What Really Poisoned the Water in Flint, Michigan

What Really Poisoned the Water in Flint, Michigan

Postby admin » Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:51 am

What Really Poisoned the Water in Flint, Michigan
By Jim Hightower
February 4, 2016

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Flint reveals that there is a much deeper contamination poisoning our country’s political morals: namely, an insidious right-wing belief that poor people (particularly people of color who are poor) are underserving moochers whose misfortunes can be ignored.

The mantra of every Koch-headed, right-wing politico is that government should be run like a business, always focused on cutting costs.

Welcome to Flint, Michigan. This impoverished, mostly African-American city has indeed been run like a private corporation since Republican Gov. Rick Snyder appointed his “emergency manager” to seize control of Flint’s heavily indebted local government. Snyder’s coup d’etat usurped the people’s democratic voice and effectively imposed a corporate-style autocracy over them, run by his unelected CEO-like manager who answers only to Snyder.

Flint’s emergency manager holds authoritarian budgetary power and is focused not on serving the people but on the bottom line. His mandate from the governor was to slash costs ruthlessly, so bankers and other holders of the city’s debt could be paid off. Snyder was delighted that his appointed czar proved to be an enthusiastic slasher, including a cleaver move in 2014 to cut a couple million dollars from the budget by shifting the source of the city’s drinking water from Lake Huron to the Flint River.

Sure, some scaredy-cats worried about contaminants in that river, but Snyder’s health officials pooh-poohed them — and, besides, the beauty of one-man rule is that you can ignore the people and take bold, decisive action. That’s what corporate CEOs do, and even if there is some collateral damage, it’s the bottom line that matters.

But — oops — the bottom line of thinking you can simply apply corporate methods and ethics to public responsibilities is that very bad things can happen. In this case, Flint’s water supply is contaminated with lead, its entire infrastructure of water pipes needs to be replaced, thousands of the city’s children may be permanently impaired by lead poisoning … and Snyder’s name is mud.

Not that Gov.

Snyder personally dumped lead and other toxins into Flint’s water, but by dumping his small-minded, budget-whacking policies on the people of this largely poor, largely minority community, he did, in fact, poison them. Worse, when Flint’s families immediately and loudly complained that their tap water was oddly colored, nasty tasting, stinky and causing rashes on their children, Snyder and his top officials did nothing. Nothing!

For a year and a half, the governor’s team denied there was a problem, even when residents showed jugs of the brownish liquid to the media and to officials. It’s a myth, claimed the authorities, accusing locals of “trying to turn (the issue) into a political football” and asserting that the complainers were just being finicky about the aesthetics of their water.

Aesthetics? A General Motors factory in Flint had to quit using the water because it was corroding metal engine parts, and a hospital stopped using the water because it was damaging its medical instruments!

Finally, after out-of-state toxicity experts confirmed that Flint’s water constitutes a major public health emergency, Snyder and crew were forced to switch from denial to damage control. He has since apologized to Flint residents and is trying to save face (and his job) by promising to “fix” the mess he made.

The mess is not just in the water, however. Flint reveals that there is a much deeper contamination poisoning our country’s political morals: namely, an insidious right-wing belief that poor people (particularly people of color who are poor) are underserving moochers whose misfortunes can be ignored — even when their misfortunes stem directly from the discriminatory practices of slippery elites like Snyder. This example in Flint proves once again that government can’t be run like a corporation, as a corporation exists to profit only a few, not serve the many. Despite the shallow sloganeering of ideologues, government has to be run … well, like a government.

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Re: What Really Poisoned the Water in Flint, Michigan

Postby admin » Fri Feb 12, 2016 3:36 am

Flint’s Crisis Is About More Than Water
By Chris Hedges
February 9, 2016

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The thousands of Michigan children who were knowingly poisoned were victims of an American moral malaise: Our nation has bred generations of bureaucrats who are blind to values other than self-advancement and profit.

