Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Short Takes

Kerry: ISIS pushed back in Iraq but threatens Libya.

Scary: Zika virus in Texas was transmitted by sex.

North Korea prepares long-range missile launch.

Flint’s former manager resigns as emergency manager of Detroit schools.

Snow and high winds hit Plains and Midwest.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Fed Help For Flint


With chanting protesters demanding his resignation in the background, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced Monday that he plans to ask for federal aid to deal with the lead-poisoning crisis in Flint.

At a press conference, Snyder was repeatedly questioned about the state’s admitted mishandling of the water emergency and whether he knew it was a major problem before he addressed it in a press conference in early October.

“I have a degree of responsibility,” he said.

No shit, Sherlock.

It’s always ironic — if not tragic — that all the Republicans who demand states’ rights and run for office on a platform of smaller government, get-the-feds-out, and local control, come running to Washington whenever something like a tornado or a hurricane overwhelms their state.  The first thing they do is demand federal assistance, and they usually do it while saying something along the lines of “Well, we pay all those taxes, we might as well get something out of it.”  That’s code for “Holy crap, we are in over our heads.”

What’s worse, though, is a governor who refuses to ask the federal government for help even though they’re in way over their heads and it either becomes glaringly clear that they’re up the creek or there is a mob of chanting citizens getting on CNN.  Gov. Snyder could have asked for federal help six months ago, but no, he had to be all for freedom and shit until he realized that the state of Michigan will be on the hook for fixing this problem for the rest of the decade, long after he’s logged into the history books as just another right-wing bean-counter who would rather suck up to his Tea Party flakes than actually govern like a grown-up.

It would be just desserts for him if the federal government took their own sweet time to think about sending help to Flint.  But that’s not how they roll; at least not under a Democratic administration.  That’s because they actually care about the people injured by the disaster, not by what political points they can score.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Poisoned Water

It is not news that the water in Flint, Michigan, has been poisoning the citizens for almost two years since the city was forced to stop buying water from Detroit and had to take it from the cesspool that is the Flint River.  The city has since switched back to getting its water from Detroit until the pipeline to Lake Huron is completed, but the damage is done:  lead is in the water from corrosion to the pipes and people are getting sick.

That’s not the worst part.  The state knew about the hazard to the people almost as soon as they started pumping water out of the river, but the unelected “emergency manager” of Flint — appointed by the governor to run the city during its financial crisis — did nothing about it.  Governor Rick Snyder (R) knew about it as well, but it wasn’t until last month that he took it seriously.  Jordan Sargent at Gawker:

Among the most crucial questions of all are: Who should have known that the water in the Flint River was unsafe, who did know, and when did they know? That includes Synder, the governor, who is now apologizing for the crisis while also attempting to distance himself from it at the same time. At a press conference on Thursday, Snyder essentially plead the fifth on what he or his office might have known and when, but incriminating documents regarding his administration’s knowledge of the crisis have already been uncovered.

On Wednesday, NBC News reported that researchers at Virginia Tech who have been studying lead levels in Flint’s water received, via a Freedom of Information Act request, an email sent by Snyder’s ex-chief of staff Dennis Muchmore in July of 2015 expressing his concern about Flint to a “top health official.” In the email, Muchmore wrote:

“I’m frustrated by the water issue in Flint. I really don’t think people are getting the benefit of the doubt. Now they are concerned and rightfully so about the lead level studies they are receiving. These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us (as a state we’re just not sympathizing with their plight).”

It would be hard to conjure a more damning piece of evidence than this. Snyder didn’t declare a state of emergency regarding the water crisis until this week, but at least five months ago his top deputy was complaining about the administration having “blown off” the residents of Flint who were “scared and worried about the health impacts” of the water they were being asked to drink.

What needle does the governor conceivably thread here? At best, Snyder can plead complete ignorance—of the decision to temporarily pull water from the Flint River, of the water’s toxicity, of its effect on its consumers, of what his administration may have known. Though that might be the first step to protecting himself legally, it would paint him as a deeply negligent governor, one whose special “emergency manager” program directly led to an environmental disaster and who had no connection with a chief of staff who was trying to stop that disaster from becoming even worse.

The other reality would be that Snyder knew that Flint’s drinking water was perilously toxic but just decided not to do anything about it. Flint ended up pulling from the Flint River for 18 months, starting April 2014 and ending in October 2015, when it once again began buying water from Detroit. In that period of time, the city and state, as directed by Snyder, could have taken any number of opportunities to disconnect Flint’s water supply from its poisoned river, but did not.

