Save yourselves. Don’t be like Michigan.


I may have the exact wording wrong, but, when asked why he writes dystopian fiction, Ray Bradbury responded by saying that he did so in order to “prevent it” from actually happening…

I know it’s hard to see any silver lining in what we’re experiencing today in Michigan, but, if nothing else, perhaps we’re serving that same purpose. Maybe we’re the dystopian vision of the future that prevents it from actually happening elsewhere. Maybe we’re doing a good thing here, by devolving into a gleefully under-educated band of tire-burning, pollution-breathing homophobes. Maybe our existence will demonstrate to others that certain boundaries, like those which we crossed multiple times this past week, should never be traversed.

That’s the only way I can look at current events and not become totally disheartened.

Maybe, I tell myself, thanks to our example, others will be less inclined to slash public school funding, reclassify burning tires as a renewable energy source, and make it possible for bigoted EMTs not to treat people who they fear may, god forbid, love someone of their same sex. Maybe, by living through this, we’re serving the greater good, like the people of Florida and Texas did in simpler times, before the madness set in.

Speaking of the madness, at no time in modern Michigan is it more palpable than it is right now, during the lame duck session of our legislature, when vitally everything is on the table, from drug testing the poor to making it easier for corporations to poison us. And that, by the way, is something I believe our representatives may be working on at this very moment, as they consider SB 891, legislation that would rip open and gut the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, freeing polluters from any semblance of real accountability… The following comes from Ann Arbor Representative Jeff Irwin.

…In a nutshell, SB 891 changes Part 201 of the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act which is the section of law stipulating how much polluters must clean up their messes. In essence, this statute determines ‘how clean is clean.’

From a market-based perspective, Michigan’s environmental cleanup laws are an orgy of externalities. Ever since Michigan ditched the ‘polluter pay’ philosophy in the 1990’s, cleanup standards have been diminished across the board and corporate accountability is at a minimum. Or so we thought. SB 891 continues the slide towards rewarding the companies that pollute by reassigning their responsibilities to the taxpayers, future land owners and public health. I certainly understand that polluted sites will not be pristine when response activities are complete, but this bill will allow polluters to shirk their responsibilities even when a more effective cleanup would be possible.

If SB 891 passes, here is just a sampling of the problems we will see:

1) current law gives a preference to cleanup methods that remove the pollution rather than capping it or managing exposure. This bill removes that preference.

2) current law requires that, when polluters use deed restrictions to manage exposure – such as a deed restriction to ‘never touch that aquifer again’ – they must notify the public when they build on the land or otherwise change the land use. This bill removes that notification process, making it harder for the public to maintain these flimsy controls. Also, the bill removes the requirement that contaminated aquifers be monitored for leaks and releases.

3) current law requires that the source of pollution be contained and monitored to prevent the pollution from spreading to other properties. This proposal weakens those rules.

This is an arcane and complicated statute but it cuts to the heart of corporate responsibility. If a company pollutes our state, they should be required to contain the pollution and clean that property to a reasonable level that is protective of public health and the property rights of others. Anything less is bad for Michigan, our Great Lakes and especially the health and welfare of future generations.

Here’s hoping, wherever you might be reading this, that you are stronger than we are… Best of luck.

[Check out previous warnings from the Mitten State here, here, here and here.]

This entry was posted in Civil Liberties, Corporate Crime, Michigan, Observations, Politics, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted December 11, 2014 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    Snyder was on Al Jazeera this morning talking about the water issues in Detroit.

    I love Michigan, but the government there has long been an embarrassment.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    On behalf of the people of New York, I thank you.

  3. John Galt
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Once we killed the unions and drove out the young people, it was easy.

  4. Dem
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    The Michigan Senate just suspended the normal committee process rules and referred the “right to discriminate” bill to Senate floor for a full vote as soon as TODAY.

    H.B. 5958 was passed by the Michigan House last week as a supposed counter to a proposed bill to protect LGBT people from discrimination essentially allowing businesses to cite religion in order to try to “opt out” of following the law and discriminate (the legislation has been called the “turn away gays” bill by some).

    Well the anti-discrimination bill never even moved, but the House passed the “right to discriminate” bill anyway, and now it’s about to get voted on in the Senate!

    Your state senator needs to hear from you right now first thing this morning or as soon as you get to call.

    Call and tell your state senator to OPPOSE H.B. 5958, the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

    Rep. David E. Rutledge (517) 373-1771

  5. George
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    It’s not just the other side that’s culpable, John. Bloggers hosting shindigs for entrepreneurs and investors is also a part of the problem, so before you cast aspersions at Republicans, remind yourself that you contribute to the power they wield.

  6. Bob Krzewinski
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    The item below is from Michigan Radio earlier this week. About the only real business growth for Michigan seems to be moving (out of state) companies as we slide further into the dark ages.

    A new House bill would prevent local governments from setting their own minimum wage laws, putting other additional conditions on employers, or attaching community benefits agreements to development projects.

