Tuesday, January 19, 2016

'Pure Michigan' My Ass

No golden brown water in Snyder's pitcher

Regular “What’s the Diehl?” readers know that I do not like Michigan GOP Governor Rick Snyder. Not one iota. I’ve been sharing my intense disdain for the man here and in Facebook practically since the day he was first elected to office in 2010. I didn’t need another reason to despise this nasally, incompetent former venture capitalist and CEO of Gateway Computers but I’ve got one. And it’s a doozy.

As almost everyone knows (except, perhaps, the smelly, bearded man who mumbles to himself and lives in the forest near my home), the residents of Flint, Michigan, have been poisoned. In a move that makes the Reverend Jim Jones – whose cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid killed 909 of his followers at his commune in Guyana in 1978 – look like a rank amateur, state officials caused the poisoning of the city’s water supply and then lied about it, minimizing its significance, attacking the local messengers and throwing one of the most dedicated public servants I’ve ever met, Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant, under the bus in a useless effort to put a lid on the burgeoning crisis.

Although everyone from Flint’s mayor and City Council members to low-level DEQ staffers have been blamed for this debacle by state and national media outlets – as if we needed more proof that our media are lazy if not complicit – I’ve said from the beginning that Governor Snyder’s appointed “emergency manager,” and therefore Governor Snyder, deserves the lion’s share of responsibility for poisoning an entire municipality. (Who expected emergency managers to cause their own emergencies?)

Yes, it was a good thing that DEQ spokesman Brad Wurfel – a bumbling idiot if there ever was one – lost his job as well. Yes, a case can be made that the head of the agency charged with overseeing these things, if he or she has integrity like Wyant does, ought to step down (as Wyant did late last month). But contrary to the findings of the Snyder-appointed task force members who tried to deflect blame away from the Big Guy, the buck is supposed to stop on Rick Snyder’s desk. The politician who frequently opines about “transparency” and “efficiency” in state government should be chastised not only for the actions that led to this calamity (appointing an emergency manager who tried to save a few bucks by jeopardizing the health of one hundred thousand men, women and children) but by his inaction after the emergency was disclosed.

Here’s a quick summary in case the man in the forest reads my blog:

From 2011 to 2015, Snyder appointed several individuals as emergency managers for Flint. In 2014, emergency manager Darnell Earley was responsible for changing the source of drinking water for the city to the Flint River, which has nasty chemicals known as trihalomethanes in it. Turns out this water was too corrosive and it leached lead out of the service lines which was ingested by the city’s largely poor, black residents. (As a result of emergency manager appointments under Snyder's watch, over half of the state's black population lives in cities where the local government was appointed rather than elected by the voters.)

This is real.
A study by Hurley Medical Center last fall found that Flint’s kids were being poisoned by the lead. Although Flint went back to getting its water from the City of Detroit at around that time, lead levels in the city's water remain significant. Now people around the country are asking who knew about this, when, and why didn’t they do anything about it? (Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities and at high levels may lead to seizures, coma and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

The you-know-what has finally hit the proverbial fan. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been covering this issue like no other. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders publicly demanded Snyder’s resignation. Facebook is chock full of posts and memes (see below) regarding the disaster. And former Flint resident and gadfly Michael Moore released a 14-paragraph petition in which he advocated for Snyder’s arrest.

Sadly, Snyder’s resignation or removal, while necessary and justified, won’t lead to state officials and politicians suddenly seeing the light and putting the public’s interests above their own. The largely African-American population of Flint won’t suddenly be un-contaminated and side effect-free. The tendency of those in power to blame scapegoats and emphasize the needs of the rich over the rights of the rest of us will not disappear. But a disingenuous, shameless, out-of-touch laughingstock who’s charged with ensuring public safety and has in fact presided over the most outrageous failure to do so since the PBB contamination of the early 1970s will be forced to return to his gated community as the disgraced politician that he has become.

I remember when state employees were prohibited from using state resources for political or personal activities. If Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat – former state legislators who were raked over the coals and essentially booted out of office because of a sex scandal – deserve to be pilloried for misusing state funds and impacting few, why are Rick Snyder et al above reproach for far more reckless, egregious behavior impacting 99,000 Flint residents and future generations?

On a related note, state employees regularly receive taxpayer-funded e-mails from the Executive Office in which Snyder is touted as the best thing since sliced bread who’s “getting things done,” whatever that means. (Didn’t Ted Kaczynski get things done? Didn’t Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Osama bin Laden get things done? I’m not saying Snyder is a cannibalistic serial killer who builds bombs and resided in a cave in Afghanistan but it’s a stupid slogan.) If our former U.S. Secretary of State can get in hot water over e-mails, why can’t Michigan’s incompetent chief executive?

It’s ironic that the tourism slogan for Michigan, adopted by the state travel bureau in 2006, is “Pure Michigan.” This gubernatorial administration and its cronies are about as pure as the water in Flint.

Click here to read, “Obama To Gov Snyder: Water Poisoning Is No ‘Natural Disaster,’ You Knew About It A Year Ago.”

Click here to read, “Flint Water Report Prompts Apologies, Resignations.”

