Friday, January 29, 2016

What in Flint...? (Rant Followed by Fundraising Links)

Flint, Michigan...it's a real place. (So is Hell, but Flint is bigger and, in some ways, more unpleasant; in real life I often say "What in Flint...") I didn't spend much time in Michigan and don't plan to go back there, but my emotional "heart" does contain a tiny glow of warmth toward this beleaguered, often benighted, horribly polluted State.

Home of Gerald Ford..."President Nice Guy" wasn't our most memorable President, but he was nice.

Home of Michael Moore...a lot of this web site's correspondents bash him, and there were a few years when he bought into a conspiracy theory and even my Democrat husband was saying "Don't support that kind of lunacy," but he's a good writer and I've always liked his work. Conspiracy theories apart.

And the home of some, not all, of the "Moms" in a nationwide organization called Moms Rising. As an aunt I support some of their efforts in aid of children. Some, not most, because there are too many left-wingers in the group. Left-wingers are really good at publicizing problems. At generating workable answers they're not so good.

I mean to say...take a look at the e-mail below. The problem is that these people are poor...so their idea of a solution is to spend more tax money...but tax money has to be collected from local folks, and the local folks don't have much, so they're basically talking about a boondoggle that's going to require a bailout. There are disaster areas, like New York in 2001 or New Orleans in 2005, where a bailout may seem like the only remaining way to help. That's not what Mom Dream is describing to me, though. What she's conveying to my mind is definitely a problem, but it looks, sounds, feels, whatever, more like a problem that might be better addressed by collecting and spending less tax money.

I want to know, if the following commonsense suggestions don't work for Flint, why they don't work better than the ones the left-wingers are proposing:

1. Flint's city water is polluted. Buy filters. Lots of filters, because the chances are that residents of Flint are going to go through them like toilet tissue this year. Take up a collection to buy filters for those who can't afford them.

2. The city manager switched the water supply? Well, then, the city manager should switch it back. (Whether the city should switch managers, and/or take a switch to the manager who switched to the polluted water supply, is up to them.)

3. After exposure, the body recovers from lead poisoning...slowly. Some people benefit from chelation therapy to speed up recovery; most don't need it. A clinic to help identify anyone who does need treatment, and advise other residents of Flint about nutrient supplements during the recovery process, would be a good thought. Should the state use tax money to set up the clinic...taxes collected from poor people...or offer private people and organizations whose image could use a boost, of which Michigan has plenty, the opportunity to get credit for funding it?

Not being from Flint, I can't claim to know, but I would think that in a place as rich as Michigan a good marketing campaign could get richies competing over which of them could chip in most. There's the Meijer store chain fortune, Amway, Little Caesar's, Quicken, Penske, Stryker, Henry Ford's heirs, Dan Gilbert, what's left of General Motors, the university built on the ruins of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and that one's not even close to being the biggest university/hospital system in Michigan. By now, for pity's sake, never even mind Roger Smith, Michigan has Michael Moore! Admit it, conservative readers--no matter how much you disagree with his politics, there are times when you have to like Michael Moore:

http://michaelmoore.com/walk-with-mike

At the right point in the recovery process, walking helps people recover from lead poisoning, too.

So, Mike From Flint, this is for you, from the friendly-looking fair-skinned woman who dragged in the judgmental-looking dark-skinned man, and sat at the back and didn't buy a book, at the Arlington book party after 9/11. (Oh, of course, at a mob scene like that any writer would remember the people who didn't buy the book after fifteen years...all two of them? Maybe.) If I'd written a book that had earned as much as any of your books, even the one my husband hated, and if my home town had a crisis, would I sit back and let people raise taxes on working parents to salvage my town? Like the Pope would convert to Judaism, maybe. Like thunder! What are you going to do for your townsfolk? Book? Movie? You could singlehandedly give the world something that could raise enough money to fix the water supply in Flint and open the clinic. Writers have power. Writers have fortitude. You, Michael Moore, could not only get the hard-working and laboriously poor-mouthing people in Gate City to shell out money to help Flint; you could make us laugh out loud as we did it. And it's about time we had another good laugh out of you anyway. I'm not about to sell my copy of Here Comes Trouble, which I believe my husband would've liked too, but it is practically old enough to be a Fair Trade Book.

But honestly...Penske people, I know you're going to read this because I mentioned your company, are you going to leave everything to Michael Moore? Youall could put something about Flint on a racing car and take up collections at races. You have fans. You could probably collect enough to open a clinic at Charlotte alone...

Andrews University, where I met most of the real-world people I know in Michigan. How long are you going to be the only Adventist university that's not affiliated with a well-known present-time health care institution? Seventh-Day Adventists are not poor. Not all of them are rich, either, but they donate religiously to church, mission, and humanitarian causes. That whole clinic idea is calling yourall's names. "Holistic," Dream wrote. Think "naturopathic," A.U. people. And build it to last. A hundred years is long enough to coast on the memory of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

I'm not saying the legislators should sit on their hands either; they're human too, they'd have to have had quite a bit of lead poisoning themselves to want to sit on their hands. Virginia and Tennessee legislators "never allow a crisis to go to waste"; in any kind of community disaster they're out there raising funds, boosting morale, and basking in free publicity. I'd be surprised if a Michigan legislator weren't in Flint as I type. But I am saying that raising taxes is not the ideal solution to everything. Raising taxes seems likely to be an especially non-ideal solution for a place like Michigan that still has way more than its share of money, but seems to be stuck in a state-wide, thirty-year-long shortage of healthy pride. A one-time crisis seems to call out for a one-time display of that "We can take care of our own" sort of pride.