Estimates to replace the damaged pipes and water system in Flint are running into the billions of dollars, and the healthcare issues will be with the city and the citizens for years.  So who will pay for it?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pure Genius

You have to admit that this is very creative.

[Michigan] State Rep. Todd Courser planned the distribution of a fictional email alleging he had sex with a male prostitute in a bid to conceal his relationship with Rep. Cindy Gamrat, according to audio recordings obtained by The Detroit News.

Courser, a Lapeer Republican, said on one recording the email was designed to create “a complete smear campaign” of exaggerated, false claims about him and Gamrat so a public revelation about the legislators’ relationship would seem “mild by comparison.”

So he thought that being accused of having sex with a hustler would sound better than cheating on your wife with a colleague?

I would say that all depends on the hustler.

At any rate, can you imagine how much better off the state of Michigan would be if their legislators would put as much energy into their jobs as they did covering up their peccadilloes?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Putrid Michigan

From the Detroit Free Press:

On Wednesday, Republican majorities in both chambers approved a bill that would allow faith-based adoption agencies — including those who take taxpayer dollars to place children who are in the state’s custody — to discriminate in the practice of their work. They can deny services to families that violate the agency’s religious beliefs, including unmarried couples, same-sex couples and those who hold different religious beliefs.

The legislation is a craven attempt to cloak discrimination in faith, and it leaves the best interests of the 13,000 children in the state’s care — entirely out of the equation.

Even worse, it sends Michigan in the exact wrong direction just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court could invalidate all legislative or constitutional provisions that permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Should that happen, this statute, along with bigoted laws in states around the country, would fall like their predecessors — Jim Crow-era laws and regulations — after landmark rulings in the 1960s.

That’s lousy moral company for Michigan to keep. It’s lousy business company for Michigan to keep. And it’s especially shameful for a governor whose own preachings about tolerance and acceptance obviously mean less than appeasing his party’s religious conservatives.

The bills Gov. Rick Snyder signed Thursday spell nothing but trouble for the children in this state who are waiting, desperately, for the chance to join willing families.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Pure Michigan Madness

When did the Michigan legislature go completely medieval?

Michigan residents who buy health coverage in the private marketplace after Thursday will not have access to abortion coverage, even if a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

On that day, a new state law goes into effect that prohibits insurance companies from covering abortion services unless customers purchase separate add-ons – called riders – to their insurance plans ahead of time.

No insurance companies will be offering those riders to new customers in the private marketplace after Thursday, according to the state’s Department of Insurance and Financial Services.

This is insane.  I cannot fathom the mentality of people who believe this is anything but a horrific way of trying to prevent abortions.  It has nothing to do with “preserving life.”  It is all about control and the belief that women are incapable of making decisions about their own bodies and their own lives.

The people who passed this monstrosity and the governor who signed it into law can whine and carry on about how they are all so “pro-life,” but the kind of life they seem to favor is that of cruelty, shaming, and smug patriarchy couched in the sickly sweet stench of religious fervor and bumper-sticker answers.

Rape and incest are things the state needs to use every weapon to defend its citizens against, not turn its back and say “Sorry, you’re on your own.”

Friday, December 13, 2013

Misogyny In Michigan

This is what happens when you turn a state over to seriously hateful people.

Michigan lawmakers passed a controversial measure on Wednesday that will ban all insurance plans in the state from covering abortion unless the woman’s life is in danger. The law, which takes effect in March, will force women and employers to purchase a separate abortion rider if they would like the procedure covered, even in cases of rape and incest.

Supporters of the “Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act” argue that it allows people who are opposed to abortion to avoid paying into a plan that covers it. Opponents have nicknamed it the “rape insurance” initiative, because it would force some women to anticipate the possibility of being raped by purchasing the extra abortion insurance ahead of time.

“This tells women who were raped … that they should have thought ahead and planned for it,” said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) during debates. “Make no mistake, this is anything but a citizens’ initiative. It’s a special interest group’s perverted dream come true.”

The Michigan State Legislature first passed the measure last year, but Governor Rick Snyder (R) vetoed it, saying he does not “believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage.”

But the anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan was able to collect more than 300,000 voter signatures on a petition this year to force a second vote on the measure. Having been passed by both chambers, the bill automatically becomes law now, even without Snyder’s approval.

