How a Wall Street company made Jackson, Miss., water crisis worse

I knew the Jackson, Mississippi, water crisis has much of its roots in the fact that the state has been gerrymandered so much for so long that Republicans have an iron-fisted hold on all three branches of government, including the House and Senate — plus its congressional delegation.

Mississippi is still Klan country in many ways, and no doubt those kinds of sympathies are never very far from the surface in the good ole boys who run the place. That 38% of the state is Black no doubt accounts for the fact that Mississippi ranks dead last among the 50 states in most quality-of-life indicators. Wouldn’t want non-whites to get too uppity and full of themselves with actual electoral power and generational wealth.

What I did not know is that the water crisis also has much of it roots in a Wall Street company fleecing the city of Jackson and its water customers. It all started with white flight from Jackson, which decimated the city’s tax base in a state where the white folks in control were not in the mood to help a largely Black city, according to Judd Legum over that Popular.Info:

But while the city’s population and tax base shrunk, it still has 114 square miles of aging water infrastructure to maintain. The state, dominated by Republicans, has been largely unwilling to help a city populated by Black Democrats. In 2021, for example, intense storms left Jackson residents without drinking water for a month. The city asked the state for $47 million in funding for emergency repairs. Mississippi allocated $3 million.

Mississippi lawmakers have blocked “attempts by the city to raise infrastructure funds through a sales tax hike.” Meanwhile, top state officials, including Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R), have said that Jackson needs to solve its own problems. After the city lost access to clean water in 2021, Reeves said that the city needs to do a better job “collecting their water bill payments before they start going and asking everyone else to pony up more money.”

Reeves is right that Jackson has had difficulties collecting fees for water. But those difficulties — and its struggles to generate enough revenue to cover even routine maintenance — can be traced back to the actions of a multi-billion dollar corporation: Siemens.

But there is no such thing as systemic racism, dontcha know?

It cannot be said enough times: If someone in your town or city EVER proposes privatizing its water, sewers, parking meters or anything else, help to fight it in any way you can.

Paula Conley, a resident of Jackson, Miss., sprays disinfectant on dishes she hasn’t been able to wash because of a lack of water.

Now the racist incels are coming for House of the Dragon

I watched the first two episodes of House of the Dragon last night, and I was so impressed I did something I told myself I would never do: I shelled out for a subscription to another streaming service, HBO Max. Just so I can continue to watch HOTD.

It’s very much like Game of Thrones. It even has the same theme music. Still set in Westeros. Many of the same family names. And it has even more dragons, which I always felt were the most thrilling non-speaking “roles” in the original series.

It never crossed my mind that the new series seemed at all “woke,” a catch-all term that Republicans and white supremacists — very often the same thing these days — use to describe books, school curricula (and now fantasy TV series) as having too many consequential Black people and powerful, non-submissive women.

Imagine my surprise to wake up this morning to read two articles in major news sources that examine whether HOTD is too woke.

The better of the two pieces is a New York Times op-ed written by Jeff Yang, a comic book nerd who is co-author of “Rise: A Pop History of Asian America From the ’90s to Now.”

Will a slightly more sensitive Westeros give us enough to talk about? It’s hard to tell so far. The new series certainly didn’t open with anything quite as gasp-inducing as a pair of twins having sex in a tower, then throwing a child out of a window, as “Thrones” did. And there’s some validity to complaints about how much time “House” spends on “tense bickering at a big table.” But to suggest that a less raunchy Westeros is necessarily less compelling does a disservice to the original series by assuming that sexual brutalization and normative whiteness were its core appeal.

It’s also a rather patronizing assessment of the show’s fans, many of whom weren’t there for the full-frontal nudity and titillation. I’d argue that the success of “Thrones” had more to do with the complex dynamics of its political and family intrigue, its top-tier acting and its immensely detailed world-building — all of which “House” has already offered in abundance.

George R.R. Martin, the author of the source books, who was involved in creating both HBO series, has defended the treatment of race and gender in “Thrones” as grounded in historical reality. He told Entertainment Weekly in 2015: “The books reflect a patriarchal society based on the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were not a time of sexual egalitarianism.” To a fan wondering why there seemed to be no Asians in the series at all, he responded on his personal blog in 2014: “There weren’t a lot of Asians in Yorkish England either.”

