Flint, BBC Scotland, BBC iPlayer, narrator Alec Baldwin, writer Richard Phinney, director and editor Anthony Baxter.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000q1km/flint

I found it strange that a crew from BBC Scotland led by Anthony Baxter should from 2014 spend five years filming a documentary about water pollution in Flint Michigan, the former home of General Motors, and the narrator is Alec Baldwin. We’re far from home.

Remember around 25 years ago when John Gummer, the then Tory agricultural minister, fed his four-year-old daughter a burgher to prove the British beef was safe after the BSE (Mad Cow Disease) disaster? Here we have President Obama sipping water from the Flint River’s Treatment Plant and declaring it safe. Whilst we have Reverend Jesse Jackson declaring that water is a basic human right. Amen to that.

What we have is a crisis of faith in authority and what they are telling us. (Soon to be mirrored by the almost 50% that will not take a Covid 19 vaccine because they don’t trust those telling us it’s safe – and often for good reason—although in the case of the Covid vaccines, plural, ignorance plays a large part).

Who to believe becomes what we believe. In Flint the mayor declares it an issue of class (and ethnicity). General Motors produced almost 50 million cars in Flint. That’s past tense. Since 1970 the population has halved. Houses that sold for $60 000 can now be bought for $6000. Lots lie empty.  

Rick Snyder was elected as Michigan’s governor on a ticket of running local government like a business. This is the kind of ticket the Laurel and Hardy of British politics Cameron and Osborne ran down the British economy. The same ticket Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ran in sacking firefighters to save public money because in Rupert Murdoch land global warming is a hoax nobody is falling for. We could even throw in the moron’s moron’s wilful dismantling of government agencies tasked with the prevention of public health epidemics because they were insiders.

Snyder got away with sacking firefighters and police officers to balance the books. His plan to ratchet up water prices and take water from the Flint River and not from the Huron River, in south-eastern Michigan which had been used before then to save around $5 million per annum was a fiscal disaster and health disaster.

It followed the usual trajectory. First up is to blame the victims. Jeremiah Loren, aged 12, with a skin rash and debilitating illnesses is somehow to blame, if not him, then his family.   

As Michigan’s governor, he stripped Flint’s city council of its power, and his administrators raised water prices to balance the books. They then forced the city to use water from the Flint River in order to save more money. Something was wrong. Tap water was brown. Residents were told to run it a little longer. Advised that colouring had nothing to do with safety—it was still safe to drink. At the last remaining General Motors assembly plant car parts began to rust.

Professor Edwards with the help of his students from nearby Virginia Tech College took water samples and found lead 5000 times over the limits advised by the World Health Organisation. He declared it ‘a man-made disaster’ that such a toxic substance had been allowed to accumulate, particularly, in the bloodstream of around 10 000 city children where it was linked with among other factors a lower IQ and possible brain damage.

ACT 2. Snyder admits there may have been a problem. He’ll fix it (but you’ll pay for him to fix it). Hey Presto. Fixed. Your water is safe to drink. Cue Snyder drinking water treated by the Flint Treatment Plant and taken from the Huron River. No more talk about saving money, now it’s about saving lives. We do get a fix on him with his ad-lib about those on welfare (that they should be glad to pay over-inflated prices for drinking poison).

Class actions suits against Flint, and at state and federal levels are filed. We’re in Erin Brokovich territory.

The expert for the Water Defence League, Scott Smith, proves to be a charlatan and snake-oil salesman. Professor Edwards turns turtle and agrees to work with Snyder. Edwards declares the water safe to drink, well, as safe as any other state. Edwards files a law suit of defamation against, mother of three, Melissa Mays. She was a major part of the city-wide initiative to uncover the truth about Flint’s water. Edward had publicly thanked and praised her and other volunteers.

Alec Baldwin appears in front of the camera to ask a resident and mother, ‘why don’t you leave?’  

If you can’t work out the answer, here’s a questionnaire I developed (A) I just love poisoning myself and my kids or  (B) I’m skint, and where would I go?

If you answered A, congratulations, you voted for the moron’s moron, Trump. If you answered B, and voted for Trump, keep drinking the water. Rust belt? Sure, hope so.

An idiot’s guide to the coronavirus.

When we talk about the coronavirus it’s the virus part we need to pay attention to. Corona, from the Latin, means crown and is associated with the aurora that surrounds the sun, moon and stars. We also get the word coronary from corona, a constriction of the arteries around the heart. But here Covid-19, coronavirus, is a simple nametag to differentiate it from other viruses, in the same way that ship number 736 in John Brown’s yard was later tagged The Queen Elizabeth 2, to differentiate it from other ships under construction and its predecessor the Queen Elizabeth 1.

What is a virus?

The science of viruses is a field of study in microbiology, the investigation of very small objects, organisms a fraction of the size of a living cell. Viruses mutate and are as old as the rocks. But the human body also mutates and adapts and produces antibodies which fend off most viruses. Viruses can be thought of as the jamming of cellular DNA code.  The most common virus is the flu virus. It too mutates and is always lying, waiting somewhere in the world for its next victim. Viruses also have reservoirs in other animals and organisms that make the species jump to humans as did the ‘wet market’ in Asia.  But let’s not forget John Gummer, over twenty-five years ago, feeding his daughter a prion burgher to disprove the mad-cow-disease scandal.

