Flint and America’s Corroded Trust


Sabrina Hernandez bathes her granddaughter, Hazel, with bottled water.

 

By: Charlie LeDuff/Mother Jones

It’s been the subject of protests and debates, but if anything is improving in Flint, Michigan, it’s hard for any of us on the ground to see.

One of the city’s lead pipes has been replaced for the benefit of the press, but more than 8,000 additional service lines are likely corroded and still leaching toxic lead. It took a mom, a pediatrician, and a professor in Virginia to discover Flint’s children were being poisoned. It took cable television to get the nation to give a damn.

And that’s not all. An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease has killed at least 9 people and infected 87 others over the last two years. The state knew. The city knew. The county knew. The federal government knew. But the public was never told. Legionella bacteria may still be in pipes and hot-water heaters, waiting for warm weather to spawn. People are frightened in this hardscrabble town of 99,000 about an hour’s drive north of Detroit. And still, the government tells them nothing.

The city’s pipe inspector at the water plant won’t return calls.

The county health director won’t come to his door.

The mayor is busy in a meeting with Jada Pinkett Smith.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder gives interviews assuring citizens that the water is now safe for washing and tells me he would bathe his own grandchildren in it. The governor has no grandchildren.

The iconic Vehicle City sign hangs over the entrance to downtown Flint.

On February 19, the Rev. Jesse Jackson led more than 500 people past abandoned General Motors plants to the Flint water tower in protest of the water crisis in Flint.

 

That irony is not lost on Sabrina Hernandez, a 39-year-old bartender who is helping raise her one-year-old granddaughter, Hazel. In January, state health inspectors came to the downtown bar where Hernandez works and instructed staff not to serve ice cubes or rinse lettuce with city water. Hazel, on the other hand? Well, go right ahead and rinse her off, the governor declares.

“It’s like living in a Third World country,” Hernandez says. “What are they going to do to us next? It makes you think, was this because we are poor?”

It would be easy to blame Snyder for this man-made catastrophe. And he does deserve much of the blame. Flint is the consequence of his bookish managerial style, his insistence on “relentless positive action.” And it was Snyder who stripped Flint’s mayor and City Council of power and replaced them with a string of emergency managers who had absolute authority over Flint’s finances and political decisions. It was Snyder’s emergency manager who, in a cost-saving measure, decided to go off the Detroit water system and pipe in water from the notoriously polluted Flint River instead.

Snyder knew the water was bad. Everybody knew the water was bad. E. coli and boil notices and mysterious rashes were immediately the stuff of headlines. Michigan officials began secretly trucking in water for a state building in Flint. The water from the Flint River was so corrosive that General Motors workers noticed it rusted their parts. After six months, GM switched its plant back to using Detroit water.

The Flint City Council soon voted to do the same, but the vote was ceremonial. The City Council had no real influence anymore. Jerry Ambrose—Flint’s fourth emergency manager in less than four years—vetoed the resolution, calling it financially “incomprehensible.”

Flint residents at an environmental rally at the First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church. Also in attendance was hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, one of many celebrities to visit the city after its water crisis made headlines.

Locals wait to enter First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church for an environmental rally with Mayor Karen Weaver and celebrity Russell Simmons. A number of high-profile celebrities have gone to Flint since the water crisis became national news.

Volunteers hand out free cases of water.

 

In fairness, Flint has a long history of being financially incomprehensible. In 2002, hollowed out by three decades of industrial decline, Flint had a $30 million operating deficit. The mayor was recalled and an emergency financial manager was installed. Even though power was returned to elected officials, the books were never balanced and the city routinely blew multimillion-dollar holes in its budget. The new mayor, accused of bribery and lying about the city’s finances, resigned for “health reasons.” Enter Snyder and his band of bean counters.

All the while, Detroit’s water utility was fleecing Flint, charging one of the poorest cities in the United States an average of $910 a year per household, nearly three times the national average. It is worth remembering that former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for, among other things, bid-rigging in the water department.

Dusable Lewis, 18, showers in his house in northern Flint. Dusable lives with his mom and his son Dusable Jr., who is less than a year old. Until last month, the baby and his mother had been drinking the Flint water.