Of course, there weren’t ice zombies, giants or, ahem, dragons in Yorkish England, either. Given that the land of Westeros is a wholly imagined fantasy, it could’ve been anything its creators imagined it to be — and in “Game of Thrones,” a white male author and white male showrunners imagined it as a place where people of color are mostly servile, silent or absent.

But as [HOTD] showrunners Mr. Sapochnik and Mr. Condal note, “House of the Dragon” arrives in a very different era. Mr. Condal put it bluntly in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: “It was very important for Miguel and I to create a show that was not another bunch of white people on the screen.” Mr. Sapochnik cited the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements in an interview with Jeremy Egner of The Times: “It’s a radically different world from what it was 10 years ago,” he said. “We have to reflect the changes in the world before us — not because somebody told us to, but because we actually feel like there’s a point.”

Why is ANY of that controversial? I mean, I get why it annoys misogynistic racist incels. But why must those of us who live in a world that is not exclusively white and heterosexual and male explain to so many others why fantasy milieus ought not be mostly made up of white heterosexual males?

That this “controversy” is happening to both HOTD and the new Lord of the Rings series (see this, yesterday) is a sign that the forces of racist heterogenity are experts at banding together and making noise, thereby getting the attention of the mainstream media. But the only review that matters will be how many people watch these two series, and the LOTR series on Amazon had the best opening in the history of the streaming service.

I suspect this will all soon be background noise; resentful caterwauling from a bunch of misogynistic racist incels on Gettr and TruthSocial, while the two series go on to be as hugely popular as their opening days suggest they will be.

Actor Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon: Known as the “Sea Snake,” he is the head of House Velaryon, the wealthiest and most powerful clan in the realm, and is the most famous seafarer in Westerosi history. The fact that he is also Black hasn’t come up in the first two episodes of House of the Dragon.

Alt-right upset that new Lords of the Rings series has people of color

Not that we needed any proof that the alt-right really is about white supremacy, but whining about the new Lord of the Rings series from Amazon because it contains non-white characters and women of power, is peak MAGA nonsense:

Brandon Morse has read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” the “Lord of the Rings” series and watched extended editions of Peter Jackson’s ring trilogy so often that “I can almost quote them all line for line.”

But Morse is dreading a new addition to the Middle-earth canon that he says “perverts and corrupts” Tolkien’s mythical medieval universe because TV showrunners have committed this storytelling crime: They are trying to “woke-ify” Amazon’s new series, “The Lord of the Rings: “The Rings of Power.”

Morse is deputy managing editor of RedState, a conservative news site. He says “The Rings of Power” producers have cast non-White actors in a story based on European culture and who look wildly different from how Tolkien originally described them. He says it’s an attempt to embed “social justice politics” into Tolkien’s world.

If you focus on introducing modern political sentiments, such as the leftist obsession with identity issues that only go skin deep, then you’re no longer focusing on building a good story,” says Morse, who wrote an impassioned essay about his misgivings. “You’re effectively making propaganda, or art meant to fit a message, not a message to fit the art.”

Hey, Brandon, you dope, these worlds aren’t real. Characters in fantasy movies about elves and orcs can be whatever color anyone wants them to be. (Why does anyone have to point this out?)

Not only that, but Tolkien was born in Victorian England, when non-white people by the millions were still used as cheap colonial labor. Of course he wouldn’t have people of color in positions of leadership among, say, the human race in Middle Earth.

Nonetheless, Tolkien had complicated views on race. He despised Nazi race theory, for instance.

Which is more than I can say about RedState.

In any case, the mere fact that some people are upset that a fantasy movie has Blacks and female leaders, yet is located in a place that doesn’t really exist, just proves how utterly ridiculous and grasping the alt-right movement really is.

CNN actually does a pretty good job of covering these issues and showing how dumb it is to listen to a bunch of racist incels lecture anyone about how to build “realistic” (ha!) fantasy worlds that are, by definition, whatever the writer wants them to be.

Mostly black Mississippians helpless as water crisis deepens in Jackson

The Washington Post has a sad article up about the water crisis in Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson, and I was shocked when I ran across this:

Experts say this crisis was years in the making, a result of inadequate funding for essential infrastructure upgrades. For the past year, leaders of this majority-Black, Democrat-led city have pushed for additional funding from the White Republicans who run the state. Little has come of those appeals.

I’m not shocked because it’s not true. I’m shocked because editors at papers such as WaPo usually won’t let that kind of indictment of white neglect toward black citizens be spoken so clearly.

