Ivan Kral takes us behind the scenes at the birth of New York punk, Anne Brown shares her platform for the State House, and Bee Roll reflects on how being “Ypsilantian of the Year” has changed her life… on this weekend’s Saturday Six Pack

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A month or so ago, we had local entrepreneur Steffan Graf of on the show, talking about his life on the road with Grand Funk Railroad, and how he went from opening for Led Zeppelin to designing residential lighting systems for the likes of Keith Richards. Well, after we turned the off the mics, Graf leaned over, asked me to hand him a beer, and told me that I should ask his friend Ivan to come on the show. “If you really want to know about Iggy Pop and Bowie,” he said, referring back to a question I’d asked during our interview, “Ivan’s the person you need to talk with. He played with Iggy for years.” “Wait,” I said, “you don’t mean Ivan Kral, who used to play with The Patti Smith Group?” “Yeah,” Graf responded, “he lives just down the road.”

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Well, it turns out that Graf wasn’t just fucking with me. Ivan Kral really does live just down the road, and he’s going to be in the studio with us come Saturday night, when I expect we’ll talk about everything from those first few gigs at CBGBs to the time he spend in Berlin with Bowie, which, by the way, he just recently wrote about for the website Dangerous Minds. [The above photo of Bowie, Pop and Kral was taken in Berlin in 1979.]

I should also add, not only is Kral one hell of a musician and songwriter who played an integral part in the birth of punk rock, but he was also one of the few people who, very early in the days of the scene developing around CBGBs, had the foresight to actually document what he saw going on around him on film… Here’s the poster for Kral’s 1976 performance compilation film, The Blank Generation, which, to my knowledge, is the only even remotely comprehensive film documentation that exists from the period.

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So, if you want to hear me rattling off questions about Television, the Ramones and Iggy Pop like a giddy fanboy, be sure to tune in during the 7:00 hour.

Before we’re joined by Kral, though, we’ll have two other awesome guests in the studio.

At 6:00, we’ll be joined by Ypsi City Council’s Anne Brown, who will be discussing her recently announced run for the Michigan House seat being vacated by David Rutledge, who, at the end of this year, will be term-limited out of office. Among other things, we’ll be talking with Brown about her platform, and what she hopes to accomplish in Lansing if elected to represent the 54th district… If you have specific questions that you would like for me to ask, either leave a comment here, or call in between 6:00 and 6:30. [The studio’s number is at the bottom of this post.]

And, at 6:30, we’ll be joined by Bee Roll, the owner of Beezy’s, with whom we’ll be talking about business, politics, food and how she’s managed the responsibility over these past 12 months of being our first official “Ypsilantian of the Year.”

Here, for those of you who don’t recall the ceremony, is Roll receiving her award on our very first episode of the Saturday Six Pack.

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I’m also told that, at some point during the broadcast, my occasional co-host, Jim Cherewick, will be dropping by to say hello and perhaps help provide commentary.

And, here, thanks to AM 1700 senior graphic designer Kate de Fuccio, is this week’s poster, in case any of you want to print copies and distribute them in outside the Governor’s Ann Arbor condo.

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FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NEVER TUNED IN TO THE SIX PACK BEFORE, HERE ARE THE DETAILS ON HOW TO LISTEN:

Unless you live inside the AM 1700 studio, chances are you won’t be able to pick the show up on your radio. As that’s the case, I’d recommend streaming the show online, which you can do either on the AM1700 website or by way of TuneIn.com.

And for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the show, and need to get caught up, you can listen to the entire archive on iTunes. If you start right now, and listen to everything at double speed, but you can do it.

One last thing… If you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, feel free to share the Facebook event listing.

And do call us if you have a chance. We love phone calls. So please scratch this number into the cinder block wall of the recreation room of whichever facility you’ve been assigned to… 734.217.8624… and call us between 6:00 and 8:00 this Saturday evening. The show is nothing without you. Sure, sometimes it’s nothing even with you, that’s true, but usually you make it better.