Penniless as I am, I do want to be part of that one-time display. So here's what I can do: If any Michigan writer, ideally but not necessarily Michael Moore, it could be un-funny Dan Gilbert for that matter, cranks out a new documentary book about the Flint water crisis and/or what Michiganians are doing to solve it, and sells it at fundraising prices up to $50 per copy, I will personally walk into Kingsport and buy that book at the Fort Henry Mall bookstore. And I will photograph that walk. And that book. And tweet the images, using the "WalkWithMike" hashtag.

Here's Mom Dream's alternative solution...and it's not all bad; it just seems to me less efficient and less good. I could be wrong, and if convinced that I'm wrong I could support Moms Rising on this one. But I'd be greatly disappointed in Michiganians if they had to fall back on any solution that involved raising taxes.

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As parents, we do all we can to keep our kids healthy. And we rely on our government to make sure we have access to essentials like clean water. That shouldn't change depending on what color we are, our income level, or where we live.
That's why we're beyond mad about the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan. Join us in demanding justice from the Michigan State Legislature: http://action.momsrising.org/sign/Flint_2016/?t=5&akid=7553.1995681.1kHsbh
Here's what happened. In April 2014, in an effort to cut costs, an emergency manager appointed by Governor Snyder switched the Flint water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River. Long story short: dangerous levels of lead seeped into the water supply, posing long-term and serious health risks for local residents.
Families in Flint knew there was a problem when the water turned brown, young children broke out in rashes, and the hair of some residents began falling out. Yet officials denied anything was wrong, as they failed to follow federal guidelines around lead safety and utilized faulty water testing techniques. [1] Can you imagine?
Refusing to stay silent, residents started organizing. Researchers found the water supply contained over 900 times the recommended amount of lead [2]. Even the City Council voted to reconnect to the Detroit Water Supply in March 2015. Yet Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose continued to insist that the water was safe to drink [3].
Indeed it took WELL OVER A YEAR for the city to acknowledge that there was a BIG problem, and that the water in Flint was NOT safe to drink. There are no words for this kind of failure. Are the children and families of Flint so disposable that local officials didn't act more quickly and comprehensively?
Governor Snyder himself now refers to the situation as a "catastrophe". [4] The New York Times wrote: "Officials at all levels of government acted in ways that contributed to the public health emergency and allowed it to persist for months" [1].
We are outraged. It's time for urgent and comprehensive action on behalf of the families in Flint. Join us in demanding justice from the Michigan State Legislature: http://action.momsrising.org/sign/Flint_2016/?t=7&akid=7553.1995681.1kHsbh
Earlier this month Governor Snyder finally declared a state of emergency in Flint, over a year and a half after the problem began. [5] Residents are now being told to use water filters and/or bottled water, and no one knows how many of the city's almost 100,000 residents have been affected by lead, and to what degree. What we do know is that ingesting high amounts of lead can have devastating and long-term effects on children, the elderly, and the sick. Current estimates are that it could take as much as $1.5 billion to fix the problem. [6]
Would officials have ever been so careless about the drinking water if over 50% of Flint's residents weren't black, and over 40% live below the poverty line, making Flint one of the most impoverished cities of its size in the US? [7] The appointment of an emergency manager in Flint, one of several Black cities across the state to have their elected officials replaced by an appointee from the Governor, is at the center of this crisis.
These kinds of environmental injustices happen time and time again in communities of color. Indeed, "Black people in America - especially those living in rural and poor areas - have long been denied the same access to clean drinking and water for bathing and sanitation as everyone else. The crisis in Flint is not an isolated incident," Black Lives Matter has stated. [7] We must do better.
Following the lead of our local allies, we're demanding the Michigan Legislature do the following:
  1. Replace all public water infrastructure at no cost to residents or businesses.
  2. Refund all water bills since the switch to the Flint River water supply, and create a fund to repair property damage caused by toxic water.
  3. Launch an independent state and federal investigation into what happened in Flint. Lift executive immunity from the Governor’s office and release all communications.
  4. Create a Flint Citizen Civilian Core to train workers to repair infrastructure.
  5. Create a holistic medical care facility in Flint to offer therapies and other methods to treat lead poisoning.
Join us in speaking out, on behalf of families and parents in Flint: http://action.momsrising.org/sign/Flint_2016/?t=9&akid=7553.1995681.1kHsbh
ALL of our children and communities deserve access to safe drinking water. What's happening in Flint is a tragedy and a disgrace. Our leaders must be held accountable, and we must do all we can to ensure it never happens again.
Thank you,
- dream, Elyssa, Monifa, Karen, Gloria, Felicia and the rest of the MomsRising.org team

[1] Abby Goodnough, Monica Davey and Mitch Smith: When the Water Turned Brown, the New York Times. January 23, 2016.
[2] David Graham, What Did the Governor Know About Flint's Water, and When Did He Know It? The Atlantic. January 9, 2016.
[3] Stephanie Gosk, Kevin Monahan, Tim Sandler, Internal Email: Michigan 'Blowing Off' Flint Over Lead in Water, NBC News. January 6, 2016.
[4] Julia Jacobo, Flint Water Crisis: Michigan Governor Apologizes, Takes 'Full Responsibility' for 'Catastrophe’, ABC News. January 19, 2016.
[5] Paul Egan, Snyder declares emergency as feds probe Flint water, Detroit Free Press. January 15, 2016.
[6] Paul Egan, Flint mayor: Cost of lead fix could hit $1.5 billion, Detroit Free Press. January 15, 2016.
[7] Solidarity Statement with Flint, Michigan, Black Lives Matter.
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