It’s also clear that whites (who make up 58 percent of the state) are in complete control and have ignored the problems of black Mississippians (who make up 38 percent of the state). Mississippi has a long history of active and passive racism stretching back to the days of slavery, right through to the present. Earlier this year, KKK pamphlets were left over the span of two months on black residents’ property and on the steps of a black church in Hernando in rural DeSoto County.

This is a state where white supremacism runs deep.

So it ought not be too surprising that white Republican state leaders would sit back while the Jackson water crisis has been slowly ruining the lives of black Jackson residents.

Benny Ivey, a white plumber and co-director of the group Strong Arms of Jackson, said the city’s water crisis is finally getting the national exposure it deserves.

“We have people really seeing what’s going on,” Ivey said. “I’m glad that the governor and other people are finally saying something about this and saying they’re going to do something about it. But … we’ll see if they put money where their mouth is.”

As a plumber, Ivey knows the city’s crumbling water infrastructure well.

“There’s always water lines breaking and sewer lines breaking,” he said. “I’ve had situations where I have my guys replace a sewer line from the house to the road and you get to the road and find out the city’s line is messed up and the city makes the homeowner bust the road up, fix the line in the road and then asphalt the road. What kind of place does that?”

Ivey grew up in South Jackson but moved to a suburb in nearby Rankin County.

“No gunshots, good water, good sewer,” Ivey said of Florence, Miss., the city where he lives. “It’s like night and day.”

Crazy. Just crazy.

And it’s only going to get worse as the Republican-led U.S. Supreme Court stands ready to strike down even more parts of the Voting Rights Act that have blocked southern whites from building barriers to black voting in the Deep South.

Insider-Only Hiring of Police Chiefs May Violate Civil Rights Law, Officials Say

ProPublica and Boston’s legendary PBS station WBUR have a piece up about a problem I didn’t even know existed: state and local laws which require police forces to hire new police chiefs from within the often scandal-plagued departments they will lead.

With police departments facing demands for reform nationwide, some experts say that one way to address problems such as racial discrimination, poor training or use of excessive force is to bring in an outsider. But Revere’s mayor, Arrigo, didn’t have that option. In 2017, he tried to change the ordinance so he could look at external candidates, but he was rebuffed by the city council.

“We absolutely welcome the help of [U.S. Attorney] Rachael Rollins to make these changes going forward,” Arrigo said in a statement to WBUR. “I have been and always will be in support of this change and am willing to work with anyone able to provide help and guidance. The work of improving a toxic police department culture cannot be done alone.”

It’s not known exactly how many cities and towns around the country are constrained to choose police chiefs who already work in the department. In New Jersey, state law requires most municipalities to choose a chief from the ranks. The city of Bakersfield, California, will hold a ballot referendum this November on whether to remove its insiders-only requirement. Bakersfield agreed to the referendum as part of a settlement with the California state Department of Justice, which had been investigating alleged civil rights abuses by city police officers. In 2020, after a sweeping overtime pay scam that implicated more than 45 troopers, the Massachusetts legislature dropped a requirement that the head of the state police be hired from within.

Police unions and local elected officials often support these insider-only ordinances to reward veterans of the force for their service and to keep political allies close. Brandon Buskey, head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project in New York, said that these requirements should be abolished because they limit cities from finding the most qualified candidates for chief, but that unions are standing in the way.

“That’s a problem that really is national in scale because we see police unions and the lobbying effort of police groups being used to really thwart necessary reforms in so many jurisdictions,” he said.

This is just crazy, but it just goes to show you how elected officials often claim to support good policing, but then go along with corrupt police unions in passing laws which virtually guarantee the opposite. These laws also maintain the racial status quo for majority Caucasian police departments.

You can read the rest of the ProPublica article at this link.

U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said that rules like Revere’s that require hiring police chiefs from within are “ridiculous” and may limit the diversity of the candidate pool. Credit: Jesse Costa/WBUR

Black professional couple finds that having whites stand-in as owners when appraising their home increases its value from $472,000 to $750,000

FFS, this is not the deep South. This is Baltimore.

Last summer, Nathan Connolly and his wife, Shani Mott, welcomed an appraiser into their house in Baltimore, hoping to take advantage of historically low interest rates and refinance their mortgage.

They believed that their house — improved with a new $5,000 tankless water heater and $35,000 in other renovations — was worth much more than the $450,000 that they paid for it in 2017. Home prices have been on the rise nationwide since the pandemic; in Baltimore, they have gone up 42 percent in the past five years, according to Zillow.com.