 

So in 2013, Flint’s civic leaders pushed for the construction of their own water system running parallel to Detroit’s. It wasn’t necessary; Detroit’s water was perfectly fine, if overpriced. But think of the jobs. Think of the money. The chamber of commerce wanted it. The trade unions wanted it. The contractors wanted it. The Democratic City Council rubber-stamped it. So did the Democratic mayor. And so, the Republican governor’s people signed off on the new multimillion-dollar water system even though Vehicle City was broke.

How would Flint pay for this redundant infrastructure when it had no money? Simple, borrow the money from Hazel’s future. Then raise her grandmother’s water bill—charging even more for the substandard Flint River water than for the Detroit water.

The savings to the city would be funneled back into upgrading Flint’s mothballed water treatment plant as well as provide a revenue stream toward the new water system. Just one problem—the necessary upgrades weren’t made to the old plant before people were served water from a river known as a dumping ground for corpses and car batteries.

After 18 months of denials from Snyder’s bureaucrats, Flint went back on Detroit’s water system in October last year. Hazel’s grandmother is still being overcharged. Of course she is: Those bond payments begin this year, and if Flint defaults it could create another financial emergency, and the city might once again go back into the hands of a Snyder-appointed emergency manager. Last week, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette indicted three mid-level managers for covering up the extent of the problem, and Synder promised to drink the water for a month to assuage fears. But public trust is already corroded.

The Flint River during a snowstorm. Many of the residents I spoke with couldn’t believe that the Flint River was even considered a source of water. It’s long had a reputation as a place to abandon cars, dead bodies, and pollutants.

Guests receive bottled water with personalized labels at a girl’s birthday party.

Police lights illuminate a sign warning residents that boiling water does not remove lead. These billboards can be found all over Flint.

 

Flint’s water crisis has become a symbol that resonates across America—but a symbol of what? Of working­-class decline? Disregard for a majority-black population? Bloated government? The push to cut and privatize public services? Even as Flint became front-page news and federal water safety protocols were exposed to be laughable, the Obama administration proposed slashing a quarter of a billion dollars from the Environmental Protection Agency’s testing budget to help meet spending cuts imposed by Congress. Experts warn there are many other cities—Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Newark, New Jersey, for instance—with water that is as bad or worse.

Is Flint an outlier or a harbinger of a Mad Max future of crumbling roads, joblessness, and poisoned water? One thing is for sure: The rage felt by the residents of Flint is little different from the rage felt in other quarters of America—the feeling that you’re losing ground, that the deck is stacked against you and the people on top don’t give a damn.

“I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything,” Hernandez says. “But it makes me wonder if it’s not intentional. This community, we don’t have a voice. Nobody listens to the poor people that are, you know, barely making it.”

PHOTOGRAPHS BY ZACKARY CANEPARI

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Who in the Hell is Erika Jayne and why am I obsessed with her


 

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Perhaps obsessed is too strong a word.   Yes, I watch her on Bravo’s  Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, amd tweet with hundred of viewers across the nation every Tuesday. I talk about her at length in social media and on the radio “Reality Chat with Amy Phillips” on Sirius XM and I bought her latest single Expensive.

Who in the hell is this woman with fan base growing by the hour?  The no nonsense bad ass women from the ATL who might fuck you up if you make her break a nail.

Women like her and want to be her friend.   Men, straight and gay love her. To many in the gay community she is an icon and I love it when Comedienne Amy Phillips impersonates her and say’s “cash“. Watch


I was introduced to Erika Girardi a couple of years ago on Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills her friend Yolanda Foster (Hadid) recommended her for the show.  Erika like Yolanda, wasn’t a girls, girl, she is very direct, honest and a keen observer. She is very cautious and doesn’t allow many into her personal life.  While Erika lives “the lifestyle” she is humble and this has endeared her to many.

There are two sides to Erika.  We were first introduced to Mrs Girardi, wife of attorney Thomas. If memory serves, they don’t live in Beverley Hills, they the slum in a large Mansion in Pasadena.

