Friday, March 18, 2016

The Flint Hearing in Congress

There was a hearing yesterday at the House Oversight Committee that dealt with the Flint water crisis. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy testified to Congress. Both people were involved in covering up the Flint water crisis. Also, there is a new revelation that up to one-fifth of America’s water supply may be contaminated with lead. Flint’s drinking water has been linked to at least 10 deaths from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The city’s whole population of about 100,000 people including 8,000 children under the age of six has likely been exposed to elevated lead levels in their drinking water. Lead is a neurotoxin that causes irreversible cognitive and developmental damage. It has been detected in 221 children and 104 adults in Flint so far. Congress people grilled Snyder and McCarthy based on political affiliations. Republicans criticized the Obama appointed EPA head and the Democrats denunciated the Republican governor. The truth is that Snyder, McCarthy, and others in local, state, and federal levels of government are responsible for this crisis. No one in Congress has called for the impeachment, firing, and criminal prosecution of those involved. Both parties have responsibility for the situation not just one. Flint is an impoverished, mostly African American and working class city. It was the center of U.S. auto production and working class militancy. In April 2014, the city switched its water source from Detroit’s system—which supplied and treated water from Lake Huron—to the heavily polluted Flint River. The move, carried out at the instigation of Snyder’s appointed state treasurer and Flint emergency manager, both Democrats, received the blessings of local Democratic elected officials, who toasted the changeover with glasses of clean water. The US Environmental Protection Agency, despite warnings, did nothing. Snyder wanted to not blame himself for the disaster, but others.

“This was a failure of government at all levels,” Snyder declared. “Local, state and federal officials—we all failed the families of Flint.” On the state level, Snyder pointed to negligence by “career bureaucrats” for failing to inform him of the dangers. In reality, Snyder was warned—repeatedly. US Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democrat from Maryland, noted that Snyder received an internal email in October 2014 from his head legal adviser recommending that Flint “get back on the Detroit (water) system” as soon as possible “before this thing gets too far out of control.” The governor did not order the city to switch its water source until a year later. The EPA is also culpable. It received complaints from residents for nearly a year before taking any action. In an email released Wednesday, EPA head Gina McCarthy wrote in September 2015 that the issue of Flint’s drinking water was “really getting concerning,” months before the EPA issued an order requiring the city and state to protect the population. The EPA silenced its own scientist—Miguel Del Toral—whose tests showed extremely high lead levels. He also reported to superiors that Flint was violating federal law because it was not treating the highly corrosive river water. Hundreds of Flint residents (and some brought their children with them) came into Washington, D.C. to attend the hearing. Yet, many of them were barred from entering the 60 seat hearing room. They were reserved for people like other political people. Sixty-seven-year-old Flint resident Doris Patrick, who traveled 14 hours by bus to attend the hearing, took umbrage at being barred from the room, telling the Wall Street Journal, “Flint can’t get in the hearing.” Unlike the members of Congress, who studiously avoided calls for criminal prosecutions, she called for jailing those responsible. “Rick Snyder should be in jail. He should be in prison. He committed a crime. Anyone else would have been arrested by now. Period,” she said. Resident Lewenna Terry, who traveled to Flint to attend the hearing, said that her son, also in attendance, had been exposed to lead, leading him to experience reduced grades and lower attention span. “The teachers have noticed it’s not just my son but other kids. The whole city has been poisoned,” she told Reuters. Lead poisoning exists worldwide.

The Obama administration via White House spokesman Josh Earnest wants to support the EPA’s handling of the situation. Josh Earnest declaring Thursday, “There’s a strong case to make that the United States of America has never had a better administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency than Gina McCarthy.” This statement was rendered all the more wanton by the testimony at an earlier hearing Tuesday by Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards, who was among the first to draw national attention to the Flint water crisis. “EPA had everything to do with creating Flint,” Edwards said, saying the federal regulator has effectively condoned cheating on lead and copper monitoring since at least 2006. He noted that an earlier incident of lead poisoning in Washington, DC between 2001 and 2004 was up to 30 times worse than that in Flint. But he said the EPA “completely covered that up for six years,” creating a “climate where anything goes.” He added, “If a landlord were to engage in similar practices, and through their negligence, to allow even a single child to be exposed to lead paint risk, the EPA would argue for prosecution and incarceration. Yet, the EPA has allowed entire cities to be unnecessarily exposed to elevated lead in their drinking water and they’ve covered up evidence of their unethical actions by authoring these falsified scientific reports.” The UK’s Guardian found that high lead levels are found in Mississippi’s capital and other sources say that in places from Maine to other places, lead levels are in huge levels. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha have done heroic work in telling the truth and fighting for justice. So, we have systematic criminality, falsification, and deception at all levels of government. Folks responsible for this must be indicted. We need to promote the most basic needs of the population, the safety of children not support the imperialism of the military intelligence, and police apparatus which received over a trillion dollars a year. We are against oligarchy. Investments and resources are needed in Flint, Michigan. We want Flint, Michigan to be rebuilt and justice to exist.