But 20/20 Valuations, a Maryland appraisal company, put the home’s value at $472,000, and in turn, loanDepot, a mortgage lender, denied the couple a refinance loan.

Dr. Connolly said he knew why: He, his wife and three children, aged 15, 12 and 9, are Black. A professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Connolly is an expert on redlining and the legacy of white supremacy in American cities, and much of his research focuses on the role of race in the housing market.

Months after that first appraisal, the couple applied for another refinance loan, removed family photos and had a white male colleague — another Johns Hopkins professor — stand in for them. The second appraiser valued the house at $750,000.

This week, Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott sued loanDepot, which is based in Foothill Ranch, Calif., as well as 20/20 Valuations and Shane Lanham, the owner of 20/20 Valuations. Mr. Lanham is the appraiser who conducted the first appraisal.

“We were clearly aware of appraisal discrimination,” said Dr. Connolly, 44. “But to be told in so many words that our presence and the life we’ve built in our home brings the property value down? It’s an absolute gut punch.”

The home appraisal industry, which relies partly on subjective opinions to translate home values into dollars and cents, has faced a firestorm of criticism over the past two years.

More than 97 percent of home appraisers are white, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and since the summer of 2020, when conversations on race and discrimination in America rose to the forefront following the murder of George Floyd, dozens of Black homeowners have alleged discrimination in the home valuations they received.

Of course, conservatives insist there is no systemic racism in America.

You can read the rest of Debra Kamin’s New York Times piece at this link.

Libertarian heir to Hills Bros. coffee fortune, after filing election papers, discovers you have to be an actual lawyer to run for San Francisco DA

Austin Hills Jr., the heir to a coffee fortune in San Francisco, planned to file papers to run in the election for San Francisco DA.

He was informed, no doubt much to his chagrin, that you have to be an actual lawyer to be district attorney.

An attempt to run for San Francisco District Attorney by the son of an elite coffee dynasty family was brought to an abrupt end this week when he was told that he could not enter the race because he was not an attorney.

Austin Hills, whose family founded Hills Bros. Coffee in San Francisco in the late 1800s, pulled papers to run for the office on Wednesday, according to the Department of Elections website.

The Standard made several attempts to contact Hills on Friday and visited his listed address but was told by a man who said he was Hills’ brother that Hills had been unsuccessful in his bid because had not realized that he needed to be an active attorney to run.

According to the latest copy of the eligibility requirements for San Francisco District Attorney, a person wishing to run for the position must have served as an attorney licensed to practice in California for at least five years prior to filing.

A search for Austin Hills on the California State Bar Attorney website garnered no results.

The 42-year-old is registered as a Libertarian, according to public voter information. And this doesn’t appear to be the first time he has attempted to run for public office: according to his Facebook posts, he registered to be an Independent write-in candidate for the 2016 presidential election.

What is it with rich white boys and their weird fascination with libertarianism? They read Ayn Rand in their teen years and never grow out of it, much like most everyone else who develops critical reasoning skills in high school.

I wonder if he was dropped on his head as a child.

Anyway, young Austin is apparently a real doozy.

As a loony rich libertarian he will no doubt find fertile ground for his ideas (and money) in today’s Republican Party. We’ll definitely be hearing more from him.

You can read the rest of the story here.

His family seems like a bunch of real winners. When Austin Sr. got married in 2010 in Napa Valley it was a Bollywood-themed wedding (see pic below).

Ah, the casual racism of the leisure class.

Coffee heir Austin Hills The Younger (right).
Austin Hills Sr. (left) his blushing bride and an artist friend at their Bollywood-themed wedding featured prominently in San Francisco’s society pages.

Ahmaud Arbery’s killers get another life sentence for his death

This time they are sentenced on federal charges:

The three Georgia men serving life in prison for Ahmaud Arbery’s murder were again handed lengthy prison sentences Monday on federal hate crime charges.

Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery, will serve his federal sentence of life plus 10 years. His father, Gregory, who initiated the deadly pursuit of the jogger, will serve life prison plus seven years. Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, who took a video of the killing, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

They will serve the federal sentences concurrently with the state time. The judge denied each man’s request Monday to serve their sentences in federal prison.

In February, a jury found that the three men, who are white, violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because of his race. Arbery was Black.

