Sunday, March 19, 2017

Last Call For Flint, Stones

Republicans in Congress refused to help Flint's water crisis for years until after the 2016 election, when the GOP suddenly decided that passing an emergency grant in December for $120 million that President Obama signed into law was a good idea.  Now we know why they took so long: more than three months later, the Trump regime is taking 100% of the credit for saving Flint when "Obama did nothing" to help.

The fix is part of the Trump administration’s goal of updating the country’s water infrastructure, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said Friday in a press statement.

“The people of Flint and all Americans deserve a more responsive federal government,” he said. “EPA will especially focus on helping Michigan improve Flint’s water infrastructure as part of our larger goal of improving America’s water infrastructure.”

Michigan Democrats and Republicans praised the EPA’s decision to infuse money into the dilapidated city’s broken water supply.

“We are excited and very grateful to receive these much-needed funds,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. “The City of Flint being awarded a grant of this magnitude in such a critical time of need will be a huge benefit.”

Michigan officials and Flint residents have been struggling to get the small, mostly black town’s water system up and running after lead contaminated its water supply.

Officials switched the small Eastern Michigan city’s water supply from Lake Huron in 2015 to the Flint River in a bid to save money. But the state applied the wrong regulations and standards for drinking water, which ultimately resulted in corroded pipes.

Various reports conducted in the past two years indicate the EPA has been slow to respond to the growing scandal.

One report published in March, 2016, claimed the EPA only acts to enforce clean drinking water regulations when public outrage reaches a fever pitch, implying negligence on the part of agency officials.

Another report conducted in February, 2016, by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), details how the EPA fails to force state regulators to comply with federal drinking water laws.

Nearly 2,000 citizens became fed up with the dawdling, so they sued the federal agency for failing to address the long-running water crisis.

The lawsuit claims the EPA failed to take the proper steps to ensure that state and local authorities were addressing the crisis. The defendants are seeking a civil action lawsuit for $722 million in damages.

You catch all that?  How the Obama EPA "failed" Flint when Republicans refused to lift a finger in Congress to help until Trump won and they could take credit?   That's the Trump regime for you: a problem the GOP created over years of neglect, suddenly fixed when they have the window to blame it on Obama.

Only then do the people of Flint get help with their lead-poisoned water, because they can score political points.

Nice, huh?

Deportation Nation, Con't

The Trump regime's reign of fear continues as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wants extra immigration judges assigned to key cities to process all the cases he plans to send them, something I doubt AG Jeff Sessions will have a problem with.

The U.S. Justice Department is developing plans to temporarily reassign immigration judges from around the country to 12 cities to speed up deportations of illegal immigrants who have been charged with crimes, according to two administration officials.

How many judges will be reassigned and when they will be sent is still under review, according to the officials, but the Justice Department has begun soliciting volunteers for deployment.

The targeted cities are New York; Los Angeles; Miami; New Orleans; San Francisco; Baltimore, Bloomington, Minnesota; El Paso, Texas; Harlingen, Texas; Imperial, California; Omaha, Nebraska and Phoenix, Arizona. They were chosen because they are cities which have high populations of illegal immigrants with criminal charges, the officials said.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department's Executive Office of Immigration Review, which administers immigration courts, confirmed that the cities have been identified as likely recipients of reassigned immigration judges, but did not elaborate on the planning.

The plan to intensify deportations is in line with a vow made frequently by President Donald Trump on the campaign trail last year to deport more illegal immigrants involved in crime.

The Department of Homeland Security asked for the judges' reshuffle, an unusual move given that immigration courts are administered by the Department of Justice. A Homeland Security spokeswoman declined to comment on any plan that has not yet been finalized.

No wonder then that Cinco de Mayo celebrations in six weeks are starting to be looked at as "target rich environments".

El Carnaval de Puebla, a major Cinco De Mayo celebration in Philadelphia, has been canceled following recent federal immigration crackdowns, organizers said.

Edgar Ramirez told a local NBC affiliate that as many as 15,000 people gather for the annual parade through South Philadelphia, marking the city's largest Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Ramirez told NBC the decision was "sad but responsible" amid reports of more immigration enforcement arrests on the part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Hundreds of undocumented immigrants have been detained or arrested since President Trump took office. Trump campaigned on a pledge to strengthen enforcement of immigration laws.

ICE announced this week alone that 248 people in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia were in federal custody awaiting deportation following two weeks of immigration raids.

Ramirez said that the Mexican-American community, including both legal and illegal residents, was disheartened by reports of large-scale arrests.

"The group of six organizers decided to cancel unanimously,” Ramirez said. “Everyone is offended by the actions of ICE. They did not feel comfortable holding the event."

Philly's Carnaval won't be the last event cancelled, either.   This is Trump's America now.  Everyone else is most certainly not welcome here anymore.

Roll Over Beethoven And Everyone Else

Legendary Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer, Blues Hall of Famer, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Chuck Berry has passed at the age of 90.

