Lessons from the Flint water crisis

Come Heller high water…

∫ Whether they’re ultimately convicted or not, the fact that five public officials are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter (including Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and four others) in the poisoning of Flint is important. It says to all public officials that it’s not OK to half-ass your job or save a buck at the expense of public safety.

∫ Where has our sense of public service gone? No one who cared about the public’s well-being would have said, as the charging documents claim Lyon did about the Legionnaire’s disease that was killing people in Flint “[we] can’t save everyone” and “everyone has to die of something.” Even if that was some sort of attempt at dark humor, those are words that should rightly haunt Lyon forever, whatever the outcome.

∫ And of course Attorney General Bill Schuette isn’t charging Gov. Snyder, who signed the emergency manager law that led to the water crisis and who appointed the people who enabled it and who continues to slow-roll the fixing of the problem. Schuette’s reasoning: “In any investigation, we only file charges when there’s probable cause to establish a crime has been committed.” Too bad relentlessly indifferent leadership isn’t a crime.

∫ And of course Snyder isn’t even suspending Wells or Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive who faces charges of obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer, which is unimaginable. Think about that: People who are charged with seriously damaging the public’s health are still working in the department that’s supposed to protect the public’s health. It baffles me how Snyder can sleep at night.

∫ By the way, quick reminder: Michigan voters are clearly smarter than Lansing. We rejected the beefed up emergency manager law in 2012. But of course the state GOP thumbed its nose at voters and passed the bill anyway just a few months later. Good call, GOP. Good call. I like to think voters will hold them accountable in the next election, but that’s not likely given the way the GOP also gerrymandered the hell out of the state, thus ensuring Forever Rule for their party. It’s a charming little system these patriots have devised.

∫ An NPR print story about the horrific shooting at the Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, included this caveat at the end, which was noteworthy: “This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.” With everyone so confused about what’s real news and what’s not, I think all media outlets should include statements like that. All news stories should be clearly and prominently labeled news (meaning every effort was made to be accurate and objective) and all commentary — especially those ridiculous panels of talking heads on TV — should be labeled opinion. Maybe that way we can end the era of presto chango facts.

∫ I don’t give a damn if a recent test of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac is “robust” (as one analyst described it) or not. An oil and gas pipeline does not belong underwater, much less a 60-year-old one. It will break or leak at some point. And when it does, imagine the damage to the Great Lakes.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.


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