Friday, May 6, 2016

Obama to Flint: Drink Up and Pipe Down

President Obama finally got around to bringing the pipes to the residents of Flint, Michigan this week. His rich baritone pipes, that is - not the kind they desperately need to replace the corroded system still leaching toxic lead into the drinking water supply of thousands of families.

Did you really think that the slow genocide of an entire city full of non-rich working people would qualify as a national disaster prompting an emergency presidential declaration and the immediate presence of billions of dollars and the Army Corps of Engineers? Since there is no immediate profit to be made from lead-poisoned children, the lead-poisoned children will just have to quite literally suck it up until some tax-averse charitable corporations can partner with politicians and figure out how to leach some extra bucks for themselves out of this tragedy.

The residents of Flint will have to wait years for the expensive new pipes, Obama vowed.  Meanwhile, in a downright bizarre effort to prove that lead in human bodies is not really as bad as it's cracked up to be,  the big man himself took a couple of tentative sips of filtered Flint tap water. (Presumably after it was thoroughly refiltered, retested and deemed safe by the Secret Service, who normally supply and serve Obama's a la carte potables.)

Unlike the emergency bailout of the Wall Street bankers, unlike the rescue of the state's auto industry, there is no "fierce urgency of now" in Obama's Flint playbook. Check out the typical neoliberal buzzwords in bold:
 We are ensuring that we have a plan for the system to work over the long term; and that we are certain that our kids here in Flint are going to be able to take advantage of their talents and opportunities well into the future.
Just because kids have ingested and bathed in near-lethal levels of lead and developed behavior and learning issues and broken out in sores doesn't necessarily mean they can't eventually "live up to their potentials", he soothed. Expensive fresh fruit and vegetables can even ameliorate the effects! (He doesn't give any tips on how to actually wash your produce, however.) And sometimes all it takes is a trip to the doctor to reassure parents that a little potential brain damage is not necessarily such a bad thing. The important thing now is that parents act responsibly, use the free filters and the expanded Medicaid being so magnanimously provided for them. Meanwhile, rest assured that politicians and bureaucrats are working hard on planning to come up with a plan for maybe eventually getting some additional funds that somehow never are an issue when it comes to spending trillions on Permawar and tax loopholes for the wealthy.
It may take a year.  It may take two years.  It might take more to get all the pipes replaced.  And in the meantime, folks have to be able to use water.  So trust that the tests have been done and the filter system works. 
It's safe to drink as long as you aren't below the age of six, chronically ill or immune deficient, in which case you are royally screwed.
 Third point.  In order for us to clean out the system, to flush out the contaminants, and to have confidence that, as we fix the system, it’s actually going to be safe for all the households in Flint, we need everybody in Flint to start helping us flush out that system.  And so I guess there’s a program called Flush For Flint.  It’s not the most elegant name.  (Laughter.)  But the concept is pretty simple if you think about it, and that is we need everybody to turn on their tap in the kitchen, in the tub for five minutes a day so that the water is running and whatever contaminants are sitting in there start getting pushed out. 
You will of course still have to pay for all that wasted water. If only we could flush out the whole contaminated pathocracy while we're at it. But no dice:
 Now, I understand if people are scared and they’re not using their water, that they may wonder why is it up to me to be part of this process of fixing it.  But the bottom line is, is if you’re not doing your part, then these outstanding folks around the table who want to help can’t do theirs.
Whether it's the housing crash or chronic joblessness and income inequality caused by Wall Street greed, at least half the onus must always be placed on the victims. Whether it's CIA "patriots (who) tortured some folks", or fine family men like Paul Ryan who cut social programs, they are all simply outstanding folks. So if you're not part of the public relations solution, you're part of the problem, proles! You have to have some skin in their rigged game.
 And what I’m encouraged by is I think a recognition at every level of government that we have to take what has been a crisis and see if we can turn this into an opportunity to rebuild Flint even better than before.
It's the dogma of creative destruction. Rich people view poor people as investment opportunities. The poor are reliable sources of profit, be it by forcing them to take out payday loans to meet their water bills, raising their rents, penalizing them unless they buy worthless junk health insurance, punishing them within the private prison system, using them as killing machines for profitable wars, experimenting with them in privatized schools, taking a cut from their food stamp balance every time they buy a gallon of milk, ad infinitum. The possibilities and the profits are truly endless. Flint is just one more opportunity for disaster capitalism to helicopter down and pounce once the pouncing is good.
I’m confident that we can do that if we’re all working together.  And I emphasized to the governor and I emphasized to the mayor that my job here today is not to sort through all the ins and outs of how we got to where we are, but rather to make sure that all of us are focused on what we need to do moving forward on behalf of the children of Flint.  That’s my priority.  And that’s got to be all of our priorities.
As per usual, there will be no accountability for the wealthy criminal class. Every man-made crisis must have either benevolence or ignorance at its core. Therefore, Governor Rick Snyder and the other officials who knew that the Flint water was contaminated for years and did nothing about it, will not be blamed and definitely not be prosecuted if Obama has his druthers. As he vowed at the beginning of his reign regarding the Bush-Cheney war crimes, his job is to look forward and not backward. The powerful must always protect their own kind and their own class, regardless of party affiliation.
 Last point. I think people are understandably scared when they hear that their child may have ingested some lead, it may have gotten into their system, and that that may have some long-term impacts or create particular challenges for kids.  But it is really important for all of us to remember that kids are resilient.  And every kid in Flint is special, and has capacity, and can do great things.  And the fact that they may have had some drinking water that was contaminated doesn’t automatically mean somehow that they’re going to have huge problems or that they’re not going to be able to reach that potential.
The glass is always half full of lead-tainted water. They don't call it Special Ed for nothing, after all. I'm just surprised that he didn't also nominate lead as an essential mineral. But wait, the best is yet to come:
When I was five or six or seven, a lot of homes still had lead paint in it. (sic)  I might have ingested some lead paint when I was two or three years old, because at the time, people didn’t know it.  So we’ve got an entire couple of generations of Americans who have done really we despite the fact that they may have had something that is not optimal.  And how lead interacts with any particular child is going to be different, and what each child needs is going to be different.  And some kids are going to be fine, and they’re not going to be affected.  Some kids may have more of an -- it might have more of an effect.  
He "might have " snacked on lead paint chips as a child, but look how awesomely well he turned out. Putting aside the utter sneering cynicism of that statement, let's take him at his word. Could his decision to drone to death hundreds and maybe even thousands of people residing on his presidential Kill List be a result of subtle organic brain disease that's left his IQ intact? Could his serial lying about corporate coups known as trade deals stem from a lead-based, neurological deficit in the areas of the brain which house aggressive impulse control and a moral compass?