He performed in 1979 for President Jimmy Carter at the White House, landed at No. 6 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and trademarked his stage showmanship with his famous “duck walk.”

John Lennon once said, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” He paved the way for such music legends as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Band, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, AC/DC, Sex Pistols and Jerry Lee Lewis, among many others.

Muddy Waters, Berry’s idol and musical influence, gave him some constructive backstage advice: contact Leonard Chess. Chicago-based Chess Records, primarily a blues label run by Polish brothers Leonard and Phil Chess, had a series of transplanted blues artists on its roster, including Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed and John Lee Hooker.

The Chess brothers signed Berry in 1955 and produced and released his first single, “Maybellene,” an adaption of the Bob Wills song “Ida Red.” It sold more than a million copies, reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts and hit No. 5 on the Pop charts, allowing Berry to build crossover appeal beyond the R&B audience.

Chuck Berry defined rock for decades, and the biggest names in the industry know exactly who they owe their success to.

Keith Richards of the Stones, a big fan, said, “Chuck Berry always was the epitome of rhythm and blues playing, rock ’n’ roll playing. It was beautiful and effortless, and his timing was perfection. He is rhythm supreme. He plays that lovely double-string stuff, which I got down a long time ago but I’m still getting the hang of. Later I realized why he played that way — because of the sheer physical size of the guy. I mean, he makes one of those big Gibsons look like a ukulele!”

His 1972 album The London Chuck Berry Sessions, featuring a who’s who of British rock royalty went gold within a month, selling more than 500,000 copies. It featured both studio and live recordings with such songs as “Let’s Boogie,” “I Love You,” “Johnny B. Goode” and “My Ding a Ling,” a late-period hit written and first recorded by Dave Bartholomew. The novelty song about his private part became his only No. 1 pop hit on both the Billboard and U.K. pop charts.

Berry fought a number of legal situations that arose in his life. He was arrested in high school for stealing a car and robbing convenience stores. He received his GED in prison and was released at age 21. He was imprisoned under the Mann Act in the early 1960s for having sexual intercourse with a minor and in 1979 for tax evasion. He continued to make music behind bars, writing “Thirty Days,” “Nadine” and “No Particular Place to Go.”

Expressing his disagreement with the charges, “Thirty Days” included the lyrics, “If I don’t get no satisfaction from the judge/I’m gonna take it to the FBI and voice my grudge/If they don’t give me no consolation/I’m gonna take it to the United Nations/I’m gonna see that you be back home in 30 days.”

Bands like the Stones, Beach Boys (basing “Surfing U.S.A.” on his “Sweet Little Sixteen”) and Beatles covered his songs, allowing him to remain relevant to the music world, and he signed with Mercury Records in the mid-1960s. He released five albums on the label and toured on the success of his earlier hits. He quickly built a bad reputation during his live shows by hiring spur-of-the-moment backup bands, somehow thinking they’d know each lick of his music.

Bruce Springsteen and Steve Miller occasionally performed live with Berry. Springsteen and the E Street Band backed Berry during his performance of “Johnny B. Goode” and “Rock and Roll Music” at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Director Taylor Hackford captured Berry’s 60th birthday in the 1986 documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, where he famously clashed with his protégé Richards. Those who appeared in the film included Diddley, Lennon, Lewis and Little Richard, all of whom revealed personal stories and relationships with him. Berry performed concerts that same year with a number of artists including Linda Ronstadt, Etta James, Julian Lennon, Robert Cray and Johnson, his original mentor.

I think it's time to track down Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll and give it another viewing.  He was legendary 30 years ago, and the legend only grew since.

Sunday Long Read: True (Base) Detective

Oxford American's Nick Tabor gives us this week's Sunday Long Read, a detective tale about a grisly double murder in Oak Grove, Tennessee, just outside Army base Fort Campbell.  It's about the town madam who made a lot of money and paid to keep it that way, a bad cop whom everyone knew was guilty, and the military-industrial complex and a base with 30,000 soldiers that crushed a town and its 3,000 people for decades.

In the early 1990s, New Life Fitness & Massage kept its lights on twenty hours a day, closing at five every morning and reopening at nine. Everyone in Oak Grove knew it was a brothel. Fort Campbell, one of the nation’s largest Army posts, sits on top of the Kentucky-Tennessee border, and New Life stood right outside its northern gates next to Interstate 24. Many of its clients were Screaming Eagles: paratroopers from the famous 101st Airborne Division. Most of the others were truckers off the highway and locals of all stripes; some say judges and other dignitaries would come up from Nashville, an hour down the highway, to be ushered in and out covertly.

At twenty-six, the owner, Tammy Papler, was shrewd beyond her years. She had picked the location for the ready-made customer base in Fort Campbell, and for the pool of potential workers: soldiers’ wives, ex-wives, and girlfriends, as well as women who had recently been discharged, most of them far from their families and without safety nets. She wore her hair in a fluffy blond permanent and took the pseudonym Mercedes. Some of her employees feared her temper.