What is in the mind of someone who knowingly poisons children and impairs their lives? Why did the politicians, regulators and bureaucrats who knew the water in Flint, Mich., was toxic lie about the danger for months? What does it say about a society that is ruled by, and refuses to punish, those who willfully destroy the lives of children?

The crisis in Flint is far more ominous than lead-contaminated water. It is symptomatic of the collapse of our democracy. Corporate power is not held accountable for its crimes. Everything is up for sale, including children. Our regulatory agencies—including the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality—have been defunded, emasculated and handed over to corporate-friendly stooges. Our corrupt courts are part of a mirage of justice. The role of these government agencies and courts, and of the legislatures, is to sanction abuse rather than halt it.

The primacy of profit throughout the society takes precedence over life itself, including the life of the most vulnerable. This corporate system of power knows no limits. It has no internal restraints.It will sacrifice all of us, including our children, on the altar of corporate greed. In a functioning judicial system, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint’s former emergency manager, Darnell Earley, along with all the regulatory officials who lied as a city was being sickened, would be in jail facing trial.

Hannah Arendt in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Gitta Sereny in “Into That Darkness,” Omer Bartov in “Murder in Our Midst,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn in “The Gulag Archipelago,” Primo Levi in “The Drowned and the Saved” and Ella Lingens-Reiner in “Prisoners of Fear” argue that the modern instrument of evil is the technocrat, the man or woman whose sole concern is technological and financial efficiency, whose primary measurement of success is self-advancement, even if it means piling up corpses or destroying the lives of children.

“Monsters exist,” Levi noted, “but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men.” These technocrats have no real ideology, other than the ideology that is in vogue. They want to get ahead, to rise in the structures of power. They know how to make the collective, or the bureaucracy, work on behalf of power. Nothing else is of importance. “The new state did not require holy apostles, fanatic, inspired builders, faithful devout disciples,” Vasily Grossman, in his book “Forever Flowing, wrote of Stalin’s Soviet Union. “The new state did not even require servants—just clerks.”

We churn out millions of these technocrats or clerks in elite universities and business schools. They are trained to serve the system. They do not question its assumptions and structures any more than Nazi bureaucrats questioned the assumptions and structures of the “Final Solution.” They manage the huge financial houses and banks such as Goldman Sachs. They profit from endless war. They orchestrate the fraud on Wall Street. They destroy the ecosystem on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. They are elected to office. They are empty shells of human beings who stripped of their power and wealth are banal and pathetic. They are not sadists. They do not delight in cruelty. They are cogs in the machinery of corporate power.

These technocrats are numb to the most basic of human emotions and devoid of empathy beyond their own tiny inner circle. Michigan state officials, for example, provided bottled water to their employees in Flint for nearly a year while city residents drank the contaminated water, and authorities spent $440,000 to pipe clean water to the local GM plant after factory officials complained that the Flint water was corroding their car parts. That mediocre human beings make such systems function is what makes them dangerous.

The long refusal to make public the poisoning of the children of Flint, who face the prospect of stunted growth, neurological, speech and hearing impairment, reproductive problems and kidney damage, mirrors the slow-motion poisoning and exploitation of the planet by other corporate technocrats. These are not people we want to entrust with our future.

Theodor Adorno warned in his essay “Education After Auschwitz” that if we did not create an educational system that taught us to think morally and trained us how to make moral choices, another Auschwitz would appear on the horizon. Schools must teach more than vocational skills; they must teach values. They must, as Adorno wrote, teach citizens about “the societal play of forces that operates beneath the surface of political forms.” And they must do this “without fear of offending any authorities.”

We live in an age that has eradicated social and cultural consciousness and left us in a rootless, ahistorical, emotionally driven void. Whole populations in our poorest communities are poisoned or, in countries such as Iraq, murdered en masse. But we have no context for measuring human actions and human evil. We find our collective identity in childish nationalist cant and patriotic propaganda that bombards the airwaves, not in the cold reality of our callousness and ruthlessness. We do not know who we are.

