Ramona's picture

    Dear Free Press: That Water Situation in Flint is Partly Your Doing

    Dear Freep: I'll get right to it. I used to be such a fan. Remember how you used to be the blue-collar paper in Detroit and the News--that rag!--was the paper of the Republicans?  Good times.

    You were the morning paper and the News--that rag!--came out in the afternoon.  We started our day with you and you never let us down.  On those mornings when we got ready to slog to our jobs or to march in the picket lines or to scan the want ads for employment opportunities, you let us know you were with us.  You were on our side.  You dogged the Big Three and kept them honest, especially during labor negotiations, but you didn't kowtow to the union leaders, either.  We trusted you.

    Am I getting this right?  It's the way I remember it.  I loved your paper, from page one through the editorials and Op-Eds, through the style section, through the sports pages (I admit I rushed through those, but I've heard they were very good), through those whopping Want Ad sections (remember those?), and on to the back, where the cartoons lived.  On Sundays your paper was as heavy as a catalog.

    Then Reagan came along and brought the hated trickle-down with him. Almost overnight the unions became pariahs--selfish bastards!--and Michigan jobs raced as if on luge sleds to the south and overseas. The days of the high-wage blue-collar worker were over.  Over time you lost your advertising base. Your formerly robust want-ad section dwindled down to a precious few pages, and you partnered with--it's hard to even say it--the dreaded Detroit News.

    But you held on to your character, to your ethics, to your championing of the labor class.  For a while.

    I repeat all this so you'll understand how hard it is for me to say what I'm about to say:

    When you endorsed Rick Snyder for governor the first time, you bought into an image of him that was phony from the start.  You had to know he was not the innocuous "one tough nerd" he and his adorable kids made him out to be.  You knew he was an untested businessman with no political background ("a Republican venture capitalist and former Gateway executive", you wrote), with nothing but promises for a bright Michigan future.

    You knew his opponent, Virg Bernero, was better for us and far more qualified to get us out of the recession sweeping the entire country.  His successes as mayor of Lansing were public knowledge; his vociferous and loyal support for labor, voiced so often and so eloquently on Ed Schultz's show on MSNBC, was necessary in a climate where jobs were being sucked away by the tens of thousands every week, every day.

    But you endorsed Snyder because you believed--all evidence to the contrary--he was a true independent.

    When you endorsed him the second time, in 2014, you did it knowing--even admitting--you were twisting the screws.  You had already written a scathing editorial in 2012, when Snyder went against the voters and declared Michigan (Michigan!) a right-to-work state, yet your endorsement barely scratched the surface on his "failure of leadership", as you called it then:  

    Snyder, the Republican incumbent, promised a pragmatic approach to the state's problems and delivered — except when he was caving to radical elements of the GOP-led Legislature or going back on his word about transparency.

    You wrote this about his Democratic opponent, Mark Schauer:

     Schauer says he'll shape state government according to the progressive values the Free Press Editorial Board believes are embedded in Michigan's DNA — expansion of civil rights, protections for workers, environmental stewardship, plus investment in schools, roads and the social safety net.

    Mark Schauer would have been a fine choice and just what we needed as an antidote. An honest, hard-working pragmatist, he might have been just the person to help us calm down a raging Tea Party legislature.  But we'll never know.

    Now you want us to believe you're outraged by Governor Snyder's actions over the water poisoning in Flint--as if you couldn't have seen it coming.  As if you couldn't have known that your endorsement, along with other equally powerful but misguided back-slaps, would be enough to give him permission to do whatever he and his handlers wanted.

    You knew in 2014 that Snyder was aligned with ALEC, the Koch brothers, and the Mackinac Center--all well known Right Wing anti-government activists. You knew of the misery Snyder's hand-picked emergency managers were causing all across our state.  And you had to know it was only a matter of time, with Snyder and the Republicans in control, before our Great Lakes state would face an environmental disaster.

    Your bizarre editorial, dated October 8, 2015 and titled, "Flint Water Crisis: An Obscene Failure Of Government", only served to highlight your obscene failure in judgment.  In it, you wrote:

    This newspaper twice endorsed Snyder for governor, albeit with grave reservations. But because of the relative weakness of his opponents, the leadership he displayed in resolving Detroit’s protracted financial crisis and our hope that he would use his business acumen to ensure that government better served people, he narrowly won our endorsement.

    Last year, in a detailed analysis of Snyder's record, this editorial board expressed our dissatisfaction about Snyder's first term: "The governor balanced the budget at the expense of cities and school districts. His disdain for politics is inappropriate in the state's chief politician; his deficiencies as a deal-maker have sometimes resulted in terrible consequences for Michiganders."

    This, we wrote, was Snyder's most profound flaw: "He has got to see people, not sums, as the bottom line of the state balance sheet."