Oak Grove, Kentucky, wasn’t a city in any meaningful sense, but rather just a commercial strip hedged by trailer parks and clapboard housing. Its population was around three thousand, though this number fluctuated depending on deployments. While Fort Campbell’s officers could afford the more elegant digs on the other side of the post in Clarksville, Tennessee, Oak Grove was a haven for young enlistees, and it drew seedy businesses like mosquitos to a bog. The main stretch of highway was lined with liquor stores, pawnshops, and adult businesses: Fantasee Lingerie, Donna’s Den, Mona’s Go-Go, Classic Touch, and Cherry Video, the last of which Papler also owned. The brothel operated in the back of a small brick building that it shared with a Chinese restaurant.

The business cycle at New Life, as with Oak Grove’s small economy, rose and fell with military paydays. During the slow periods, the women would order takeout and watch the O.J. trial. There were moments of levity, and escapades. Once, two strangers came in off the interstate and plied a couple of workers with mounds of cocaine and hundred-dollar bills for an all-night party, but the men made such a mess in the Jacuzzi room that the workers had to spend their tips to have the carpet cleaned before Papler arrived in the morning.

For Ed Carter, a burly twenty-four-year-old police officer, the city was something of a playground. Carter grew up near Hopkinsville, the county seat, on a farm, where his father worked for an influential white family (the Carters were black) and his mother cleaned houses and churches for extra money. After dropping out of community college, Carter was recruited into the Police Explorers, an apprenticeship program for youths who want to work in law enforcement. He graduated into the midnight shift, responding to domestic fights of young military couples and scuffles at Oak Grove’s strip club.

With minimal training, he spent his first months on the job scrambling to learn the local geography and police procedures. But he didn’t need any instruction to push people around. (Once, Carter responded on a call about a fighting couple and he flung the husband out of their trailer.) He began to walk with a swagger. One of the badge’s perks, he found, was that wearing a uniform made it easy to pick up women—especially with so many men away on deployments. In 1992, he married a woman he’d met on the job, but this didn’t get in the way of his tomcatting.

As a bad cop, Carter was largely a product of his environment. The Oak Grove Police Department had only six officers and was known throughout Christian County for its corruption. Buddy Elliott, the police chief, was the older brother of the mayor, Jack, and together the Elliott brothers owned a major share of the local real estate. They used the police force as an arm of their business enterprises and sometimes as a revenue generator. For instance, in 1993, after some of the New Life massage parlor’s workers were charged with prostitution, Buddy Elliott came to Papler and asked whether she’d “get with the program.” She gave him $600 cash, and when the case reached a grand jury, the charges were dropped.

Over the year that followed, the cops got increasingly cozy at New Life, and some even hung out in the lobby when they were off duty. “They felt like they owned the place, they really did,” one of the workers remembers. “You never knew if they were just stopping by to say hi, or if they were wanting something.” Papler says she came up with a special procedure when an officer wanted sex: he didn’t pay, but his name was recorded at the bottom of the client register, so she could compensate the worker later herself. The Oak Grove government didn’t have much tax revenue, so when the patrol cars needed new lights, the cops imposed on Papler to foot the bill.

Carter spent more time at the brothel than any of his colleagues. He began a steady affair with the manager, and since his police salary was so meager, he compelled Papler to put him on the payroll as a “janitor.” She later said in court proceedings that the payments were really for “protection” or “hush money”—not for mopping the floors. And she was afraid that if she stopped, he’d get the place shut down. For all her friendliness with cops, Papler faced regular threats of closure. For backup, she had an emergency dispatcher keeping guard; whenever there was talk of another prostitution raid, the brothel would get a call—“a storm is coming” or “time to get the umbrellas out”—so her workers could get dressed.

Then, in the summer of 1994, Papler says, she cut Carter off. His payments cost her too much and they had a falling-out. She remembers telling him not to come back, but short of changing the locks, she couldn’t keep him out; he had a key. A few weeks later, in the early hours of September 20, two of her workers were alone at New Life. At 3:35 A.M., two colleagues found them in a back room of the brothel, naked, lying in puddles of blood, both shot through the head and stabbed in the neck. The investigators suspected Carter right away, but they didn’t have enough evidence to convict him. To many, it appeared that the Oak Grove Police Department had a hand in covering up the double murder. Within months, the New Life massage parlor shut down. Carter fled town and many of the locals close to the event eventually left, too, including Papler. The sheriff’s office handed over the investigation to the state, but for more than fifteen years no one was arrested. By the time I moved to the area, the case had almost evaporated into a grisly local legend.

This is Nick Tabor's story, chasing a legendary cold case in a town that definitely didn't want it re-opened.  Pull up a chair, this is a good one.
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