Posted in Art and Culture, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Nothing says you care about the people of Flint like hosting an opulent party for your friends in downtown Ann Arbor behind blacked out windows

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I got word this past weekend that there was a secret party taking place in downtown Ann Arbor, a posh event inside an upscale restaurant. The windows of the restaurant, I was told, had been “blacked out,” and there was security outside. The man who had rented it out, according to the person who first reached out to me, was apparently a wealthy politician who wanted to celebrate his wife’s birthday in private, far away from the prying eyes of his constituents, who were, at the very same moment, assembled on Main Street, demanding that he take immediate action to help the people of Flint.

As is generally the case these days, it didn’t take too long for word about what had taken place inside this lavish party to leak out. Within a few days, I’d be hearing about the ostentatious decorations, the banners, and the birthday cake, which, if you can believe it, was made to look like a diamond necklace draped over a Nordstrom’s box.

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[Since I first posted this story, images like the one above, showing the cake in question, have surfaced.]

As I wasn’t there to see it myself, firsthand, I won’t name names. So you’ll just have to guess who the wealthy politician was.

I debated publishing this. People, after all, deserve their private lives, and no one can, or should, work around the clock. And, God knows, if people were outside my home, protesting day and night, and making my wife miserable, the last thing I’d probably want to do is cancel her birthday party.

Had I been in a similar situation, though, I’m relatively certain that I would have forgone a party, asking friends instead to give money to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund. “You know what,” I’d probably say, “as much as I love my wife, I just don’t think that we should be getting drunk and dancing around a big, creamy-frosting-filled Nordstrom’s box right now.” But, then again, I have a little bit of my soul left. And, perhaps more importantly, I’m not so delusional as to think that something like this wouldn’t get out.

Ann Arbor is just too small of a town to keep secrets like this… A few days ago, when Governor Snyder was heckled at Old Town Tavern for his role in the poisoning of Flint, I heard about it almost immediately from four different people, all of whom were there at the time, in the room with him. Things like this aren’t easily hidden. Caterers, bartenders, and delivery people all have cell phones, and they’re not stupid people. They know what happened in Flint, and, when they see our elected representatives throwing big, secret parties behind covered windows, instead of cooperating with investigators, or on the ground in Flint, talking with the parents of children with lead poisoning, you can be sure they’re going to talk.

You don’t have to hire two different PR firms to know that, just days after promising to focus all of your attention on solving the problems that you helped to create in Flint, you shouldn’t try to pull off a secret party as though nothing has changed.

But our elected officials clearly don’t care about us. We aren’t really people in their eyes. We’re problems to be managed while they push their agendas forward. If we’re not helping them, we’re just obstacles to be maneuvered around.

In the whole scheme of things, having a party behind covered windows with a bunch of rich folks, eating expensive cake while poor people suffer, probably isn’t that big of a deal. Compared with lying about water quality, and encouraging people to keep drinking poison, it’s really inconsequential. I think, however, it illustrates just how little the people we elect to look after our interests here in Michigan really care about us. While they may give a good speech or two, vowing to work diligently and make things right, all they really care about is moving the needle on public opinion enough so that they can keep going, doing exactly what they were doing before.

I like to think, if I had just played a pivotal role in one of the biggest public poisonings in our nation’s history, I might be a little more conscious of my actions and how they might come across to those who either lost family members to Legionnaires’ disease, or will likely spend their entire lives worrying about their children’s health and how their futures will be affected by lead poisoning. To have such a party, given the context of what’s going on in Flint, not only demonstrates a complete lack of decency, but also levels of stupidity and contempt that are truly breathtaking.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 1.05.51 PMAnd, before you start writing your irate comments, no, I don’t begrudge this politician’s wife her expensive cake. I just think this demonstrates yet once again the contempt this administration has for the people of Michigan. To think that they can continue on, as though nothing has changed, is absolutely insane to me. In an ideal world, a leader confronted by a situation like this would have immediately moved his/her office to Flint, and would have made sure people knew he/she was fighting every day, from sun up to sun down, to get water trucks on every corner and medical care for every man, woman and child. A decent leader would have gone on every news channel available to them, and demanded that the President come to Flint, and see firsthand what these people are dealing with. A decent leader wouldn’t be at a hidden party in Ann Arbor, counting on the people of America to send individual bottles of clean water to the people of Flint. And I sure as hell don’t think a good, responsible leader would have told people as late as December that the water of Flint was likely safe to drink, knowing full well that it wasn’t, or deny that there was a link between the Flint River and Legionnaires’ disease for an entire year, when they’d known since last March that they were linked.

