Child-Poisoning Psychopath Sends Out a Few Scapegoats

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is a horrible person who belongs in prison.

Rick Snyder is a special animal, a human-shaped skin sack of anti-social nightmare fuel that makes even the worst of his compatriots in Republican governance look like complete amateurs.  Snyder’s start was auspicious, but seemed to only be based on a deeply flawed set of priorities.  The work he’s done recently, on the other hand, is truly without peer.

Heading up a state where potentially thousands of kids were poisoned by an unholy marriage of untreated tap water and antiquated infrastructure is bad, sure, but there are things that are worse.  Like, I don’t know, say, covering the problem up for more than a year, or maybe shipping safe water into government buildings while still refusing to confirm the hazard to the general population.  And if you really wanted to get ugly, you could spend more state funds on PR consultants and independent council to protect yourself and your cronies than on fixing the problem for your citizens.  Mr. Snyder has, of course, managed all of these things and more over the last couple of years.

The latest in this horrific cavalcade of civil neglect is a move not by Snyder himself, but by one of his high-level appointees.  Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recently announced charges against 3 people involved in oversight of the water system, all of them low-level civil servants, and at least one of whom is on record having concerns about water safety, and voicing those concerns to non-receptive supervisors shortly before the switch.  These are the sorts of people that a competent prosecutor would lever for information on more important suspects, not throw under the proverbial bus with minimal decorum.  And that’s not to say they did nothing wrong, but they also clearly weren’t in positions of power to ultimately either approve or prevent the change.

I’ll admit it’s possible, given the natural difficulty of proving guilt with environmental charges, that the AG needs successful prosecutions of these individuals to achieve the necessary leverage for further investigation, but I’ll believe that is his intent when I see it in action.  For the time being, this looks like a classic scapegoat operation, and the Governor’s own comments on the matter only serve to reinforce that perception:

“…We had a handful of career civil servants, been there 20 or 30 years, not apply common sense.  They were way too technical…”

Or from his congressional testimony on the subject:

“Career bureaucrats… made these terrible decisions that showed a clear lack of common sense…”

These quotes, moreso than anything else I’ve seen, have me convinced that Snyder feels zero responsibility for the disaster in Flint, and has absolutely no intention of letting it change the unhinged governing philosophy that created it.  It isn’t a coincidence that he’s chosen to portray this as a failure of “career bureaucrats,” that is a pro-grade focus-tested deflection if ever I’ve seen one, carefully designed to prey on natural prejudices and longstanding public misconceptions.  The three local officials have been offered up as sacrifices on the alter of public relations, with Snyder’s little incantations meant to totally and finally defer all blame.

Flint is not an inevitable result of government bureaucracy.  It is what you get when you run the government like a business, because the government isn’t a business, and no amount of ideological denial is going to change that.  Governments have very different, and often much more important, responsibilities than a business.  The two organizations serve different goals, and necessarily require different tools and styles of operation.  The idea that you could just run one exactly like the other without disastrous consequences is childish in its simplicity, and makes me wonder if Snyder didn’t experience some significant lead exposure at some point in his own childhood.

The only thing that failed here was Snyder’s concept of reality, and that failure was so jarring that he would rather force children into a lifetime of mental illness and learning disability than deal with it like a responsible adult, let alone a competent leader.  There is more than enough evidence to warrant a much more rigorous investigation of what Snyder’s office knew and when, but the Republican in charge of making that call is unlikely to do anything more than follow orders and play his particular role in permanently abdicating responsibility for the Governor and his loyal Emergency Managers.

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And just one final note, apparently Mr. Snyder has taken to drinking filtered Flint water for the time being, in a bid to further polish his public image.

A couple of things to notice about this:  While some has come from Flint-area homes, Snyder has also been getting water from a Flint restaurant that, much like the homes selected for EPA reporting, doesn’t have the old lead-contaminated pipes or solder that have caused so much trouble for many of the city’s poorest residents.  On top of that, the restaurant in question uses a high-end reverse osmosis filtration system, rather than the much cheaper filters provided by the state to residents in the aftermath of the poisoning.  Finally, even if Snyder were drinking lead-contaminated water, the effects would be unlikely to manifest in a meaningful way on a man his age.  Not to say it would be good for him, but the risk is far less than for a lot of the (again, mostly poorer) children of Flint who were exposed.  Just saying, if the guy really wants to prove a point, he’ll start feeding the shit to his grandkids.  I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

 

A Premature Sigh of Illusory Relief

You wish you were as brave as this kid…

 

 Bradley Manning won’t rot in prison for aiding al-Qaeda,  just for standing up for the interests of the American public.

