Over 1,000 Detroiters shut down traffic, demand the city “Turn the Water On”

    I’m heading back into the conference now, but here are a few photos from today’s protest in response to the water issue in Detroit… I don’t know what the powers that be in Detroit must have been thinking when they decided to shut the water off now, just as 3,000 of our nation’s most radical progressive bloggers were descending on the City, but I’m sure, if they had it all to do over again, they would have done it a little differently. This thing is blowing up well beyond their control.

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    [note: Not everyone is sympathetic.]

    update: Today’s Detroit Free Press feature, “Life without water makes for some difficult choices for Detroit residents,” does a pretty good job of laying out the situation as it now stands in Detroit. Here’s how it begins.

    A single mother, living in the blighted Brightmoor neighborhood in northwest Detroit, keeps a jug of water by the toilet for flushing.

    She takes a shower when she picks her daughter up at a relative’s home.

    She heats up store-bought water in a microwave to wash her 6-year-old’s face and hands.

    This Detroit mother chooses gas for her car over water.

    The water shutoff situation in Detroit has reached a boiling point. For many low-income Detroiters, the city’s push for water shutoffs due to unpaid bills is creating a crisis.

    If you are more than two months late paying your bill, and owe $150 or more, the Water Department may send a “shutoff technician” to turn off the tap. In May, the department shut off water for 4,500 residents. In June, the number hit 7,210 customers.

    The Brightmoor mother said she recently landed a good-paying government job in Ann Arbor after years of no or low-wage work. It takes $20 a day to get back and forth to work. She owes $5,347 to the water department.

    “It’s kind of impossible to pay everything and get to work,” she said. “We’ve been without water for three weeks now.

    “I got caught up on my light and gas. I got caught up on the rent. The water was the last thing,” she said.

    To get the water turned back on, she said she needs to pay $1,604.

    “Now that I finally have a decent job, plus my saving, I can pay my bill. I believe in paying my bills. I do,” she said. “But they want $1,600, and I don’t have it.”

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Detroit, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 53 Comments

    I asked actor Mark Ruffalo about his desire to portray Columbo, and you won’t believe what he did next!

    Remember how I told you that Mark Ruffalo was here in Detroit to help draw attention to the fact that several hundreds of the City’s most poor were now without water, and how, if I got the chance, I’d ask him about his statement yesterday concerning his desire to play Columbo? Well, as it turns out, I had an opportunity, and, good to my word, I followed though. Here we are discussing it.

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    I’d like to say we had an awesome conversation about Columbo, why he’d be well suited for the part, and what, if anything, he’d change about the character if he were given an opportunity to do it, but none of that really happened. Given the seriousness of the matter at hand, and the fact that he was walking past me to get to the podium, where he’d be addressing one thousand or more people on this humanitarian crisis in Detroit, I’m not all that surprised that I didn’t get much back in the way of a response. I was just happy that I had the nerve to keep my word and ask him… and that he didn’t seem terribly annoyed by the untimely distraction from far left field. At least I don’t think he was too annoyed, as he kind of laughed, as if to say, “I’m not scared of you, or offended, but you really don’t expect for me to talk about this right now, do you?”

    I should note that a much more serious post about this afternoon’s protest will be coming shortly.

    [This post is dedicated to Peter Falk. I only talked with him a few times, but he was a hell of a guy.]

    Posted in Art and Culture, Detroit | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

      Mark Ruffalo runs on stage at Netroots Nation to advocate for action in Detroit on recent water shut-offs

      I think everyone here at Netroots Nation was going to attend anyway, but actor Mark Ruffalo just ran out on stage, as Senator Elizabeth Warren made her way off, urging everyone to attend this afternoon’s big Keep The Water On rally outside of COBO Hall.

      Here he is, making his plea. (The women at my table we absolutely giddy.)

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      If you’re not familiar with what’s going on in Detroit right now relative to water access, here’s the press release about today’s event.

      We call on activists everywhere to come to Detroit on Friday, July 18 for a rally and march to fight the dictatorship of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, appointed by millionaire Republican Governor Rick Synder, and backed by Wall Street bankers and the 1%.

      Taking place during the national Netroots Nation 2014 conference, several thousand people will converge in downtown Detroit to demand an immediate stop to residential water shutoffs and and an immediate restoration of water service. Demonstrators will demand that that the be no cuts to pensions and a restoration of retiree health benefits.

      Under a state-imposed bankruptcy, the City of Detroit workers face severe cuts to their pensions and tens of thousands of people face water shutoffs.

      The banks who have destroyed Detroit’s neighborhoods through racist predatory subprime mortgages and saddled the City of Detroit with fraudulent subprime financing, continue to loot the people of Detroit.