    State Representative Earl Poleski, a Jackson Republican, is the bill’s sponsor. He says it aims to combat the “fragmentation” that results from letting municipalities set their own standards. “Those different rules make it complex—and when I say complex, read ‘expensive’—to comply, and frankly impairs businesses abilities to expand and hire people,” Poleski says.

    Poleski argues that a “consistent and predictable business environment” statewide should trump concerns about “local control.” But critics argue that cities should be able to set their own standards without state interference.

    “House Bill 5977 sets up the state as a dictatorship telling local units of government that they cannot do what is best for their community, workers and residents when it comes to wages and benefits tied to economic development in that community,” said Detroit State Representative Rashida Tlaib.

    The bill’s introduction came as a particular surprise to many in Detroit, where city leaders are debating an ordinance that would require developers to negotiate community benefits agreements for certain large-scale projects.

    The idea has drawn a lot of pushback from the city’s business community—including the head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, who wrote a letter warning the City Council that a community benefits ordinance would slow the city’s gathering development momentum before it can reach “critical mass.”
    But advocates say there’s no evidence community benefits chill growth—in fact, just the opposite.

    “We have some really good evidence that not only are community benefit agreements good for the community, but they actually are helpful for developers,” said Mary King, Executive Director of Doing Development Differently in Detroit.
    The bill is now in a House committee, with a hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning. Poleski says it’s up to the Republican leadership to decide if it will move forward during this “lame duck” session.

  7. Demetrius
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    @ Dem

    Don’t you know … ? Things like “normal committee processes” and “rules” are now just quaint anachronisms — much like “justice,” “democracy,” and the “rule of law.”

    Anyway, isn’t it much for efficient and cost-effective to just sit back and let our corporate/religious overlords make decisions by decree?

    After all, *they* know what’s best for us …

  8. Matt Posky
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Surreal I just posted an article and also tipped a hat to Ray, although for slightly different reasons. It has been beyond depressing to see the changes Michigan has gone through in my absent years. It now represents so much of what I hate in society. Sorry, Mark.

  9. Mr. X
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    We kill yourselves to make our community a better place, and they come along and strike the whole thing down with a stroke of the pen. We battle against Tom Monaghan and pass a local non-discrimination ordinance, and they come along and give us the license to discriminate. We have a successful ballot initiative to kill the Emergency Manager law, and a few days later they bring it back. We pass environmental laws, and they gut them. They call catsup a vegetable and burning tires renewable energy. When they take away our means to effect change peacefully, they give us not alternative but to respond in other ways.

  10. Eel
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Anyone want to start a chiral company slash tire burning facility next to Rick Snyders’s house and see how long these laws stay in the books.

  11. anonymous
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    That’s right, Mr. X. And I’ve got a tenspot that wagers all you’ll do about it is online commenting.

  12. Gene
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I used to find some comfort in telling myself “at least we’re not as bad as the state of ________” – with Mississippi, Texas, or Florida as the front runners for filling in the blanks. At this point, I feel we are winning the race to the bottom – so, yes, we are now here for the comparative comfort of others. We have great lakes.

  13. BrianB
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    They could offset the costs of drug & paternity testing welfare recipients by doing them live on tv and selling ads – game show government, Dystopia 101.

  14. wobblie
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    My daughter can’t wait to graduate EMU and move out of this state. Anyone with the means to get out is getting out. When she graduates, my house and my business go on the market. Ohio even looks better than Michigan at this point. Before the year is out the Repugs will amend how Michigan’s electoral votes are allocated, and Michigan will never be a blue state again.

  15. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    You, an anonymous poster, want to bet a “tenspot” that an anonymous internet poster is apathetic and/or does not have any follow through? That is depressing!

  16. Fred Timms
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I like it when anonymous armchair revolutionaries start calling one another out.

  17. murph
    Posted December 11, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    LeGuin had a good speech on a similar note last month,

    “I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope,” she said. “We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”

  18. Posted December 11, 2014 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    That was a lovely speech, Murph. Thank you for reminding me of it.

  19. 734
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    We’re the pointy tip of the spear to be sure, but it’s happening everywhere. Did you read Mark Bitman’s article in today’s NYT (

    Here it is:

    THE police killing unarmed civilians. Horrifying income inequality. Rotting infrastructure and an unsafe “safety net.” An inability to respond to climate, public health and environmental threats. A food system that causes disease. An occasionally dysfunctional and even cruel government. A sizable segment of the population excluded from work and subject to near-random incarceration.

    You get it: This is the United States, which, with the incoming Congress, might actually get worse.

    This in part explains why we’re seeing spontaneous protests nationwide, protests that, in their scale, racial diversity, anger and largely nonviolent nature, are unusual if not unique. I was in four cities recently — New York, Washington, Berkeley and Oakland — and there were actions every night in each of them. Meanwhile, workers walked off the job in 190 cities on Dec. 4.

    The root of the anger is inequality, about which statistics are mind-boggling: From 2009 to 2012 (that’s the most recent data), some 95 percent of new income has gone to the top 1 percent; the Walton family (owners of Walmart) have as much wealth as the bottom 42 percent of the country’s people combined; and “income mobility” now describes how the rich get richer while the poor … actually get poorer.