 

Last Tuesday, Pfc. Bradley Manning was found guilty of *only* 20 of the 22 charges brought against him in THE Show Trial of the 21st Century (thus far, at any rate).  The Judge, Col. Denise Lind, handed down a “Not Guilty” on the most severe charge of “aiding the enemy,” but found Manning guilty on most of the other charges, including 6 under the ridiculous 1917 Espionage Act.

Seeing that Manning had plead guilty to most of the lesser charges, those findings are relatively unremarkable, and most of the media chatter has come in the form of relief over his “aiding the enemy” acquittal (Yes, your precious, hand-picked confidential sources are safe, for now).   All the same, I’m having a hard time considering this anything but a serious blow to government transparency and the rule of law.  There are probably a dozen reasons to think this, but three in particular stand out from the crowd.

#1. The 1917 Espionage Act:

The fact that charges were brought at all under this ancient bit of legal code is disturbing, and seeing them upheld in judgment is a very bad sign for anyone trying to expose government incompetence, let alone corruption.  The law has an ugly history of being used for purposes of political persecution, and the Obama administration has held fast to that conceit.

Additionally, many legal scholars consider the Espionage Act a relic, designed to deal with threats that disappeared decades ago, and there’s been more than a little argument over its constitutionality, even at the time it was passed.  It’s tough to imagine a law more ripe for a repeal, or at least a serious reworking.  And yet, this law has been one of the main weapons in the Obama DOJ’s arsenal of persecution against whistle-blowers.  Under their watch, more than twice as many people have faced charges under this act than during it’s entire previous history.  After this ruling, that strategy is unlikely to change.

#2.  The Obscene Double-Standard in Criminal Prosecution:

Significantly more telling than even the sheer mass of the book that was thrown at Bradley Manning is the relative non-existence of legal consequences for other types of blatantly criminal behavior, both in military and civilian circles:

“Did the bank you run launder billions of dollars for drug cartels and known terrorist affiliates over several years?  That’s OK, we won’t bring criminal charges, or even make you admit any wrongdoing.  Just pay us a month’s worth of revenue or so, and we’ll call it even.”

“You say your infantry unit systematically massacred scores of civilians in an occupied country?  Between you and me, that’s pretty messed up, but let me tell you what:  We’ll protect you from local courts and police, but we will have to do an ‘internal investigation,’ just so everyone knows that Justice has been served…”

“What’s that, now?  You’ve been accused of rape and harassment by a fellow soldier?  Well, now, we’ll definitely have to do…  something…  about that…  eventually…  In the mean time, how good are you at keeping your mouth shut?”

Had Manning engaged in this sort of despicable behavior, he would likely be looking at a small fraction of the legal penalties he currently faces.  Powerful  institutions in America tend to protect their own from even the most heinous of accusations.  Of course, that all changes the second you question their own adherence to the high ideals they preach.  Barack Obama seems to wear a particularly smug look when he boasts of his status as a “Constitutional Scholar,” or when he lauds the U.S. as “…a Nation of Laws.”  I can’t tell if that is because he actually believes these things he says, or if he merely finds a sardonic thrill in serving millions of Americans helping after steaming helping of pure, unsullied horseshit.

#3.  Intimidation of Future Whistle-Blowers:

One of the more remarkable things about the Snowden leaks, at least in my estimation, is the fact that they still happened in spite of the type of horrendous treatment that had been heaped on Pfc. Manning during his pre-trial incarceration.  A year and change of 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement under constant supervision, forced to sleep naked in full light, and refused any sort of physical or mental diversion, including reading and exercise.  All, you know, “for his own protection.”  PR aside, these were obviously punitive measures, taken just publicly enough to scare off other military personnel with similar ideas.

(**LATE NOTE** ~ Prosecution claims during sentencing hearings of a “chilling effect” on State Dept. activity and reporting of human rights abuses are a master class in unintentional irony.)

Now that Manning has had his day(s) in court and will likely spend a significant proportion of his life behind bars, anyone else with possibly damaging information on government malfeasance is less likely than ever to come forward, regardless of how said information was obtained.  Anything potentially implicating or humiliating is immediately and systematically classified by an administration obsessed with secrecy.  And the cost of challenging this gross abuse of authority?  Nothing short of your life as a free citizen.

Any and all private information is now fair game for collection and catalogue, but the actions and communications of the security state, funded by our taxes and nominally in our interest, must be shielded from any public knowledge or accountability by any means and at any cost.  The logic behind this situation is perverse beyond any account, and makes endemic corruption a foregone conclusion.

This verdict didn’t throw our pathetically under-utilized system of investigative journalism into chaos. It was simply a crippling blow against any effort to even inform Americans of the ethical depths to which  their country has been dragged, let alone reverse that sickening descent.

Man, we really dodged a bullet there, huh?