“People who blindly slot themselves into the collective already make themselves into something like inert material, extinguish themselves as self-determined beings,” Adorno writes about the technocrat. “With this comes the willingness to treat others as an amorphous mass.”


“The manipulative character—as anyone can confirm in the sources available about those Nazi leaders—is distinguished by a rage for organization, by the inability to have any immediate human experiences at all, by a certain lack of emotion, by an overvalued realism,” Adorno goes on to say in his 1966 essay. “At any cost he wants to conduct supposed, even if delusional, Realpolitik. He does not for one-second think or wish that the world were any different than it is, he is obsessed by the desire of doing things [Dinge zut un], indifferent to the content of such action. He makes a cult of action, activity, of so-called efficiency as such which reappears in the advertising image of the active person. If my observations do not deceive me and if several sociological investigations permit generalization, then this type has become much more prevalent today than one would think.”

Humanity as an idea, as the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut has pointed out, is itself mortal. It can be extinguished along with millions of human beings. “Barbarism is not the inheritance of our prehistory,” Finkielkraut reminds us. “It is the companion that dogs our every step.”

“Indeed, one of the most frightening consequences of the Holocaust may well be that rather than serving as a warning to preserve humanity at all cost, it has provided a license to privilege physical survival over moral existence,” writes Omer Bartov in “Mirrors of Destruction.” “This may be one reason, along with the realization that mass murder has continued unabated since 1945, that such men as [Tadeusz] Borowski, [Jean] Améry, Paul Celan, and [Primo] Levi finally decided to put an end to their own lives.”

We have turned our universities into temples dedicated to corporate vocational training. Most graduates of Princeton or Harvard have no more ability to question the operating systems of the corporate state than an inner-city boy or girl who is taught basic functional literacy only so he or she can stock shelves or sell fast food. We all have our place in the great machine of corporate self-immolation. We all are drones. The technical skills vary from intricate and complex to rudimentary. But the commonality is that we lack the capacity to measure our actions against the ideas, outrages and injustices of the past. We have ceased to be moral beings. The devil in Goethe’s “Faust” grasps that the element most essential to the perpetration of evil is the obliteration of memory.

Now it is over. What meaning can one see?
It is as if it had not come to be.
And yet it circulates as if it were.
I should prefer—Eternal Emptiness.


We do not possess the intellectual skills—and this is by design—that permit us to question power, to see ourselves as part of a long human continuum. We have forgotten, or never been taught, that each individual must be seen as an ultimate end if we are to retain any human decency and hope. Once we depersonalize others, once we forget who we are and where we came from, we make evil possible. “Act so that humanity, both in your own person and that of others, be used as an end in itself, and never as a mere means,” Immanuel Kant wrote. If we cannot think morally, if we live devoid of empathy, if our advancement comes at the expense of the other, if we lose touch with the wisdom of the past, we cannot rebel. And if we do not rebel we will sustain a system that will ultimately slay us.
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Re: What Really Poisoned the Water in Flint, Michigan

Postby admin » Fri Feb 12, 2016 4:46 am

10 Things They Won't Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy. But I will.
by Michael Moore
January 29, 2016

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News of the poisoned water crisis in Flint has reached a wide audience around the world. The basics are now known: the Republican governor, Rick Snyder, nullified the free elections in Flint, deposed the mayor and city council, then appointed his own man to run the city. To save money, they decided to unhook the people of Flint from their fresh water drinking source, Lake Huron, and instead, make the public drink from the toxic Flint River. When the governor’s office discovered just how toxic the water was, they decided to keep quiet about it and covered up the extent of the damage being done to Flint’s residents, most notably the lead affecting the children, causing irreversible and permanent brain damage. Citizen activists uncovered these actions, and the governor now faces growing cries to resign or be arrested.

Here are ten things that you probably don’t know about this crisis because the media, having come to the story so late, can only process so much. But if you live in Flint or the State of Michigan as I do, you know all too well that what the greater public has been told only scratches the surface.