First, I send my congratulations to all of the people who were involved in this victory. Grassroots organization is part and parcel of the black social activist experience. It is our hope that total black liberation of all of our people is realized. Now, Clutch once again have shown great information about how black women were key in ousting the people of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Cleveland’s top prosecutor Tim McGinty. Both individuals have either shown anemic responses to fight police terrorism or just represented the status quo in refusing to enact the necessary, paramount revolutionary change that we all desire. I send a shout out to Assata daughters, Project Nia, Black Youth Project, and other organizations who sacrificed, used protested, and galvanized people to vote. Also, the voters of Chicago and Cleveland must be given their due respect for ousting 2 people who needed to be voted out in the first place. Local voting can cause real change. We wish the best for Sister Kim Foxx. We know that the battle is not over yet. We must continue to treat our neighbors as ourselves and promote the principle that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We will defend our Brothers and our Sisters as we love our black people and we desire solutions. When we stick together and fight for justice together, positive results can occur. We should always remember Latasha Harlins. Her life and the issues that we confront today are similar to the issues that we have confronted back then. Back then and today, we see police brutality, racism, economic exploitation of black communities by many non-blacks, the corruption found in the criminal justice system, and massive income inequality (caused by the policies of the super wealthy). The family of Latasha Harlins has gone through a lot and we mourn the loss of their child. Yes, we have every right to be angry at an injustice of how a black teenage Sister was killed by a murderer. This story is why we need to advance black unity in a higher level. Rodney King was brutalized by crooked cops and Latasha Harlins' evil murder galvanized many people to tell the truth about how vicious oppression is in our world society. Also, since this issue deals with the LA area, we should remember civil rights legends and other black heroes in the Los Angeles area like Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Bunchy Cater, John Huggins, etc. The late Sister Latasha Harlins certainly inspires us to this day.
RIP Latasha Harlins.

I'm not surprised at Johnson's comments. He sold BET to Viacom (who doesn't give a care about black people as evident how the shows that Viacom readily promotes and funds). Johnson is not speaking out against colorism found in Hollywood. In his interview, he isn't speaking out against the anti-black racism found in America and in Latin America. He will not condemn the slick tactics that the film industry uses to promote militarism, sexism, anti-black colorism, etc. He is trying to justify a movie that isn't even based on a fact. The movie is based on a story that is completely fiction, which disqualifies it from being classified as a "biopic." People like Johnson and others want black people to assimilate and bow to Western society. How dare he compare people's right to dissent about one movie to the experiences of black slaves many years ago. No one said that the movie should be banned worldwide. People are saying that I won't spend one cent on the movie (which I agree with that sentiment). Also, people have the right to dissent. Many of the same ones who lecture black people in support of that film ignore how there is a long legacy of the film industry using tactics to sugarcoat or whitewash the stories of dark skinned black people. Nina Simone's daughter is more than qualified to speak in dissent with a faux biopic that caricatures the image of her own precious mother. I trust Nina Simone's daughter's views over the views of Johnson. It is far more easier to choose a woman who actually looks similar to Nina Simone than another person who disrespected the legacy of Nina Simone. If a light skinned black man was playing Paul Robeson in a movie, there would be all types of criticism (and rightfully so). Latinos, Asians, etc. have promoted their interests and defend their cultural heritage. We have the right to do the same as black people. Nina Simone, throughout her life, didn't need prosthetics, she didn't need make up to change her skin complexion or a faux biopic. She used her natural talent, her wisdom, and her love for black people as a way for her to outline great music to the world. That is the real Nina Simone.

By Timothy

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