A virus is a study in large numbers.

A virus one of the smallest of living things, over time, produces an exponential effect. We know how this works. 1…2 …4…16…infected cases (and since my arithmetic is crap I’ll leave it there). Here is a more entertaining account from Hollywood’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, of how transmission of the disease occurred in fifties America, obviously it didn’t affect black or Chinese people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYrcyROSjl0

The 1918 influenza pandemic (also called Spanish flu, so we could blame Spanish people for it, so Covid-19 should in the interests of fairness be called Chinese flu) infected at the beginning of the twentieth century around 500 million worldwide and around a quarter of the world’s population of around 1.8 billion.   For those of you good at arithmetic, divide the world’s current population of around 7 billion by 4. That would be our high-water mark in the twenty-first century.

The Gates Foundation (billionaires have to do something with their money) ran a simulation in 2018 of how an extraordinary flu virus would grow exponentially: 28 000 victims after one month; 10 million after three months; 33 million after six months.   

You might also want to watch here the late Robin Williams, playing the British neurologist Oliver Sacks, in Awakenings. The Spanish flu, unlike the Chinese flu, affected the most able-bodied, the young and fit. This may have been due to a cytokine storm. Cyto indicates a cell, a small room and kine is related to kinship. A storm inside the cells of young people whose immune response works against them (that’s one theory). The Chinese flu follows the more conventional pattern of the common flu, which has high tides and low tides in which the body count follows. Here it is usually those most vulnerable to virus infection and whose immune response is compromised. We’re talking about the young, who have not built up sufficient antibody resistance to fend off infection. And the old—whose bodies are knackered. These groups are most at risk from the coronavirus. I reminded my neighbour, when we talk about ‘those old folk’, we are included in that subcategory.

The best-case scenario

The coronavirus tide is already out. All those people that puff there chest out and say, ‘I told you so,’ are proved correct. It’s also instructive to see how presidents of the two major superpowers reacted. President Xi Jinping visited the hotspot, treating it as a war zone, and Chinese Communist Party Officials locked down Wuhan Province isolating those that exhibited symptoms of the virus. As antibodies fight the virus like any other flu virus this is shown in an increased body temperature, coughing and spluttering. Wuhan’s population is around the same as that of the United Kingdom. Imagine everybody in the United Kingdom being told by Boris Johnson to stay indoors. Imagine, constructing two hospitals the size of the £100 million building in Glasgow and Edinburgh (still shut for further work) in two weeks as happened in Wuhan. Imagine the Chinese have developed a vaccine for the coronavirus. Without having to imagine any of these things the number of cases in Wuhan has spiked and is dropping. The worst of the worst may be already over and other countries might not need to go into lockdown.

Worst-case scenario.

The coronavirus tide is beginning to roll in. Lock down as in Wuhan Province. We’re seeing similar measures in Italy, parts of Germany, Spain and most other nations. The moron’s moron in the Whitehouse has declared he doesn’t believe in it, therefore like United States senators preaching isolationism as Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbour being prepared is regarded as a trick of the mind. American First means pulling public funds, from example, organisations like the World Health Organisation that has the expertise to coordinate a multinational approach to Covid-19, which would be more effective over time. Being unprepared gives non-symptomatic carriers access to other victims and the virus continues mutating into a more virulent form. There’s no place of safety. We all live in 1950s America. We’re only as safe as we allow our neighbour to be whatever their skin colour, gender or class.

Keep your grubby hands off our NHS.

A small pathogen that we cannot see has shown us how everything is connected, everyone is connected. The first question dental staff asks us now is how are you going to pay for this treatment. Outside of the Windrush Generation we don’t—yet—hear that in the frontline of our National Health Service. Sure, parts of it are being sold off to private developers and bit by bit it is being dismantled, but even David Cameron couldn’t admit that he was doing it. Boris Johnson tells us he’s pumping even more money into our NHS. He’s a liar. He thinks by mussing his hair and rolling a large number such as £20 or £30 billion off his tongue, we’ll be duly impressed. Our NHS budget has shrunk from 5% of GDP to less than 4%, with an aging population and now the corona virus, the figures don’t add up. Public health is not just for the poor. That’s why we need a properly funded public-health system. The Americans used to come to us and see how we did it. Now we’re selling out to them. One of the most inefficient and expensive health-care systems in the world. Good luck with the coronavirus if you’re a poor American. Good luck with the coronavirus is your British and can’t afford a day off work.

When a just-in-time supply system breaks down there’s panic buying. That’s already happening. Supplies of masks, suits and other protective equipment for health care workers must be made available. There’s talk of hiring retired medical doctors and bringing them back to work. Perhaps the first thing the government should do is shut down those cruelty camps, centres in every major city that allegedly assess benefit claimant’s health and disabilities. Use the medical staff and facilities they already have as treatment centres for victims of the coronavirus. Children’s homes and Care homes will also need added staff and financial help.  The coronavirus has meant that selling off our NHS has become overnight more of a political vote loser than any other issue. That’s got to be a good thing.

If you know any other idiots like me that require an idiot’s guide to the coronavirus, then share it with that idiot and you’ll look less idiotic. Be smart.