Of course, the pathology does not belong to him alone. It's rampant throughout the media-political corporatocracy. It has been a long tradition of neoliberalism that the more abnormal the situation, the more vigorously the market-based thought collective will seek to normalize it. People can have their life-sustaining water poisoned due to the criminal neglect of their leaders, and then be urged to simply accept the band-aids of a little free medical coverage and a temporary filter for their faucets while their leaders stay wealthy and free and powerful.  If "folks" expect anything more, like emergency declarations and new pipes before next year, then they are harboring utopian delusions. They are letting the perfect become the enemy of the good.
Generally I don’t do stunts, but here you go.  (Takes a sip of water.)  Now, this had a filter on it.

 I reckon it's like those safe filtered cigarettes that the Marlboro Man who died of lung cancer used to advertise on TV.  But hey, if you only take one puff or one sip over the course of your entire lifetime, you most likely will indeed live long enough to reach your full, post-presidential potential. Ka-ching!

Meanwhile, even the Democratic mayor of Flint is not buying Obama's bullshit. Karen Weaver says the cheap filters are simply not working at all in many of the homes receiving the still highly contaminated water.

  But to hear the Neoliberal Thought Collective tell it, the only thing we have to fear is Donald Trump himself. The guy for whom scapegoating was a winning proposition is now the Scapegoat Du Jour. The whole world is apparently terrified of a Trump presidency. I imagine that his xenophobic Kill List would be even scarier than Obama's xenophobic Kill List. It would definitely be more sexist. 

Even neocon candidate Hillary Clinton is concerned enough to go email-trolling for donors to her brand new Stop Trump Fund.

 Dig that horror film devil-horned zombie hand coming out of the grave to grab you and bite you and turn you into another zombie!

Be afraid. Send Hillary a buck as she gathers together her own horde of Bush-Cheney neocons to fight the zombie menace. Then go guzzle some nice filtered water. 


Cirze said...

JFC, Karen.