1. While the Children in Flint Were Given Poisoned Water to Drink, General Motors Was Given a Special Hookup to the Clean Water. A few months after Governor Snyder removed Flint from the clean fresh water we had been drinking for decades, the brass from General Motors went to him and complained that the Flint River water was causing their car parts to corrode when being washed on the assembly line. The Governor was appalled to hear that GM property was being damaged, so he jumped through a number of hoops and quietly spent $440,000 to hook GM back up to the Lake Huron water, while keeping the rest of Flint on the Flint River water. Which means that while the children in Flint were drinking lead-filled water, there was one — and only one — address in Flint that got clean water: the GM factory.

2. For Just $100 a Day, This Crisis Could’ve Been Prevented. Federal law requires that water systems which are sent through lead pipes must contain an additive that seals the lead into the pipe and prevents it from leaching into the water. Someone at the beginning suggested to the Governor that they add this anti-corrosive element to the water coming out of the Flint River. “How much would that cost?” came the question. “$100 a day for three months,” was the answer. I guess that was too much, so, in order to save $9,000, the state government said f*** it — and as a result the State may now end up having to pay upwards of $1.5 billion to fix the mess.

3. There’s More Than the Lead in Flint’s Water. In addition to exposing every child in the city of Flint to lead poisoning on a daily basis, there appears to be a number of other diseases we may be hearing about in the months ahead. The number of cases in Flint of Legionnaires Disease has increased tenfold since the switch to the river water. Eighty-seven people have come down with it, and at least ten have died. In the five years before the river water, not a single person in Flint had died of Legionnaires Disease. Doctors are now discovering that another half-dozen toxins are being found in the blood of Flint’s citizens, causing concern that there are other health catastrophes which may soon come to light.

4. People’s Homes in Flint Are Now Worth Nothing Because They Cant Be Sold. Would you buy a house in Flint right now? Who would? So every homeowner in Flint is stuck with a house that’s now worth nothing. That’s a total home value of $2.4 billion down the economic drain. People in Flint, one of the poorest cities in the U.S., don’t have much to their name, and for many their only asset is their home. So, in addition to being poisoned, they have now a net worth of zero. (And as for employment, who is going to move jobs or start a company in Flint under these conditions? No one.) Has Flint’s future just been flushed down that river?

5. While They Were Being Poisoned, They Were Also Being Bombed. Here’s a story which has received little or no coverage outside of Flint. During these two years of water contamination, residents in Flint have had to contend with a decision made by the Pentagon to use Flint for target practice. Literally. Actual unannounced military exercises –- complete with live ammo and explosives –- were conducted last year inside the city of Flint. The army decided to practice urban warfare on Flint, making use of the thousands of abandoned homes which they could drop bombs on. Streets with dilapidated homes had rocket-propelled grenades fired upon them. For weeks, an undisclosed number of army troops pretended Flint was Baghdad or Damascus and basically had at it. It sounded as if the city was under attack from an invading army or from terrorists. People were shocked this could be going on in their neighborhoods. Wait – did I say “people?” I meant, Flint people. As with the Governor, it was OK to abuse a community that held no political power or money to fight back. BOOM!

6. The Wife of the Governor’s Chief of Staff Is a Spokeswoman for Nestle, Michigan’s Largest Owner of Private Water Reserves. As Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein: “Follow the money.” Snyder’s chief of staff throughout the two years of Flint’s poisoning, Dennis Muchmore, was intimately involved in all the decisions regarding Flint. His wife is Deb Muchmore, who just happens to be the spokesperson in Michigan for the Nestle Company -– the largest owner of private water sources in the State of Michigan. Nestle has been repeatedly sued in northern Michigan for the 200 gallons of fresh water per minute it sucks from out of the ground and bottles for sale as their Ice Mountain brand of bottled spring water. The Muchmores have a personal interest in seeing to it that Nestles grabs as much of Michigan’s clean water was possible – especially when cities like Flint in the future are going to need that Ice Mountain.

