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Buying in Bulk, Detroit Style

Why Don’t We Own This? just released a map of over 6,000 foreclosed properties in Detroit that you can buy – at once. It’s known as the “Blight Bundle,” and Mayor Duggan thinks this will “facilitate the demolition of severely blighted properties, the redevelopment of properties with such potential” and “provide a better process for getting [the properties] back on tax rolls.” But who is going to buy 6,000 properties scattered from the edge of Dearborn to the border of Grosse Pointe?

(Thanks to Curbed Detroit for covering this.)


Capturing US/Canadian Difference in Two Road Signs

What motivates people to change their habits and behaviors – for better or worse? Sociologists – most notably Barry Glassner – have spent a great deal of effort analyzing how American news media, policy-making, and moral politicking are fueled by aMDOT_DMS-TrafficDeaths_427552_7 “culture of fear” that uses fear to persuade Americans to vote for particular policies, change particular behaviors and – very often – buy particular products….or else.

My Canadian students often talk about American culture as “punitive.” Every time I drive from Ontario to Michigan, I am reminded of this punitive ethos in a mundane road sign that is updated through out the year that publicizes the number of traffic deaths on signs posted on interstates like I-75. Here, fear — fear of being another statistic of traffic death on a billboard somewhere in the highways of Michigan — becomes the motivating factor (or so MDOT presumably believes) to changing people’s bad driving habits (whatever those may be).

Okay Canadians, so what’s the alternative? On my last Michigan-Ontario drive, I found out. A society with a deep family-oriented ethos, Canada take a different approach, captured in road signs just a few hundred miles (or, if you must, kilometres) away: “Children are precious.”


More Canadiana here.


America’s cautionary tale of mandatory minimum sentences

As the Supreme Court of Canada decides whether to consider the Harper-backed mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, Canadians, especially Canadian conservatives, should take a cue from Americans who have already suffered the fiscal and social consequences of mandatory minimum sentencing.

There are few things that conservatives and progressives in Washington, D.C., can agree on. From health care to welfare to immigration reform to the national debt, U.S. politicians prefer dissension over concession. But there’s one exception: politicians on the left and the right are becoming unlikely allies against a bloated criminal justice system. One of their major targets? Mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for drugs, guns and other offences. 

Read the rest of my op-ed at The Toronto Star here


The Gun Debate Misses the Mark in Detroit


What initiatives should be undertaken to address the problem of violent crime in Detroit?

If you answered “change gun laws,” you’d be in the company of many loud voices — the Wayne LaPierres and Sarah Bradys of the national gun debate — who claim to speak on behalf of Americans, including Americans in high-crime, high-poverty areas like Detroit or South Side Chicago.

Whether they’re talking about “ugly black” rifles, high-capacity magazines, pistol-free zones, gun bans, registration, confiscation, “stand your ground” laws or concealed carry, proponents on both sides of the national gun debate presume that America’s problem of gun violence can be solved by (de)regulating the kinds of guns Americans can legally own and what they can do with them.

Gun rights advocates believe that the unequivocal solution to gun violence is more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens; gun control advocates focus on restricting access to guns.

It’s a zero-sum game, a deadlocked argument.

But in Detroit, these black-and-white approaches to guns too often miss the mark…

Read the rest of my op-ed at The Detroit News here.

Thinking Globally about America’s Guns

Sociologists emphasize the importance of thinking globally about everyday social problems rather than locally. Whether they are unpacking the present-day legacies of colonialism and the realities of post colonialism, or they are examining the transatlantic circulation of American discourses, practices, and justificatory schemes, such scholars powerfully reframe the terms on which local issues matter and show us that “globalization” or “the global” is not just a buzzword: it is a form of indispensable critical analysis.

This lesson, however, rarely weighs in on our debates about guns and gun culture. In my op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor today, I try to lay out some reasons why we should think  about guns in global terms – and what we might find if we do. Check it out here.