politicians refused to take on slavery because they were afraid of change, refused to take on Jim Crow because they were afraid of change, refused to take on housing discrimination because they were afraid of change.

This isn't and never was a perfect world, but it only ever gets better because someone says we can't do things this way anymore.

Often times what permeates that status quo is the fear of Other. That same fear of other that created segregation.

Black Separatism

Everybody talks about the philosophical differences between Dr. King and Malcolm X. One of them was Black Separatism. Hell, screw it this one even goes back to the days of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois.

In the days of Jim Crow things were separate but not equal. Throughout the civil rights movement there were attempts to make things more equal in terms of education and equality of opportunity. Where you stand on Black Separatism is going to lie in whether you believe those attempts were successful.

Even during reconstruction the American people have proven a short attention span to rectifying and participating in a sustained effort to eliminate racial injustice and inequality.

Sure every now and then you get an LBJ but eventually the American mainstream gets tired of it and abandons the effort.

Black separatism is basically the idea that the government or even mainstream society are not going to all of a sudden make Black people's lives better. It's going to happen through strengthening our own communities, institutions and businesses independently of mainstream America. Complete integration remains but a dream.

Furthermore though I am loath to admit it, there are occasions where the interests of the general population lay contrary to those of African Americans.

Black Integrationalism

On the other, more optimistic hand maybe the revolution has come. I have more opportunities than my parents. Many of the positive social changes in race relations have come about because there is more interaction between the races.

Black integrationalism is the concept that things can and have improved for the African-American community through mainstream institutions, and that actively shunning them does the black community a disservice.

Prosperity for African-Americans lies in integrating ourselves within the educational, governmental, and economic institutions that already exist and have historically had more resources than African-American ones.

Governmental Liberalism (One of the reasons why it's hard for Republicans to court the Black vote)

I'm going use Governmental Liberalism to describe the belief that the government does need to take a greater role in addressing economic inequality. I know there is a better word for it out there somewhere but I drew a blank. For more than half its existence the United States government implemented policies that in effect distributed wealth to WASPS from minorities. While not necessarily crying for 40 acres and a mule many believe that the government should seek to address the inequalities in education and wealth it created, largely through social programs and affirmative action.

Fiscal Conservatism

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There is a growing Black Middle class. One of the concerns of the Black middle class is that they are being stereotyped. The African American community's insistence on the continuation of government programs may perpetuate the idea that all African Americans need those programs and by extension are poor. In other words some people are afraid that just because they support welfare people will believe they're on welfare and will be painted by stereotypes as a result of their support for it. .

Furthermore several African Americans believe that these programs are a crutch that is no longer needed. And believe the general arguments for less government regulation in the economy.

Reverse Racism
Let's just say it's an issue and leave it at that.

The Obama Factor
He's the first Black president and though I am loath to admit it gives brownie points (no pun intended). There are a lot of people who are loyal to him because he represents a new democratic experiment. Can a Black president be successful? Is the country ready for it? Are we at that point? We really don't want the answer to be no. We want to make this work. Oh my God I'm writing like I'm in a bad marriage.

He's a symbol of change and brought us hope and by god we don't want to lose that. We don't want to have to wait another 50 or 60 years for another Black president. We have one and despite everything else we want to support him. That's not to say we will, but we want to.

Political Solidarity
The African American community is filled with economic, geographic, cultural and philosophical diversity. At the same time we do comprise a group that has had a common struggle and still has common interests.

Though I couldn't vote yet in 2000 I supported Nader.

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I now know the consequences of splitting the vote, but at the same time I really respect an individual's free will, free will of choice, free will of action and free will of thought. This is one of those issues all groups including African-Americans have to deal with. We have interests. We want our voice to be heard but it's hard as hell to hear 38,929,319 voices yelling at the same time.

You have to make some compromises in the interest of getting enough people on board with the letter, petition or campaign to express political power.

Otherwise your just a guy with some good ideas and a few crazy ones that nobody wants to jump on board with.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Albums I Missed: 2011

Okay so I'm reading The New York Times and come across an article that decries the artistic decrepitude of rock. Hey, I disagree with it, but what are you going to do. Most of the comments agree with the guy but a lot trot out albums that prove him wrong and a lot of them are things I just plain missed so here is a quicky list of stuff I need to listen to.

The Black Keys: El Camino
Yeah I know why I didn't listen to this Album but well I'm hearing good things so I'll probably eventually pick it up.

Wilco: The Whole Love

The Decemberists: The King is Dead and Long Live the King

Wild Flag: Wild Flag

Radiohead: The King of Limbs

Cage the Elephant: Thank You Happy Birthday

Mastodon: The Hunter

Joe Bonamassa: Dust Bowl

My top 10 Music Albums of 2011

10. Chickenfoot: Chickenfoot III

9. Royce Da 5'9: Success is Certain

8. Foo Fighters: Wasting Light

7. DJ Shadow: The Less You Know the Better

6. Roots: Undun

5. Mary J. Blige: My Life II... The Journey Continues (Act 1)

4. Adele: 21

3. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears: Scandalous

2. The Memorials: The Memorials

1. Beastie Boys: Hot Sauce Committee Part Two

Honorable Mention
Limp Bizkit: Gold Cobra

Look the only reason why it isn't on the list is because when making this list it would lose me cred, but you know what? I don't care. It's a fun album, damn it!

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