This law will no doubt be challenged in court, but the people who voted for it need to be voted out of office, and the so-called “right-to-life” people need to find a nice quiet island in the middle of Grand Traverse Bay where they can scrape gull crap off the rocks for the rest of their lives.

See Sen. Whitmer’s testimony here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

More Minority Outreach

The Michigan GOP tries to do its best to reach out.

The Michigan Republican Party will launch its new African American Engagement Office in Detroit next month, aiming to improve on the mere two percent of the vote their presidential nominee received in the city last year. To headline this event, the party has enlisted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — though Paul has been an outspoken critic of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The Huffington Post reported Friday that Paul will be the star of the December 6 kickoff event. His selection, the article notes, is odd given his record on civil rights and his staunch opposition to a federal bailout of Detroit.

While Paul has since denied ever making the comments, he has repeatedly criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964′s bans on whites-only lunch counters and discrimination by private employers. “The hard part of believing in freedom,” he has argued, is that it requires believing companies should be free to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation — even though he personally opposes such discrimination.

David Duke was already booked.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Michigan Medicaid

In a dramatic shift, the Michigan legislature voted by the narrowest of margins to provide healthcare insurance for the state’s poorest citizens.

The GOP-controlled chamber approved the bill by a 20-18 vote at about 8 p.m. Tuesday after being in session for more than eight hours, much of it spent in caucus debating how to get the expansion passed. Eight Republicans finally joined 12 Democrats to pass the bill.

The House, which had already passed an expansion bill, will soon take a concurring vote, and Gov. Rick Snyder’s office confirmed to TPM that the governor would sign the legislation when it reaches his desk.

Before the bill ultimately passed, the legislation was stuck in parliamentarian limbo for more than two hours.

The bill needed 20 votes out of the 38-member Senate to pass. On its first vote at about 5:30 p.m., it received 19 yea votes and 18 nay votes in a floor vote, but Republican Sen. Patrick Colbeck, who is vehemently opposed to expansion, abstained from voting. If he had cast a nay vote, leaving a 19-19 tie, then Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley could have cast the tiebreaking vote to pass the bill, as Calley has pledged to do.

Michigan joins a number of states with Republican governors who all campaigned against Obamacare only to decide later that “well, it might not be such a bad thing after all.”  They are incurring the wrath of the Tea Party — it’s socialized medicine rammed down the throats of Real Muricans by that secret gay Muslim Kenyan usurper, and besides, what’s an emergency room for?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott came to the same conclusion as Gov. Snyder, but he couldn’t get the legislature to go along with the expansion.  What a shock.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Short Takes

At least 77 dead in train derailment in Spain.

House defeats amendment to defund NSA surveillance.

Judge rules state cannot bar Detroit bankruptcy filing.

Senate approves student loan plan tied to market rates.

It’s HRH George Alexander Louis.

Tropical Update: TS Dorian is heading west and has Florida in its sights.

The Tigers beat the White Sox 6-2.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Short Takes

15 Egyptian soldiers killed in bus crash.

Sen. McCain is with President Obama on calling for review of Stand Your Ground laws.

Norwegian woman jailed in Dubai for reporting rape.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Detroit bankruptcy: “Enough was enough.”

Phil Mickelson wins British Open.

The Tigers finally took one from K.C. 4-1.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Getting It

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has decided to veto a bill that would have allowed concealed weapons in such places as schools, day care centers, sports arenas, bars, places of worship, hospitals, dorms and casinos.  The bill had been passed by the legislature the night before the massacre in Connecticut.

That might have had something to do with his decision to back away from the bill.

So might this:

The approval rating of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is in the gutter, according to a poll released Tuesday, the strongest evidence yet of the political perils associated with the right-to-work legislation he signed into law last week.

According to the latest automated survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, only 38 percent of Michigan voters approve of the job Snyder is doing, compared with 56 percent who disapprove. In PPP’s previous survey of Michigan in November, Snyder’s approval rating was 10 points above water: 47 percent of voters approved of his performance as governor, while 37 percent disapproved.

The right-to-work bill, signed by Snyder amid mass protests, appears to have changed the political climate in the Great Lake State. Fifty-one percent of Michigan voters oppose the bill, which made Michigan the country’s 24th right-to-work state, while 41 percent support the legislation. Moreover, Snyder trails every Democrat in hypothetical matchups of the 2014 gubernatorial election.

To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, nothing focuses the mind like impending political oblivion.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Short Takes

Yet another shooting in public — this time in Oregon — leaves three dead.

North Korea launched another rocket.