7. In Michigan, from Flint water, to Crime and Murder, to GM Ignition Switches, It’s a Culture of Death. It’s not just the water that was recklessly used to put people’s lives in jeopardy. There are many things that happen in Flint that would give one the impression that there is a low value placed on human life. Flint has one of the worst murder and crime rates in the country. Just for context, if New York City had the same murder rate as Flint, Michigan, the number of people murdered last year in New York would have been almost 4,000 people –- instead of the actual 340 who were killed in NYC in 2015. But it’s not just street crime that makes one wonder about what is going on in Michigan. Last year, it was revealed that, once again, one of Detroit’s automakers had put profit ahead of people’s lives. General Motors learned that it had installed faulty ignition switches in many of its cars. Instead of simply fixing the problem, mid-management staff covered it up from the public. The auto industry has a history of weighing the costs of whether it’s cheaper to spend the money to fix the defect in millions of cars or to simply pay off a bunch of lawsuits filed by the victims surviving family members. Does a cynical, arrogant culture like this make it easy for a former corporate CEO, now Governor, to turn a blind eye to the lead that is discovered in a municipality’s drinking water?

8. Don’t Call It “Detroit Water” — It’s the Largest Source of Fresh Drinking Water in the World. The media keeps saying Flint was using “Detroit’s water.” It is only filtered and treated at the Detroit Water Plant. The water itself comes from Lake Huron, the third largest body of fresh water in the world. It is a glacial lake formed over 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age and it is still fed by pure underground springs. Flint is geographically the last place on Earth where one should be drinking poisoned water.

9. ALL the Children Have Been Exposed, As Have All the Adults, Including Me. That’s just a fact. If you have been in Flint anytime from April 2014 to today, and you’ve drank the water, eaten food cooked with it, washed your clothes in it, taken a shower, brushed your teeth or eaten vegetables from someone’s garden, you’ve been exposed to and ingested its toxins. When the media says “9,000 children under 6 have been exposed,” that means ALL the children have been exposed because the total number of people under the age of 6 in Flint is… 9,000! The media should just say, “all.” When they say “47 children have tested positive”, that’s just those who’ve drank the water in the last week or so. Lead enters the body and does it’s damage to the brain immediately. It doesn’t stay in the blood stream for longer than a few days and you can’t detect it after a month. So when you hear “47 children”, that’s just those with an exposure in the last 48 hours. It’s really everyone.

10. This Was Done, Like So Many Things These Days, So the Rich Could Get a Big Tax Break. When Governor Snyder took office in 2011, one of the first things he did was to get a multi-billion dollar tax break passed by the Republican legislature for the wealthy and for corporations. But with less tax revenues, that meant he had to start cutting costs. So, many things -– schools, pensions, welfare, safe drinking water -– were slashed. Then he invoked an executive privilege to take over cities (all of them majority black) by firing the mayors and city councils whom the local people had elected, and installing his cronies to act as “dictators” over these cities. Their mission? Cut services to save money so he could give the rich even more breaks. That’s where the idea of switching Flint to river water came from. To save $15 million! It was easy. Suspend democracy. Cut taxes for the rich. Make the poor drink toxic river water. And everybody’s happy.

Except those who were poisoned in the process. All 102,000 of them. In the richest country in the world.
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Re: What Really Poisoned the Water in Flint, Michigan

Postby admin » Mon Aug 22, 2016 6:45 pm

Chief State Scientist Resigns and Accuses Republicans of Covering Up Water Crisis
by Marlee Kokotovic
August 15, 2016

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North Carolina Chief state epidemiologist Megan Davies just resigned from her position in protest of Governor Pat McCrory’s administration. She believes McCrory, who was an employee of Duke Energy for 29 years, is responsible for “deliberately misleading the public” about the toxicity levels of the drinking wells near Duke Energy power plants.