Although the men are already serving life sentences, the additional punishments mark “an important moment for the Civil Rights Section of the Department of Justice and an important moment for the federal judiciary,” said Ayesha Bell Hardaway, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and co-director of the school’s Social Justice Institute.

Arbery can never be brought back, of course. That pain will remain for all who knew him.

But there is a sort of poetic justice to the fact that the father and son will spend the rest of their lives surrounded by black men whom they would have hunted down in their pickup if they saw them running in their neighborhood.

Assuming either father or son lives very long with the giant targets they have on their backs.

The son already asked to serve his sentence in federal custody because he fears for his life in GenPop in state prison.

Insert sad trombone sound here.

I know. I shouldn’t condone prison violence. And in general I do not.

But given the ages of those good ‘ole white boys, their Ku Klux Klan outlooks on life and non-white people are hard-wired into them by now. They’re not candidates for rehab. The earth would be a better place without them walking on it.

DA who prosecuted black woman for mistakenly voting (after an official told her she could) and judge who sentenced her to five years are ousted from office

This goes against the media narrative that voters hate progressive DAs and judges, so you won’t hear as much about their loss as you heard about the San Francisco DA losing his race, but it is great news nonetheless.

Voters in Shelby County swept away a slate of tough-on-crime officials on Thursday, ushering in a new era for criminal justice in Tennessee’s most populous county, home to Memphis.

Shelby County has been notorious for punitive practices that leave people languishing in jail for years without a conviction and fuel harsh youth prosecution, largely against Black residents. Local advocates have fought for years to change the system. The county was under federal monitoring by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating the rights of Black children between 2012 and 2018. In 2018, a DOJ report found continued violations and discrimination in juvenile courts, and characterized the policies of the district attorney’s office as a “toxic combination for African-American youth.”

The local officials who oversaw that system, District Attorney Amy Weirich and Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael, were both ousted on Thursday. The winners, Steve Mulroy in the DA race and Tarik Sugarmon in the juvenile judge race, ran on reform agendas and secured eight-year terms.

Mark Ward, a local criminal court judge, also appears to have lost his re-election bid. Ward sparked an outcry earlier this year for sentencing Pamela Moses, a Black activist who was erroneously told by a state agency that she was eligible to register to vote, to six years in prison. That case was prosecuted by Weirich’s office, and Moses decried the aggressive charges as a scare tactic.

You can read the rest of the Bolts article by Daniel Nachanian at this link.

Pamela Moses at trial.

Jan. 6 committee taking (apparently limited) look at law enforcement failures leading up to insurrection

Well, at least the House committee is looking at something related to how so many law enforcement agencies could be so wrong and utterly unprepared for the Jan. 6 treasonous riot.

They will walk on tippy toes so as not to be accused of being anti-cop, of course.

Due to late-breaking revelations, the committee’s public presentations in June and July skewed more toward Trump’s actions before and during the Capitol attack. But there’s a lot that got left on the cutting room floor, including new information gathered by the “blue team,” which has focused on law enforcement failures leading up to the attack, as NBC News reported back in January.

A committee aide told NBC News last week that this team of investigators is singularly focused on the preparedness of and response by law enforcement, intelligence agencies and the military.

“The team has conducted more than 100 interviews and depositions touching on these matters of security and intelligence across several federal and local agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Fusion Centers, Office of Intelligence & Analysis, among others,” the aide said. “The team is looking into what intelligence these agencies had at their disposal; how that intelligence was analyzed, stitched together, and distributed; and whether law enforcement operationalized that intelligence.”

The “blue team,” a separate source told NBC News, is headed by Soumya Dayananda, who spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor — and worked the case against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán — before joining the committee.

Liz Cheney said in an interview on Fox News last Sunday that the blue team’s work would be featured in the committee’s final report and would “likely” be included in upcoming hearings.

“What we aren’t going to do … is blame the Capitol Police, blame those in law enforcement, for Donald Trump’s armed mob that he sent to the Capitol,” Cheney said. “Clearly there were intelligence failures, clearly the security should have operated better than it did. But this was a mob Donald Trump sent to the Capitol, and I think that’s important to keep our eye on.”

That last part is not promising. It indicates that they will not be looking at perhaps one of the most important aspects of the entire plot to overthrow the election.

Many officers and agents in federal, state and local law enforcement are supporters of the Proud Boys and other white nationalist groups, some of them are secretly members, and many of them wanted to see the Jan. 6 insurrection succeed. We already know some Capitol police welcomed the rioters with open arms and pats on the back.