All of that aside, one hopes this big, lavish party was as fun as hell for all involved… as it may be the last one some of these folks see for a long, long time.

update: OK things have apparently taken off a bit since I posted this last night. Most notably, my friend Amber Fellows did some detective work, searching through the social media accounts of local cake shops, and found the above photo. Then, having seen that, the folks at MLive called up the cake shop in question and began asking questions. Heather Anne Leavitt, who made the cake, told them that she had no idea who the cake was for. “I had no idea, like seriously no idea,” she told them. “We delivered it to the West End Grill and put it down and I’m taking photos of the cake. Then Claudia, who was also working on the cake with me, looks up and sees Rick Snyder on all the photos in the room, and so we put two and two together. We knew that renting out West End Grill is not a cheap thing to do on a Saturday night, but we have a lot of high end clients. We just didn’t know this one was the Governor.” So, yes, it’s now public knowledge that party in question was thrown by Rick Snyder for the First Lady of Michigan, and that it was held at the West End Grill…. Drip, drip, drip… Little by little, ike dirty water from a tap in Flint, the truth keeps coming out.

update: OK, the story has now gone global thanks to the folks at Wonkette. Here’s how it begins.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 8.52.50 AMSo let’s say you’re the governor of a state where a city of 100,000 souls has been in the news because you poisoned the water, and where roughly 9,000 children have been exposed to lead, a neurotoxin for which there is no safe level at all. Let us say further that it’s becoming increasingly clear that your administration caused the disaster through a combination of criminal ineptitude and malignant neglect. While we’re at it, let’s say that the people who have been poisoned are for the most part poor and black, while you, the state’s governor, are rich and white. You know what professional public relations firms (which in your case you have got — two of ’em, in fact) would probably suggest you not do? Throw a lavish birthday party for your wife with a custom-made birthday cake made to look like packages from Chanel, Tiffany, and Nordstrom, draped with a jeweled necklace, with a fancy-schmancy Michael Kors handbag, also made of cake. Just an idea.

And yet that appears to be exactly how Rick Snyder, the Republican governor of Michigan, celebrated his wife Sue’s birthday at a pricey restaurant last Saturday. Michigan blogger Mark Maynard has some of the details of the alleged goings-on, which we will very responsibly note come from unnamed sources (who were dead on in describing the cake). Maynard doesn’t name the restaurant, but Mlive’s Jessica Webster confirms it was one of the Snyders’ favorite restaurants, Ann Arbor’s West End Grill; its windows were reportedly blacked out so that the commoners wouldn’t see what their betters were getting up to in there…

update: Susan Fecteau keeps the cake meme going on Ann Arbor.

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update: Now Gawker has the story as well. Here’s their big takeaway.

Sometimes urban crises are accidents. Sometimes they’re caused by gross incompetence. And sometimes they’re the result of neglect that borders on malice, a true disdain for a group of people who live somewhere else. A wealthy white man feeding a Michael Kors-themed cake to his wealthy white wife while poor black people 50 miles away have to wait in lines for clean water deliveries makes it a little clearer which kind of crisis we’re dealing with here.

Posted in Ann Arbor, Civil Liberties, Politics, Rants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 86 Comments

In an ironic twist, House Republicans, who, up until a few weeks ago, wanted to see the EPA dismantled, argued this morning that what happened in Flint was due to the agency not being aggressive enough

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Several people testified before the House Oversight Committee today about the poisoning of Flint’s citizens, including Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards and Flint resident Lee Anne Walters. While most of the local coverage, I suspect, will focus on Congressman Jason Chaffetz’s forceful promise early in the proceedings to have the U.S. Marshals “hunt down” former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley and compel him to appear before their committee, I was more interested in the political gamesmanship taking place over the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in what happened.