“I cannot work for a department and an administration that deliberately misleads the public,” Davies wrote.

Duke Energy’s power plants store toxic coal ash under the ground. This coal ash contaminates the groundwater, which is used for public drinking. Duke Energy denied the coal ash toxins were the cause of the contaminated drinking water incident. McCrory and his administration pressured Davies into declaring over 400 homes safe before they really were.

“The overall picture it painted was that public health in North Carolina whether state or local is done arbitrarily and unprofessionally, and that completely undermines the public confidence in that system” said a frustrated Davies in a statement about how public officials attempted to portray her office as having “over-reacted” by saying the water was unsafe to drink.
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Re: What Really Poisoned the Water in Flint, Michigan

Postby admin » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:44 am

Residents Of Flint Are Being Billed For Poisoned Water And Threatened With Shutoffs If They Don’t Pay
by Bryce Covert
Jan 14, 2016

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Last week Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) declared a state of emergency over the level of lead being found in Flint’s tap water, and this week he activated the state National Guard to help provide residents with bottled water, filters, and lead testing kits.

But even in the midst of this crisis, city residents aren’t just being charged for their poisoned tap water — they’re being threatened with shutoffs if they don’t quickly pay their bills.

In 2011, Flint lawmakers imposed a rapid 35 percent increase in water rates, against a city law that requires utility hikes to be implemented gradually, and started issuing shutoff notices to those who were past due. A judge halted the shutoffs last summer, ordering the city to undo the increase and revise customers’ bills. But the shutoff notices resumed in November based on the prior rates, going out to about 1,800 past due households.

And while they were paused for the December holiday season, they have once again resumed this week. Finance Director Jody Lundquist could not tell Michigan Live how many notices are expected to be sent out in this round.

Even residents who aren’t behind, though, are frustrated that they’re still being billed for water they can’t even drink. “The city is still billing residents for the contaminated water being pumped to their homes and expecting immediate payment,” Sylvia Orduno of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization explained in an email to ThinkProgress.

And the amounts demanded are quite high. In 2014, the Flint Journal reported that the average water and sewer bill in Flint was $140 a month. For anyone of limited means, that couldn’t come at a harder time. “The pace at which help is getting to residents is causing them further health consequences, suffering, and debt,” Orduno said. “Bottled water is an expensive alternative and requires constant, large supplies to meet the need.”

Kary Moss, executive director of the ALCU of Michigan, thinks that given the emergency over lead contamination, residents shouldn’t be charged, particularly for all of the time the Flint River — believed to be a source of the lead — was the source. “All arrears should be cleared,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “Nobody should have to pay for any of this.” Another advocate, Leon El-Alamin of the M.A.D.E. Institute that has been distributing clean water, said bills should at least be reduced by half until the water is drinkable again.

Residents similarly told the Press they feel they shouldn’t be paying. Alamado Saldana Sr. says his water has been shut off twice, and each time he has had to find hundreds of dollars to get service restored. “I would pay the bill, and it wasn’t even 30 days after I paid it that I got another shut-off notice in the mail,” he said. He thinks he deserves a refund for that money spent.

Officials in the mayor’s office couldn’t be reached for comment.

Concerns about the safety of the city’s drinking water began nearly as soon as it switched the source form Detroit to the Flint River, with residents complaining that it was cloudy, foul smelling, and bad tasting while potentially causing health problems. Officials kept insisting it was safe, however, despite a whistleblower’s claims that they knew of problems as early as July and may have rigged water tests to cover things up. In September, public research came out that linked the water switch to a significant increase in the levels of lead found in children’s bloodstreams.

Even as the crisis became clear, government was slow to react. Weeks after city officials declared a state of emergency, the state government did the same, and even then it took several days for bottled water to start getting handed out.

Now, 10 people have died from Legionnaires’ disease, potentially related to the water crisis. And the consequences of lead poisoning, particularly for children, are life long and irreversible.
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