The other Erika Jayne is a performer with nine number one Dance Club Hits who has been performing for nearly twenty years. Erika has swag, reminiscent of Cher. With a persona that says approach with honesty or I will fuck you up.   She is currently on Dancing With the Stars.

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She isn’t like the other Beverly Hills Housewives who wont admit to having cosmetic surgery, she’s an open book about her procedures head to toe. She has her own a glam squad, two gay men who keeps her beautiful and she never goes anywhere without them. ANYWHERE!

She will tell you she is 45, with a grown son from her first marriage. She was raised by her single mother who had her at 18. She was named after her moms favorite TV character Erica (Susan Lucci) Kane.

One of my favorite videos

Co-Housewife Lisa Renna, Channels her Inner Erika

Dancing to the stars was a smart career move for this Smart lady. Who danced to her own song.  “Expensive “

My girl Erika Jayne. Yes, I’m obsessed, She’s One Bad Bitch!

Just ask her!

CityFella

India: How Twitter helped a 5-Month old get her food on time


Maharashtra Times

In a pleasant turn of events, a couple, with their five month old baby – Kartiki was travelling from Gujarat India to Tirunelveli, when the milk they bought for the infant curdled due to the heat.

Unfortunately, the trains next halt was at Ratnagiri station which was a few hours away. And to make matters more complicated, the train pantry was out of milk.

While the toddler continued to wail in hunger, a co-passenger Neha Bapat tweeted about the situation to her friends. Soon help started pouring in from Neha’s friends across Mumbai, Pune, Ratnagiri and Nashik.

One of Neha’s friends, Anagha Nikam-Makdum sprung into action and tweeted the matter to Konkan Railways. The railway officials immediately responded to the Tweet on social media and the couple was handed over a bag of milk at Kolad station.

Last month, railway had announced a new policy for its catering services which shall separate the functioning of its cooking and food distribution onboard.

 

45’s Scooby Snack


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Was 45 ever able to identify any of those three million illegal voters who cost him the popular vote?    Anyone talking about it?

Last night, MSNBC’s popular Rachel Maddow  obtained copies of 45’s 2005 tax return.  She said, she received the documents from investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, who said on her show that he received them in the mail.

Image result for rachel maddow taxes

The result is a media feeding frenzy from what amounts to a Scooby Snack.

This tax return magically appeared during the most challenging week is his short term as president.  A week where he has failed to produce evidence of a Obama wiretap in Trump Tower.  A week where his alternative to the Affordable Care Act seems dead on arrival.  An important week,where for the first time he needs to show strength as the leader of the Republican Party as he takes his show on the road to reassure supporters.

45’s 2005 tax return was likely selected in a beauty contest where the objective was to humanize him. In 2005, he paid taxes.  This is important, as the proposed medical plan increases costs for the poor and middle-class and lowers taxes for the 1%.Some of us remember how he proudly said he was a good businessman and didn’t pay taxes.

So while the press dissects his tax returns, he may get fewer questions about the wire tap and  RyanCare on the road.

On Twitter, substituting for 45 is his son “Donald Jr”

 This is clearly a distraction, lets hope all the channels quickly return to the regular programming in progress.

CityFella

Wrong way Ben


Picture/AP

It’s funny till it isn’t.  Benjamin Solomon Carson is a brilliant surgeon,devout christian and reportedly a very nice man.  Dr Carson is an educated man. A Yale graduate, he is written many books and he is a very successful motivational speaker.

Many of Dr Carson’s positions are based on his religion.  Ben Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist.  It would be safe to say that he is anti gay.  He believes homosexuality is choice, he has said  Gay individuals are more protected than Christians and believes people who support gay marriage are trying to get rid of the Bible . This is all public record.

Dr Carson struggles with some in the black community . He likened The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to a form of slavery. He has publicly criticized blacks who disagreed with him, saying they weren’t able to think for themselves.  Born and raised in Detroit ,Dr Carson, struggles with the notion of institutional racism and believes black people should avoid government handouts that made us (Blacks)a welfare state. He benefited from a government handout, glasses.

During his campaign, perhaps to appeal to black voters,he ran an ad in Atlanta,Birmingham, Memphis, Miami,Little Rock and his home town of Detroit, that featured his speech interlaced with rap music. Dr Carson initially supported the ad,later he said it was done without his knowledge, that “it was done by people who have no concept of the black community and what they were doing”, and that he was “horrified” by it.