It became clear early in the session that conservatives on the committee were attempting to put forward a narrative in which administrators within the EPA not only ignored evidence of a significant public health crisis in Flint, but went out of their way to shut down and isolate internal whistle-blower Miguel Del Toral, who had gone outside of accepted channels to share information with Lee Anne Walters about the toxicity of the water coming into her home.

Keith Creagh, the new director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), did his best to bolster this narrative. “Between February and the end of September 2015, there were multiple email exchanges and conference calls between the MDEQ and EPA (about the Lead and Copper Rule),” he said. “Yet when the parties were unable to come to consensus on its implementation in July 2015, the EPA failed to provide the legal opinion requested by the MDEQ until November 2015.” [In other words, “What happened is the fault of the EPA because they didn’t force us to do the right thing.”]

Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee, while acknowledging that the EPA could have done better, was quick to put a different spin on these interactions between the EPA and the MEDQ. “I wish, as soon as the EPA found there was problem with the water in Flint, they had shouted it from the mountaintop. Instead, they insisted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality do its job.” He also pointed out that, early in those discussions between the two agencies, the EPA had been led to. EPA officials, according to Kildee, had been told that corrosion control procedures was in place, when, in fact, they were not.

Joel Beauvais, a deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water, told the assembled Representatives that, in the agency’s view, the rules were clear, and people within the MEDQ chose to ignore them. Flint, he said, should have implemented corrosion control in 2014, when its water source was changed to the Flint River, and not only after conducting testing for over one year. “(The) MDEQ incorrectly advised the City of Flint that corrosion control treatment was not necessary, resulting in (the) leaching of lead into the city’s drinking water,” Beauvais said. “EPA regional staff urged MDEQ to address the lack of corrosion control, but was met with resistance. The delays in implementing the actions needed to treat the drinking water and in informing the public of ongoing health risks raise very serious concerns.”

While I don’t doubt that the EPA is culpable to some extent, I have a hard time buying that they’re at the root of this. While I think it would have been great if they had been more aggressive with the Snyder administration early on, I also don’t suspect that Congress, over the last several years, has empowered them to make such stands. [The House this past summer voted to decrease EPA funding by 9%.]

As Marc Edwards pointed out during his testimony this morning, what happened in Flint could have been avoided, had Congress strengthened the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule in 2004, when it was discovered that people in Washington D.C. were falling victim to lead poisoning. Instead, however, loopholes were enlarged, making it even easier for entities like the MEDQ to downplay problems and avoid having to take action. And this, I think, is the key. Our leaders, over the past decade or more, have been systematically weakening the EPA to the point where its rules no longer have teeth.

“The agencies paid to protect us from lead in drinking water (like the MDEQ) can get away with anything,” Edwards said. “I am begging you… to fix the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule and to fix the U.S. EPA.”

So, just to sum up… In an incredibly ironic twist, we heard a number of House Republicans, who, up until a few weeks ago, wanted to see the EPA defunded to the point of non-existence, making the case that what happened in Flint was not the case of a state administration that chose to subvert democracy in order to prioritize tax cuts over public heath, but a federal environmental agency that wasn’t aggressive enough to stop them… Stay tuned. I suspect, in a few months, the irony will be further compounded when these same House Republicans vote for additional EPA cuts, defending the move by pointing to how the agency “botched” Flint.

Here, in case you’re interested, is footage from today’s hearing. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Environment, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

I apparently molt several times a year

The management of AM 1700 just marked the one year anniversary of my radio program, The Saturday Six Pack, by posting the following graphic to Facebook, along with a comment about how, almost every week, I wear the same filthy, brown sweater. I know I should either thank them for having hosted the show for an entire year now, or lash out at them for having made fun of my “lucky radio outfit,” but I can’t seem to find the energy to do either. Every bit of my cognitive power this evening is dedicated to answering a single question…. “Based on these photos, how many times a year do I molt?”