U.S. will recognize Syrian rebels.

Michigan passes right-to-work.

Cliff Report — President Obama and Speaker Boehner trade offers but no progress reported.

Hugo Chavez is recovering from cancer surgery.

R.I.P. Ravi Shankar, 92, virtuoso of the sitar.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In The Thick Of It

President Obama went to Michigan yesterday to visit a truck plant.  And somehow the state’s imminent vote on right-to-work came up.

President Obama railed against right-to-work laws Republicans are currently trying to pass in Michigan, arguing that they constitute a “race to the bottom,” during a speech in Redford, Michigan Monday.

Right-to-work laws are “giving you the right to work for less money,” Obama said in his speech at the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant.

“What we shouldn’t be doing is try to take away your rights to bargain for better wages or working conditions,” he said, arguing for the need for high-skilled, well-payed workers. “We don’t want a race to the bottom. We want a race to the top.”

Michigan Democrats are promising “chaos” if the bill passes.  And it will.  As for the chaos, there are a lot of lawyers in Michigan and Washington who are about to make a lot of money, and this will play a very big part in the election in 2014 when Gov. Snyder is up for re-election.

Short Takes

A U.N. panel says Cuba’s jailing of Alan Gross was “arbitrary.”

A U.S. Navy SEAL was killed in the rescue of the American aid worker kidnapped by the Taliban.

Poll — 60% of Americans support raising taxes on incomes over $250,000.

The Michigan legislature will vote today on right-to-work.

Highway deaths in U.S. hit a 62-year low.

Gas prices fall 10 cents in three weeks.

The Strauss-Kahn case has been settled out of court.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Railroading Right-To-Work

Laura Conaway at The Maddow Blog has a good summary of the rush by the Michigan legislature to pass right-to-work in the state where the modern labor movement was born.

Right to Work legislation has moved through so quickly that one Republican lawmaker voter against it because, he said, “We literally weren’t given the legislation to read until minutes before voting.” From experience with Right to Work in other states, conservatives and liberals agree that the rule is catastrophic for unions, with significant cuts in membership, and lower wages and benefits.

What’s all the more interesting is that up until about twenty minutes ago, Gov. Rick Snyder had no interest in passing right-to-work and he was bragging about how well the state was doing in terms of the economic recovery (i.e. GM and Chrysler’s rebound).  Now all of a sudden the economy is on the edge of going under unless this law passes.

If, as the Republicans are always telling us, the labor union movement is dying and has no power left to wield, why do they suddenly need this kind of legislation in the first place?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tax Cuts For Sperm?

Michigan legislators skate very close to The Onion’s territory:

State legislators in Michigan held a hearing on Tuesday to consider House Bills 5684 and 5685, which would allow taxpayers to receive tax relief for unborn fetuses past 12 weeks’ gestation. The proposed legislation is an odd push for Michigan Republicans, partly because Progress Michigan notes the state slashed tax credits for children last year — meaning that although parents living in Michigan do not qualify for additional tax breaks to offset the cost of caring for their own children, they could soon be able to claim a tax credit for an unborn fetus.

The standard line is that the right-to-lifers care very much about a child from conception to birth, but after that, hey kid, you’re on your own.  That was supposed to be a joke.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hunting Party

I was reminded by Thom Paulsen on Interlochen Public Radio that yesterday was the start of deer hunting season in Michigan.  Or, as it is also known, St. Venison’s Day.

I lived long enough in that part of the country to know that now is not the time of year to go for a walk in the woods while wearing a brown coat or pulling out a white handkerchief.  The woods are crawling with folks in Elmer Fudd hats, and blaze orange becomes the fashion in the woods and in town.

If you’re up there, watch out for the drivers of overstuffed SUV’s and butched-up pickup trucks from downstate; they live for their week as the primal hunter out for his kill and a six-pack of Hamm’s.

(Okay, this was just my excuse to pull out this video of Da Yoopers horsin’ around, don’tchaknow.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Short Takes

Pakistan will re-open land routes to Afghanistan to NATO forces which had been closed since a U.S. attack killed Pakistani soldiers last November.

Another bombing in Iraq killed at least 40 people.

Bob Diamond, the CEO of Barclays Bank, has been forced out over a rate-fixing scandal. By the way, he’s a big donor to the Romney campaign.

Good for him — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) vetoed voter-supression legislation.

Former Commerce Secretary John Bryson will not face prosecution in California.

June car sales were through the roof.

The Tigers lost to the Twins.