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

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.

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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

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.

Word Power: Australia Senator Pauline Hanson wants to Ban Muslims


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Presidential Candidate Donald Trump called on the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders can “figure out what is going on” following the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California.  After the Paris Terrorist attacks he wanted a database to track Muslims.

Attacks on Muslims and people who have been mistaken for Muslims have increased in this country.   While many Americans were outraged, Donald Trump continued his attacks.

President Trump, intends to restrict immigration from Muslim countries that ‘pose national security threat’ by Executive Order tomorrow.  Trump is also expected to restrict access to the United States for refugees and some visa holders from “terror prone” countries Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, according to aides.

Last year, Pauline Hanson was elected to the Australia Senate representing the State of Queenlands . Hanson, has consistently opposed immigration in this country of 24 million people. Australia’s footprint is nearly the same size of the Continental US.

Last year after the attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando Senator Hanson called on a Muslim ban.  “We have laws here that we don’t bring in pitbull terriers because they are a danger to our society… we have laws to protect Australians

Hanson is one of the co-founders of  One Nation Political Party. Through the years she has called for the restriction and changed to Australia Immigration policy.  She believes  Australia has to take a strong stance against Muslims, Islam, its teaching and its beliefs.

One Nation wants a ban on building new mosques until a royal commission into whether Islam is a religion or a political ideology has been held, and installing cameras in all existing mosques

Senator Hanson said Australia was in danger of being swamped by Asians. Believed Africans would bring disease into Australia. “Do you want to see your daughter or a family member end up with AIDS or anyone for that matter?”  

Her language is often harsh, and many Australians believe she is racist and is a detriment to the country.   However, members of One National believe they are  preserving Australian values.

http://www.onenation.com.au/

As leaders, the power of the words used by Senator Hansen and President Trump can generate peace. 

The politics of Senator Hanson and President Trump has put many Muslims and people mistaken as Muslims at risk.  Much of what they have said isn’t based on fact, its simply irresponsible propaganda.   Peace isn’t the objective, as unprovoked attacks on American and Australian born Muslims increase daily, they are silent.

Many Muslims, Sikhs and others live in a constant state of fear. Afraid to leave their homes in the country they were born in.  They are attacked on social media. Sadly, this isn’t just happening in America and Australia.

History has eerie way of repeating itself.  I was one of millions of people who marched last Saturday, every faith, every hue, and every age group.  One Voice.  I remembered the last line of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous quote.

 Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

CityFella

 

 

Facebook Live is the new key witness to crime


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By: Danny Cevallos\CNN Legal Analyst

The torture of a special-needs teen that was streamed on Facebook Live has raised new questions about the use of social media platforms to spread videos glorifying abuse and humiliation.

This tragic incident might cause some to demand that social media companies such as Facebook do more to police and prevent this kind of content being posted by users.
That would be a mistake.
 As a society interested in retributive justice, the last thing we want to do is point the finger at social media. Quite the contrary; we should be thrilled that there are outlets like Facebook and Snapchat enticing criminals to post conclusive evidence of their own crimes.
Facebook agrees with me too, though, officially, their position is that they “prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful…” and they “work hard to remove hate speech quickly.”
What Facebook would really like to say is probably more like: “Uh, our entire business model is premised on letting any one of our nearly two billion members post anything they want, anytime. What did you expect was going to happen?”
If you think social media platforms should be liable for the postings of others, that’s an understandable sentiment. It’s just not the law in the United States.
The Communications Decency Act immunizes “interactive computer services providers” such as Facebook from liability for what others post, even if the social media sites have been notified about damaging material and fail to remove it.
It’s nice that Facebook makes some effort to police these videos, but how could they do more? Social media can never 100% screen all content before it’s uploaded. Maybe in the future that kind of intelligent software will exist, but it doesn’t right now.
You know who else doesn’t want Facebook to do more to prevent these videos? Police and district attorneys. They love social media. I’ve seen it plenty of times in delinquency court. It’s a lot easier to prosecute a guns and drugs case against a juvenile when the juvenile’s own social media postings show him playing with … guns and drugs.
Detectives will tell you Facebook is often one of the first places they look for evidence. Sometimes, these cases would be completely unwinnable for the state if not for the defendant providing all the incriminating evidence against himself on social media.
This case in Chicago is a perfect example. So far, it seems that without Facebook Live there might never have been a criminal case to begin with. Even if this disabled victim had identified his assailants to police, if he was the sole eyewitness to this event, without the video, a defense attorney might have picked the victim apart on cross-examination and raised reasonable doubt.
Instead, this video — produced and published by the defendants alone — will likely singlehandedly convict them, with the added bonus of giving a judge plenty of support for “maxing them out” at sentencing, too.
On the other hand, there’s the argument that this crime might not have been committed in the first place if not for the allure of Facebook Live viral fame — but that’s a stretch.
People have been abusing vulnerable populations for millennia, eons before Facebook and Snapchat. At least now, social media yields evidence of these crimes, often supplied by the self-sabotaging criminals themselves.
Social media shouldn’t aim to prevent disturbing videos like this from being posted. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t anyway. When people post this kind of content, they only help law enforcement update their “status” from citizen, to defendant and, ultimately, convicted criminal. And that deserves a big “like.”

Sir, Please Step Away from the Choker Necklace


Do your part to prevent this from becoming a thing

By:Scott Christian\Esquire Magazine

When it comes to blurring gender lines in fashion, we’re totally for it. Like when Jaden Smith became the new face of  Louis Vuitton. Dude nailed it. And while we can get behind all sorts of sartorial experimentation in menswear, one thing we just can’t abide is men wearing chokers.

Wait, men are wearing chokers now? Well, if online retailer ASOS has anything to say about it, apparently they are. Just click on over to the men’s section of their website and you’ll find an array of chokers in velvet, burnished silver, and braided leather. There’s even a red “bandana choker.” (Pro tip: Just wear a damn bandana.)

Now let’s be clear, our stance on this is not a gender thing. Rather, it’s a “you will look ridiculous wearing this” thing. Why? Well, for one, it only ever looked marginally good on the very select few. And though the choker made something of a comeback last year, it took about three seconds for Alexa Chung—women’s style icon and all-around fashion influencer—to declare it dead.

If you want to push the boundaries of men’s fashion, fantastic. Try wearing a dress. Or score yourself a pair of Balenciaga high heels. Just please, for the love of God, step away from the choker.