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I’m thinking that I should go into this second season completely bald, with the intention of not shaving or cutting my hair for the entire year. That way, when looking back on images from individual shows, I wouldn’t have to wonder when they took place. I could just look at the length of my grizzled, knotted beard and know… Of course, now that I think about it, I could probably also just look at the date of the photo, but what’s the fun in that?

Posted in Mark's Life, The Saturday Six Pack | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Now that Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley is facing the prospect of a year in prison for contempt, one wonders if he might be persuaded to work with prosecutors

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Yesterday, retired Michigan 36th District Court Judge Gregory Ellis “Greg” Mathis came right out and said what a lot of us have been thinking for a while now… that what happened in Flint has all the makings of a criminal case. The EMU-grad-turned-television-personality put it his way: “It appears that there’s criminal negligence here,” he said. “Certain people had knowledge of the fact that the water was poisoned, and did not act on that knowledge. And, in fact, denied it to be the case. That’s gross negligence, which, in many cases, can be criminal.”

And, it would seem, others are coming to this same conclusion… It was announced today, just as Congressional hearings on the Flint crisis are about to get underway, that the FBI has now been brought on to assist with the U.S. Attorney’s investigation into who knew what, and when they knew it.

Unfortunately, though, it would appear that, while various federal investigations are moving forward, those individuals closest to what actually happened in Flint, have decided not to cooperate. Most notably, former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, who had been subpoenaed to testify in front of Congress tomorrow, has made it clear that he has no plans to comply.

As for Governor Snyder, he has not been called to testify under oath during tomorrow’s Congressional hearings into what happened in Flint, much to the dismay of Congressional Democrats. [It would appear that Committee Chair, Jason Chaffetz of Utah, is doing his fellow Republican a favor by not calling him to testify under oath.] Here, with more on the hearings, is a clip from the Detroit News.

…Several committee Democrats, including Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, have criticized Snyder’s exclusion from Wednesday’s hearing. (Rep. Dan Kildee) has also said that Snyder should be called to testify.

“At Wednesday’s hearing, we won’t hear from the governor, any of the emergency managers he appointed in Flint, or anyone else from the state who was involved in making decisions that led to this crisis,” said U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, the ranking member on the Oversight and Government Reform panel.

“In our search for the truth, we must hear from everyone involved to understand what happened. Having such a one-sided hearing undermines the credibility of the committee and subjects the committee to accusations of partisanship”…

It might take a while, but I’m confident that the truth will eventually come out. People will invariably begin to turn on one another. If I were a betting man, I’d say that Earley will likely be the first to flip. While I imagine he’ll be leaving his most recent Emergency Manager gig, as head of Detroit Public Schools, with a hefty severance package, I don’t believe it will be enough to buy his silence for long, especially as the prospect of serving time in prison becomes more of a possibility. [While his severance package wasn’t mentioned, the Governor announced earlier today that Early would be leaving DPS on February 29.]

And prison time is a distinct possibility now that Early has made it clear that he won’t be testifying before Congress. According to the Detroit Free Press, “Refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena can lead to a charge of contempt of Congress which, upon conviction, is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 and imprisonment for up to a year.”

I guess we’ll have to wait and see if Early likes the Governor enough to spend a year in jail for him… Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how things evolve as the noose begins to tighten.

Before I wrap up for the night, there’s one more quote I want to share from Judge Greg Mathis. “We prepare against terrorist attacks every day,” he said yesterday, “wondering about our water being poisoned by terrorists. Well, in this case, it’s been poisoned by our own government. And we need to react like we would if terrorists had attached our people.”

It’s an interesting thing to consider… how the response to the situation in Flint would have been different had it been Muslim terrorists who had conspired to deliver untreated water from the Flint River to people’s homes, poisoning an untold number of people, and killing several from Legionnaires’ disease. If that were the case, would we accept a Congressional hearing that didn’t call people with relevant knowledge? Would we have been so slow to call for aid? Would we now be so forgiving of those individuals who knew early on and yet did not act?

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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