    The progress of the last 40 years has been mostly cultural, culminating, the last couple of years, in the broad legalization of same-sex marriage. But by many other measures, especially economic, things have gotten worse, thanks to the establishment of neo-liberal principles — anti-unionism, deregulation, market fundamentalism and intensified, unconscionable greed — that began with Richard Nixon and picked up steam under Ronald Reagan. Too many are suffering now because too few were fighting then.

    What makes this an exciting time is that we are beginning to see links among issues that we have overlooked for far too long.

    In 1970, after spending a year in New York absorbed by concerns seemingly as disparate as ending the war, supporting the rights of Black Panthers to get fair trials (and avoid being murdered) and understanding the role of men in the women’s movement, I — and others — had conversations like this: “Let’s make people understand that all of those issues, plus poverty and racism and the environment and more, are all part of the same picture, and that fixing things means citizens have to regain power and work in their own interests.”

    Of course we failed, as others did before and since. But these same things can be said now, and they’re being said by people of all colors. When underpaid workers begin their strikes by saying “I can’t breathe,” or by holding their hands over their heads and chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” they’re recognizing that their struggle is the same as that of African-Americans demanding dignity, respect and indeed safety on their own streets.

    And of course it’s the same struggle: “It’s the same people,” says Saru Jayaraman, the director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. “Young people working in fast food are the same people as those who are the victims of police brutality. So the Walmart folks are talking about #blacklivesmatter and the #blacklivesmatter folks are talking about taking on capital.”

    The N.A.A.C.P.’s Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a leader of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, captures the national yearning this reflects. “I believe that deep within our being as a nation there is a longing for a moral movement that plows deep into our souls,” he writes. “We are flowing together because we recognize that the intersectionality of all of these movements is our opportunity to fundamentally redirect America.” (The full text of Dr. Barber’s email is on my blog.)

    “All of these movements”? Yes: The demands of the fast-food workers movement — $15 minimum wage and a union — have helped to unite movements among airport workers, hospital workers, retail workers and more.

    There are already results. Two years ago, there was talk of raising the minimum wage to $10; now $15 per hour is seen as the bare minimum. Seattle and San Francisco have already mandated this, Chicago’s City Council voted to gradually increase to a $13 minimum by 2019, Oakland will move to $12.25 in March and a proposal is being considered in Los Angeles. (And although the amounts were woefully inadequate, four red states voted to approve minimum wage increases last month, showing that the concept resonates across party lines.)

    Meanwhile, the credibility of those who argue that employers “can’t afford” to raise pay — McDonald’s paid its C.E.O. $9.5 million last year — is nil. For one thing, there are examples of profitable businesses that treat their employees decently, and even countries where fast-food workers can make ends meet. And for another, underpaying workers simply shifts the cost of supporting them onto public coffers. As Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont says, “In essence, taxpayers are subsidizing the wealthiest family in America.” That would be the Waltons. (Incredibly, many Republicans still want the working poor to pay more taxes.)

    Then, of course, there are the matters of justice and morality. It simply isn’t right to pay people a sub-living wage with no potential for more, and as the comedian Chris Rock says, employers would pay even less if they could get away with it.

    The #blacklivesmatter movement — there’s no better description — is already having an impact as well. Don’t think for a second we’d be having a national debate about police brutality (one that includes many on the right), or a White House plan to examine and fix law enforcement, without demonstrations in the streets.

    The initial Obama plan is encouraging but lacking, and that’s all the more reason to keep demonstrating. (What good are body cameras, by the way? The videotape of Rodney King’s beating was seen around the world yet resulted in acquittals; Eric Garner’s choking death, viewed millions of times online, didn’t even lead to a trial, even though police chokeholds are banned in New York City.) Besides, as Sanders says, “Even if every cop were a constitutional lawyer and a great person, if you have 30 percent unemployment among African-American young people you still have a huge problem.”

    I have spent a great deal of time talking about the food movement and its potential, because to truly change the food system you really have to change just about everything: good nutrition stems from access to good food; access to good food isn’t going to happen without economic justice; that isn’t going to happen without taxing the superrich; and so on. The same is true of other issues: You can’t fix climate change or the environment without stopping the unlimited exploitation of natural and human resources (see Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”). Same with social well-being.

    Everything affects everything. It’s all tied together, and the starting place hardly matters: A just and righteous system will have a positive impact on everything we care about, just as an unjust, exploitative system makes everything worse.

    Increasingly, it seems, there’s an appetite and even unity to take on the billionaire class. Let’s recognize that if we are seeing positive change now, it’s in part because elected officials respond to pressure, and let’s remember that that pressure must be maintained no matter who is in office. Even if Bernie Sanders were to become president, the need for pressure would continue.

    “True citizenship,” says Jayaraman of Berkeley — echoing Jefferson — “is people continually protesting.” Precisely.

One Trackback

  1. By Michigan Workers Get Porked on December 16, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    […] not software engineers.” Well, here we are, almost exactly two years later, knee deep in yet another lame duck, race-to-the-bottom legislative session, and it looks as though McClelland was pretty much right on the money. Today, the Michigan Economic […]

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