Dr Ben Carson, by all accounts is a nice man and was a nice kid growing up. However he was criticized by some during campaign of having low energy, boring.   He told variations of a 50 year old story where he attempted to stab a friend who changed a radio station and the knife hit the intended victim’s belt buckle and broke.  The purpose of story was  illustrate a moment of unbridled fury that led him to find his faith. Someone might question the timing of the story, perhaps it might make him appear less nice.  He abandoned the story after the press asked which variation of the story was accurate.

Accuracy…..

Yesterday,a friend without going into detail texted me asking me about Dr Carson?  Another friend texted me saying the word of the day was coon (an insulting term for black people).  Sometime in the day I googled Ben Carson.  In his first speech as the new secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban development described African Slaves to immigrants. Despite his extensive education, he painted a picture where African Slaves were free to leave the bowels of the ship where they would  join the immigrants on the Lido deck and share dreams about their new lives in America.

I wasn’t in the audience, but I can imagine the shock and horror and humiliation from many of  black employees in the audience experienced . Joy of Joys, our new boss.

Monday evening Dr Carson, defended his speech by saying “You can be an involuntary immigrant,” he said, adding that “slaves didn’t just give up and die, our ancestors made something of themselves.” He continued, “An immigrant is: ‘a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.’

Dr Benjamin Carson is a brilliant neurosurgeon, well liked and respected by those who knows him. He is the lone black in 45’s cabinet, another unqualified individual who will learn on the job.

SMH  (Shaking My Head)

CityFella

45 Sadness


He is my president, the 45th president of the United States of America.  Like many Americans I  hoped for the best and told myself I would to give him a chance.

That was January 20th

As of the February 19, I am mortified, embarrassed and sad.

Doing a reality check I asked myself, am I a sore loser, am I angry?

Disappointed yes, its one of many disappointments I’ve experienced when the best man lost.    When 43( George W) won I was dissapointed. There weren’t statements or questions in his character that led me to believe he might damage the country.

In less than 30 days, 45 has manage to damage our image. He has managed to bring the stability of the United States into question.   He has insulted our allies and caused most of us to be on constant alert. What will he do or say today?

Despite all the alternative facts, I’m not in shock.  President 45 and Candidate Trump are the same person.   I’ve never been at odds with his supporters, in fact I understand why they supported him.  While his candidacy has  awakened a racist element ,I don’t subscribe to the notion that all of his supporters are racists.  However since the election, some of my Indian, Mexican and Iranian friends have been attacked, some physically.  The citizenship of anyone with an accent is now questioned.

I find it difficult to respond, whenever one of my international friends ask why-how was he elected?  I lay of lot of the blame on my candidate, Hillary Clinton, and the other candidates,Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Bernie Sanders, Lindsey Graham, Martin O’Malley,Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush.     Not one of these candidates stepped forward the day or the after he made that racist statement about Mexicans.   No one said this isn’t acceptable, he is wrong and doesn’t represent my  America!  Jeb Bush who’s wife is Mexican, their  children have relatives in Mexico was uncomfortably silent.   We have seen the careers of sportscasters and other notable individuals end, after making racists comments.  One wonders how successful he would have been if one or more of the candidates immediately spoke out against him.

The root of my sadness comes from the news.  Rarely a day passes without a  an international misstep by 45 or someone in his administration which is later blamed on the evil media. It also comes from Social Media.

There is an upside…..

People are awake!  There are daily demonstrations all over the country.   The Women’s march gave me hope.  I participated in the Muslim demonstration at Sacramento International.   One demonstration I wont participate in is “45 isnt my President”  With so many demonstrations I worry that they will eventually lose their impact.

To counter my sadness, I limit the time I spend of social media and watching the news. With so many people in shock, one thing is missing is humor. SNL has been a god send for me, through the writers I can exhale.

I’m gonna be okay, so will the rest of us.   Please don’t recommend therapy or snappy happy pills. I promise I wont throw myself in traffic or eat a case of Lil Debbie treats.  Its not that serious. I am an an optimist, today is today, and in time it will get better.