You are the best literary journalist since . . . Mencken, Poe?

You rock baby!


Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Cirze!

Meredith NYC said...

Your post hits the mark, Karen. With Obama setting the standard of what a benign, reasonable sounding Democrat sounds like, how can the US ever get its own democracy working again?

Lincoln’s of, by, for the people sounds downright socialistic now. Our famous ideals are actually the kiss of death in our politics.
A commenter said --- “govt of corporations, by lawyers, for the richest.” Voters have been carefully taught that their own govt is the enemy. And in the case of Flint, it was.

I just ran across this 2011 NYT op ed by professor of psychology Drew Westen-- “What Happened to Obama?” Worth reading again.

He says...”Like most Americans, at this point, I have no idea what Barack Obama — and by extension the party he leads — believes on virtually any issue.”

Says those bewitched by his campaign eloquence chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his bio:
... “that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the US Senate, he had voted "present" (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.”

Westen asks, who is Obama and what does he believe it? He may be just the president our dialing for dollars system gives us.

This part is apt for Karen’s excellent post on his Flint speech:

“His stories virtually always lack one element: the villain who caused the problem, who is always left out, described in impersonal terms, or described in passive voice, as if the cause of others’ misery has no agency and hence no culpability. Whether that reflects his aversion to conflict, an aversion to conflict with potential campaign donors unclear.”

When he ran there were 2 contradictory platforms: “ as a reformer who would clean up the system, and as a unity candidate who would transcend the lines of red and blue. He has pursued the one with which he is most comfortable given the constraints of his character, consistently choosing the message of bipartisanship over the message of confrontation.”

Meredith NYC said...

In his column Truth and Trumpism, Krugman is such a riot...he criticizes the media on how they’ve handled the Hillary/Trump battle. What about how he's handled the Hillary/Bernie battle? He says the media is trying for a false equivalent idea to dramatize their coverage. But for Hillary to suggest that Sanders hasn’t done his homework on policy issues, is certainly ‘not the same’ as all those Trump insults to everybody.

“... the public has a right to be properly informed. The news media should do all it can to resist false equivalence and centrification, and report what’s really going on.”

Pretty good word---centrification.

What about Krugman’s slanted, insulting columns denigrating Sanders, pretending he’s a left wing radical, and never once giving his proposals the slightest respect of objective analysis?

This ‘ con of a liberal’ columnist lives deep in his bubble and no longer realizes how his contradictions appear to readers.

Karen Garcia said...


I made that point about Krugman's hypocrisy in my own (buried) reply to his last column, something to the effect that after months of lumping Trump Storm Troopers and Bernie Bros into the same extremist fringe, his lecturing the press on false equivalence is about as rich as the plutocrats who are running this whole show. He's such a narcissist he doesn't even realize how shallow he sounds and how badly his own reputation has been damaged. He is now back to lambasting the Very Serious People. What a hoot.

The Times basically exists to serve the interests of the top 10 percent and make them feel comfortable in these perilous times. And it's the top 10 percent who seem to comprise the bulk of the liberal reader commentariat, judging from their quick pivot to "pragmatism" after professing to have felt the Bern all these months. Many are already totally on board with the Stop Trump movement, lesser evilism, etc.

But but but... as a Times reader with whom I correspond suggested in an email, take a random look at the most recommended comments from self-professed "liberals" on any given story having to do with immigration or racism. The xenophobic ones are the most highly recommended (regarding both Muslims and Mexicans as well as complaining about the lack of attention to "black on black" crime), so I wouldn't be too surprised if Trump actually does win this whole election with the help of some Democrats. He is actually to the left of Clinton on many things, namely trade, war and health care. Or so he says. I still wouldn't trust him as far as I can throw him. Still, it is highly enjoyable watching him destroy the plutocratic wing of the GOP and watching Hillary scramble to suck up to the GOP donor class.

Jay–Ottawa said...

For a long time I have had to beat back impatience when listening to Obama. Admittedly, my threshold of impatience may be absurdly low for his kind of patience preaching. Seems like he was at his special best when spouting patience in Flint. And the people of Flint just sat there and listened to him going on and on like that?

What if, whenever Obama gives a speech full of his usual Grade-A Pablum, which is just about all the time, people, politely smiling at the SS agents nearby, simply got up and walked out until, lo and behold, the hall was empty? Obama would then have an audience worthy of his words.