      Detroiters have lost their democratic rights – “elected” officials serve at the pleasure of the unelected Emergency Manager, and may be fired at any time.

      From the loss of the auto plant jobs, loss of people from home foreclosures, attack on pensions, high insurance, replacing public schools with charter schools/Education Achievement Authority (EAA), water shut-offs, to privatization and the state helping corporations take over city assets and services such as Belle Isle, the largest urban park in the U.S., garbage department, workforce development, human services, health dept., Detroit Institute of Arts, with selling the water dept. on the horizon! Banks, billionaires and corporations made this bankruptcy up to rob the people of Detroit blind and kill democracy.

      To Detroiters, we say, ”It’s time to take a stand, stand up and fight for yourselves, your children, your grandchildren, your city!”

      To people everywhere, we say, “Stand with the people of Detroit. Your city, your services, and your pensions will be targetted next”

      Let’s come together to stop the takeover of Detroit, we are not going to take this anymore! United we can stop the takeover of our Detroit! Make the banks pay!

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      [note: I know it's not political, but, if I get a chance, I fully intend to ask Ruffalo about his statement yesterday that he'd like to play Columbo in a movie. I'd always been against the idea of someone trying to revive the character made popular by my friend Peter Falk, but, if anyone is going to do it, I think it should be Ruffalo.]

      Posted in Art and Culture, Civil Liberties, Detroit, Michigan, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

      Joe Biden at Netroots Nation Detroit

      I spent yesterday at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit. The highlight for me was probably getting to see Vice President Joe Biden, who showed up at Cobo Hall about halfway trough the day to rile up the gay, abortion-loving base of the Democratic party. There were a number of noteworthy moments… like when, after praising all of us in the audience for our selflessness, Biden acknowledged that many of us were probably “horses’ tails”… but the one that’s getting the most play in the press came toward end, when the Vice President’s comments were interrupted by Latino activists chanting, “Stop deporting our families.” Biden, to his credit, agreed with them. In fact, he suggested that we applaud them, going on to say, “(Immigrants) are not the problem.” Quite the contrary, he said, immigrants are actually what makes our nation great. “They fuel our dynamism,” the Vice President said, before moving on say that whites of European ancestry will soon no longer be in the majority in America. That, he added, was not necessarily a bad thing.

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      Personally, I’m surprised that he took the stage. Given all that happened yesterday morning, with Russia-backed rebels shooting a passenger plane out of the sky in the Ukraine and the Israelis initiating a ground war in Gaza, I thought that the White House would politely suggest to Biden that he stand down, given his history of speaking truthfully off the cuff… But apparently they figured that he couldn’t make matters any worse that they already were.

      Speaking of Biden’s well documented tendency to wander off script, he talked quite a while about his now famous comments on Meet the Press, where he got in front of the White House on the subject of marriage equality, saying that he supported same-sex marriage. To hear Biden tell it, Obama wasn’t mad. Upon arriving back in the White House, he said, the President hugged him and told him never to change.

      While I liked much of hat he had to say, I was more interested in just watching how he presented it. I find politicians fascinating. After forty-some years in politics, it’s all muscle memory. He drifts. He jumps around. And, when he occasionally hits on something that resonates with the crowd, he pounces on it. His volume rises exponentially, and he repeats whatever phrase it was, to really drive it home. It’s like watching someone paddling around in the ocean on a surfboard, looking for a good wave to ride to shore on.

      Of all the things he said, the only thing I think he might get heat for his is comment about how we, the Progressives, are well positioned to “bend history,” and change the American narrative. “This is one of those moments that people get a chance to bend history just a little bit,” he said. “And there are fundamental changes taking place.” We’ve reached an “inflection point” he said. We’re at a point where we could pull the steering wheel to 15-degrees .to the left and permanently change the course of history.

      update: Here’s the video that I shot. It’s not compete, but it should give you as idea as to the content of Biden’s speech.

      Posted in Mark's Life, Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

      Warren v. Hillary at Netroots Nation 2014

      I know that the drama doesn’t really come across in this photo, but the tension was palpable when the Warren for President folks, handing out posters and hats, set up shop right next to the Hillary for President folks, who were busily building a pyramid of blue “Hillary 2016″ coffee mugs, at Netroots Nation 2014.

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      You can’t see it here, but almost everyone blew right by the Hillary folks to get their hands on the Warren signs. This photo was taken in the aftermath of the first wave. The woman in the pink, one of the Hillary folks, was muttering under her breath and rolling her eyes. I’m not sure what she was expecting, given that we were all going in to meet Elizabeth Warren, but I still felt kind of bad for them. I wonder if, when team Hillary signed up to sponsor the event, they knew that Warren would be delivering the keynote.

      Posted in Detroit, Politics | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

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