I wish more people would refer to him as 45.  The narcissist loves hearing his name and 45 would make him crazy, or are we too late.?

CityFella

Can SNL topple 45’s administration?


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By: Dean Obeidallah/CNN

Saturday Night Live is clearly no longer content to just comically fillet 45 As we saw again in this Saturday night’s episode, they are increasingly going after key members of his staff. And if recent media reports are accurate, this seems to be rattling Trump and causing dissension within his administration.

When I worked on the production staff of SNL for eight seasons, we never knew if the politician or the celebrity the show would be mocking that weekend would be watching. But of course with Donald Trump, we do know. It appears he can’t help hate-watching the show. Trump has taken to Twitter on multiple occasions to slam the iconic comedy show, even demanding back in October that it be canceled because he was outraged by the way Alec Baldwin and the show depicted him.
Baldwin hosted the show this past Saturday, and if the sole goal of SNL was to drive Trump to Twitter to lash out, they could’ve featured many sketches with Baldwin lambasting the President. After all, Trump offers comedians an abundance of material. But instead, the show made a decision to focus more on key members of his administration like Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway.
The show opened with Melissa McCarthy reprising her hilarious role from last week as Spicer. This time Spicer tried to remain in control but as time went on he lost it. Soon Spicer was hawking goods for Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, which Nordstrom pulled this week for poor sales. And Spicer even comically commented on the racist underpinnings of Trump’s “extreme vetting” plan by using a white Barbie doll who easily walks by TSA security agents before a brown skinned “Moana” doll is immediately subjected to a pat down.
Assuming the media reports are accurate that last Saturday’s SNL depiction of Spicer got under Trump’s skin since a woman was playing Spicer, then the next moment of the cold open must really have angered Trump. That’s when his newly sworn-in Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, entered the sketch, played by the amazing Kate McKinnon. And she delivered a great comic line, touching on Session’s alleged racist past, “We all know there are two kinds of crime…regular and black.”
In the span of a few short minutes, SNL had again undermined Spicer, depicted the “Muslim ban” as racist, and spotlighted Sessions’ controversial past. That’s great political comedy.
But SNL was far from done with Trump’s team. Next came an entire sketch about Trump’s senior advisor Kellyanne Conway, which began with CNN’s Jake Tapper, played by Beck Bennett, commenting on how he didn’t want Conway on his show because of her peddling of fictitious stories, including “The Bowling Green massacre” that never happened.
Moments later when Tapper arrives at his apartment, he’s confronted — in a loose parody of the classic film “Fatal Attraction” — by an angry lingerie-clad Conway played by McKinnon. She declares she’s “not going to be ignored” by Tapper or any in the media because, “I just want to be part of the news.”
It wasn’t until the Weekend Update segment where Trump really became the brunt of the jokes. One of the most cutting came from Update co-anchor Michael Che when he commented that Trump looked miserable as President and noted that Trump was eating a truly unhealthy diet of KFC fried chicken. Che wryly added that Trump should quit now as President, “I mean, Donald, is this really how you want to spend the last two years of your life?!”
And finally, one hour into the show, we saw Baldwin as Trump. This time it was in a People’s Court parody of Trump appealing the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision. Sure, it was funny — especially when Trump calls as a character witness a shirtless Vladimir Putin — but clearly, SNL had made a conscious decision to not use Baldwin as Trump in sketch after sketch in this highly anticipated episode.
Giving comedic airtime to parodies of Sessions, Conway, and Spicer instead of wall-to-wall Baldwin was both funny and an important commentary on the volatile first weeks of the Trump administration. Obviously SNL alone can’t undermine the credibility of a presidential administration. But it can play a key role. (Hence Trump lashing out at SNL.) And given that SNL is at a 22-year high in ratings this season, the show is off to a good start. Its reach has not been this great in decades.
So in a time when polls show many Americans distrust the mainstream media, it may just take SNL and comedians to be the voices of reason. Here’s hoping that week after week SNL helps make America laugh again at Trump — and his administration.
Dean ObeidallahDean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @deanofcomedy. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.