Click here to read, “Obama Signs Emergency Order over Flint Water.”

Click here to read, “Muslims Just Donated 30,000 Bottles of Water to Victims of Michigan Poisoning.”

Click here to read, “Gov. Rick Snyder Still Doesn’t Get It When It Comes to Flint Water Crisis.”

Click here to read, “Water Woes in Flint and Beyond” by my friend Lisa Wozniak.

Click here to read, “First Republican Candidate Asked About Flint Crisis Says He Doesn’t Know Much About It.”

Click here to read, “How Tap Water Became Toxic in Flint, Michigan.”

Sources: NBC News, Refinery29.com, Lon Johnson for U.S. Congress, WOODTV.com, MLive.com, OccupyDemocrats.com, Ruger Rell, Stephanie Rachal‎, Detroit News, Thinkprogress.org, CNN.com, Michigan State University, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


  1. Couldn't have said it better myself. Hopefully this unforgivable series of decisions will have enough impact downticket to put Michigan back in the blue column where it belongs.

  2. One very significant item has been overlooked in this debacle, and that is the fact that Snyder and his Republican co-conspirators essentially jammed the emergency manager law down the throats of Michigan's citizenry – twice.

    Here is how this occurred:

    Snyder et al crafted and passed into law Public Act 4 of 2011, which would allow the governor to impose emergency managers upon school districts and communities where a review found that their conditions warranted it.

    This law was successfully challenged by a statewide ballot initiative to repeal it. This successful initiative was, against all odds, the result of a massive petition gathering drive across the state. The vote in November of 2012 was 53% to 47% to repeal the law, despite heavy spending to promote voting against its repeal.

    Snyder and the Republicans then pulled some legislative chicanery, using a relatively obscure (state) constitutional provision that any law containing an appropriation can NOT be overturned by referendum. Snyder and the Republicans passed a nearly-identical law at the midnight hour of the legislative session, on December 13, 2012, containing appropriations in the form of providing for emergency managers' salaries. A dirty, but legal trick to usurp the clearly-stated will of the voters of Michigan.

    Absent the ability to overturn the new law, due to the appropriations that were tacked onto it, we are now where we are with Flint and some other public entities in Michigan.

    Below are a couple of links to sites that discuss this:

    One additional thing on Michigan’s Emergency Manager law: It has been speculated that one of the reasons for the Emergency Manager law to be imposed was to essentially disenfranchise the voters of those communities.

    For example, take cities like Flint or Detroit: Once the Mayors and City Councils have been stripped of their authority as duly-elected officials, it is more likely that the voters of those cities will become dispirited and no longer turn out to vote in elections, since they may rightfully feel that they have no local skin in the game.

    Like gerrymandering, this tends to exclude those communities from the processes within their own communities. It also has (I believe) the intended consequence of discouraging those same voters from participating in State and National elections.

    Check out the communities in Michigan that have been affected by Emergency Manager laws and you will find a distinct racial and ethnic bias toward minorities. Disenfranchise those communities and you can alter the course of the political process in Michigan – and potentially of our nation, as Congressional and Presidential election outcomes are likely to be impacted.

    Finally, there was an ironic article in the New York Times this week about how Mexican cartels are targeting mayors for assassination or violence in order to pillage and seize control of their towns and assets.(http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/opinion/sunday/why-cartels-are-killing-mexicos-mayors.html?emc=edit_th_20160117&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=32124022&_r=0) Now when that happens here in Michigan, it is not with guns and bombs but with right-wing governance that legislatively strips the authority of locally-elected officials (in minority communities) and then inflicts a right-wing dictatorship upon the community. No matter: the basic outcome for the people of those towns is essentially the same. Somehow that just seems un-American.
    When those who assert that government is incapable of governing are put in charge of governing, they always fulfill their own prophecy.

  3. This situation reflects the Snyder approach to management.
    At Gateway Computer, he presided over a company that focused on cutting costs and offering an adequate product at the lowest possible price. This was a huge contrast with Apple Computer, which lavished on R&D, changed paradigms and sold its product at a premium price.
    With Snyder as CEO, Gateway Computer was sold for pennies on the dollars to the Chinese company Acer. The top executives had golden parachutes (thus, the Snyder fortune) but the shareholders and employees got the shaft. Meanwhile, Apple Computer is now the most valuable company on the planet.
    He approaches state government with the same "mediocre product, low cost" mentality. That is what prompted the EM to save a few bucks by choosing Flint River water over an extension of the contract with the Detroit water system.
    Snyder talks about excellence and all that, but his budgets show his true priority is holding down costs and being mediocre. The anti-union policies of the GOP are designed to hold down labor costs; the school budgets are predicated on reducing teacher pay so we no longer can attract the best to that profession; there is no mental health system that can truly be called a "system"; we have to reduce government regulation because it costs money ... consumer protection be damned.
    Republicans regularly whine that government needs to be run like a business. That's ridiculous. A business's primary mission is to create profit for its owners; a government's primary mission is to serve its people.
    But if we were running Michigan like a business, the CEO would be summarily fired for the growing human disaster that will end up costing the state hundreds-of-millions of dollars.