Such an event, more than serial heckling by the audience or demonstrations outside in the streets, might be the best tactic to shut down the Narcissist in Chief. The establishment's absurdities have reached a new level. Maybe it's time for civil disobedience to be set aside in favor of civil disregard.

What if they gave a war, and nobody came? What if they gave a speech, and no one listened. What if they wrote columns like Krugman's, and no one bothered to read them anymore?

Meredith NYC said...

I found your excellent comment in Krug’s thread. Far down but still plenty of recs. Normalizing the abnormal indeed—by a benign Con of a Lib as I nickname him.

As you say if the issues were actually reported, re TPP and other things--- “We might even take to the streets, as they're doing elsewhere in the civilized world.... where elections begin and end in a matter of months, not years.”

AND are conducted without the equivalent of Koch financing. Why aren’t their corporations lobbying against their publicly financed elections? And their big media against free media time for all candidates?? Think of the huge profits they’re giving up. Where is an article somewhere on this comparison?

‘Trumpf as vile buffoon’ -- a gift to the Dems as the lesser evil party and to columnists capitalizing on it.

A reply cited ‘Khruschev's comment that there's only one US party, the Capitalist, which divides at regulated intervals to hold elections.! Pretty good, never heard that one.

We have to analyze Krugification Centrification.

Anonymous said...

Lovely, hilarious, and depressing entry!

Question about Hillary: Are her recent bigoted stances (C.P. time jokes, comparing Trump to a Native American "off the reservation"), intended to show that she, too, can be a bigot in an attempt to siphon off brown-person blaming uneducated white folk in general against Trump? At first I thought she was clueless (great, one unguarded moment and "off the reservation" comes out!), but now I think it must be strategic. Combine that with openly courting endorsements from Paul Ryan et all, and I think the truth that the Clintons were never really democrats to begin with is finally coming out. We should just go back to Jefferson's time and call it the Democratic-Republican Party.

Speaking of democrats, I know, I know, Bernie's defense of drones (I voted for him in the New York primary, but he was going to have to come 'round on drones, Palestine, and a federal mincome before I could support him in a general, one out of three..), but still: what is up with almost every exit poll being so completely off in the democratic primaries? Story problem for common core test takers (or Greg Palast): If Bernie won the Indiana primary by six points, and exit polls had him winning by 12, and assuming every single early vote was cast for Hillary, how many early votes were cast in the Indiana primary?

I see from the above comment that you're still reading Krugman. I find his lack of integrity infuriating because I think he's maybe smarter than he seems to have become lately. Also resent him because I was fooled, although he was making sense there for a while. I can't waste my time anymore on people who try to tell me the system works. It's way too personal. Disaster Capitalism bingo.

Karen Garcia said...

Jay et al,

I think it's useful to alternate between lambasting them and ignoring them. There aren't enough hours in the day to chronicle all the pathology, so we may as well struggle to retain our sanity as we struggle against the system. It's Obama's much-hyped "balanced approach," doncha know.

I have pretty much boycotted the Times comment threads. From commenting faithfully nearly every single day, I now only indulge once or twice a week. Every time you write a comment, the Times makes a few pennies off your unpaid brain sweat. Why give them the satisfaction? Rather than react to their writers in 1500 characters, I much prefer to write my own stuff. I don't care about getting a "wider audience" on that platform. Besides, all they write about these past many months is the presidential sweepstakes. Not much criticism of Obama any more, even from the "progressive" outlets, so that is why I've been taking particular aim at him lately. He still has all the power and still uses the press effectively. For example, the mainstream media coverage of his Flint visit was largely limited to the mawkish story of the 8-year-old girl who wrote him a fan letter. So he personally jetted over to give her a hug for the cameras. The message was that here is a bright, precocious child who ingested lead and is apparently suffering from no mental or physical deficits at all! The sun'll come out tomorrow on the Good Ship Lollipop and all that.

Anonymous said...

I love your comments in the NYT, Karen. You are consistently the voice of sanity and black humor. There are a couple (very very few) of regular commentators who generally have interesting, awake, unique (for the NYT), eloquent comments. I always get happy when I see your name in the comments. I know it's worth reading and always refreshing.

I was fantasizing about the NYT making YOU a columnist. That would be so amazing. Can you imagine that ever happening?

Maybe someone can pull some strings at The Daily News, now that Juan Gonzales has retired..