    We wrote that he rarely exhibited strong, decisive leadership, that he must "grow into a more sure-footed, principled leader." That we were fearful of what Snyder's second term could hold.

    To which I call bullshit.  You endorsed a monster.  Twice. And now you're busy trying to undo a tragedy that never had to happen. You want to be heroes? It's too late. The children of Flint have already been poisoned. You can't undo that. You can't undo your endorsements. You had your chance before the elections in 2010 and 2014 and you blew it.

    You blew it.

    (Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices and Crooks and Liars)


    I'm so sorry, Ramona. It's impossible to express, sometimes, what it feels like when you're hurting for your home state while simultaneously being so bitterly angry about the government that created the horror - and everyone along the way that made the malfeasance easier.

    Sometimes impossible, but not this time. Bravo.

    There is so much blame to go around I barely know where to start, but ultimately it's the voters who get to decide.  There doesn't seem to be any way to get through to them, even now.  There are no signs that they're finally awake enough to vote the Republican bums out in November to make a difference.

    I'm afraid this whole country is in trouble, and as much as I would like to go on blaming the Republicans, they wouldn't be in positions to do damage without the voters who put them there.

    Ramona, this was beautifully written, as always. It's hard to understand how anyone could have voted for this guy TWICE, but look at Wisconsin.  Look at Kentucky, which had the experience of a good governor, who due to term limits, had to leave office and was replaced by someone vowing to undo the good he had done.  Look at Dubya (although I don't think he won either election,meh still was President for two terms.)

    And now the blind support for the blowhard Trump and the U likeable Cruz -- I just don't effing get it!

    That second endorsement was just stunning, considering that the Free Press had been busy those first four years reporting on the horrors brought on us by that Koch-fueled administration and legislature.  None of us working so hard to get Mark Schauer elected saw it coming, and the outrage was loud and proud.  Still, the Freep didn't back down from it.  I'm not saying they alone got Snyder elected that second time, but an endorsement for Schauer would have gone a long way toward energizing his base and moving his campaign forward. 

    Man. I'm sorry, Mona. It hurts to have the home team let you down with so much at stake.

    Thanks, Doc.  The most painful part of it all is the fact that it all could have been avoided.  With a more responsible team at the helm, none of this would have happened.  But I'm almost daring to hope we'll see some progress and this insane reign of terror will finally end. 

    As usual, this comment is off the cuff.

    But our section of this country should be devoted to the Great Lakes.

    I mean this is how WE GOT HERE FOR CHRISSAKES.

    Fresh water as well as the ability to travel by boat and have fresh water to drink and use this magnificent source as a trade route....

    We also had wilderness supplying all the wood any people would ever need.

    We also had arable lands, the envy of all the peoples over this globe.

    We also had wild life to ensure our need for protein.

    But water is what made this part of the country great, so very great.

    I recall the days in court of attempting to stop the pollution of Superior with our iron slag.


    This particular problem in Michigan is ironic.

    We pollute the greatest source of water in the universe, and that pollution causes our rivers to pollute us?

    We contaminate our own children in the hope of saving a few bucks on paper?

    If this happened in Minnesota, most of us would be weeping!

    See, that is all I got. I mean I can go on and on about repubs taking over the 'chains of government' and just fucking it all up in the name of smaller government and smaller expenditures by government....when in fact these repubs just present smaller minds with regards to what amounts to oblivion.

    Keep up the reports!

    Thanks, Richard.  Yes, this would be bad enough anywhere else, but the Great Lakes are national treasures.  They need protection and they're not getting it.  It's insane to elect people to govern this region, knowing their mission is to destroy and not preserve.  A whole lot of blame to go around, but you just know nobody will be going to jail, or will even be inconvenienced by it.

    It's possible I have mentioned a time or two that I was born and raised in Flint, MI. Both of my children were born there as well. At Hurley Hospital. Where, over thirty years later, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, found elevated levels of lead in blood samples taken from the kids in Flint.

    This entire calamity has angered me to the point of being almost paralyzed. I couldn't write about it. It hurt to even think about it. And the frustration of not knowing where to turn for honest answers broke my heart.

    Like the X-files slogans: THe Truth Is Out There but Trust No One.

    You are correct about The Freep. They let us down by endorsing a man who didn't know that government is people, not money.

    Sorry I missed these comments. 

    Flower, I know just how you feel.  My rage over this has just about rendered me speechless--or wordless.  I want to throw blame everywhere, and this time it's The Freep.  When I can get it right, next time it'll be something else.  I'm so glad to see the attention from every direction, but part of my anger comes from knowing there are kids out there who will be suffering the consequences for years to come because of neglect, hubris, greed, and cover-ups, and the perps will never have to suffer as much as they and their families do.  Unforgivable.

    Used to read the Freep every day - gone are the days. 

    I used to freelance a lot for the Freep.  I'll bet I'll never do that again!

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