I Can’t Wrap My Head Around This….

As if the ongoing disaster that is the Republican presidential clown car wasn’t doing enough damage to the image and prospects of the once-Grand Old Party (not to mention the country), I recently came across two articles about the party’s lawmakers that made me ask not “what were they thinking?” but “was anyone thinking?”

Last week, Congressional Republicans passed a measure that would have blocked EPA enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The President vetoed it, but I remain absolutely stunned that—in the midst of the disaster in Flint, Michigan, and the national outcry over that massive failure of government oversight—such a bill would even be introduced, let alone passed.

Unsurprisingly, the effort unleashed headlines like “As Flint, Michigan Suffers from Contaminated Water, Republicans Attack Clean Water Act.”

Thanks to an ill-conceived effort to save an estimated $100 per day (followed by 18 months during which the Governor’s office responded to complaints from citizens by telling them the water was just fine although they knew it wasn’t), Flint’s children now face impaired cognitive development, behavioral problems, and nervous system damage. Meanwhile, estimates of the costs to correct the entirely man-made problem run into the billions.

And yet.

In the midst of this crisis, and just days before the state of emergency was declared, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote an op-ed attacking the EPA’s Clean Water Rule. In the op-ed, Ryan declares that the stricter rules (finalized by the EPA this past summer which gives the agency authority to regulate smaller bodies of water to limit pollution) are a prime example of government overreach and that the only goal of the agency is to micromanage how citizens use water.

There is a yiddish word for this behavior: chutzpah. (Look it up.)

You might think that nothing could top this particular display of tone-deaf arrogance, but you’d be wrong.

Whenever another mass shooting brings calls for better background checks or other modest gun-safety measures, the NRA and its enablers always respond by insisting that the problem is a lack of mental health screening and treatment. So Senator Al Franken has sponsored a bill to improve those services.

The Franken Bill would provide much needed mental health services and tools for police and the courts to address deficiencies in the nation’s mental health system. The legislation should be uncontroversial, but Mike Lee and Tom Coburn adhere dogmatically to an anti-government ideology that would even deny combat veterans and others suffering from mental illness, access to critical services.

So Coburn and Lee have blocked the bill.

Franken’s bill does have support from several less-crazy Republicans, but increasingly, GOP policy is in thrall to people like Lee, Coburn and the Governor of Texas, who recently vetoed a mental health bill in that state because—wait for it—he doesn’t believe mental illness is real. (Can I offer you a mirror, Governor?)

Speaking of cognitive impairment…Just how many Americans have been drinking Flint’s water, and for how long?


  1. What happened to Indiana’s Flint-like situation, the cancer cluster of 27 victims (now minus the one who died on his 3rd birthday) in the 25 mile-square area south of Marion County? The families involved believed the problem was from a long abandoned building site seeping hazardous waste into the ground water and into their wells. A researcher at Eli Lilly was involved in the study; someone from the health department announced it was not a “cancer cluster” because there were different types of cancers involved. It disappeared from the news after that announcement. Someone needs to clue in that health department about the findings of Karen Silkwood and Erin Brockovich; numerous forms of cancers from the one site each of them investigated.

    I reported a drainage ditch running through my small housing development a few years ago due to heavy overgrowth of grass, weeds, shrubs and trees with rats running in and out of the ditch area onto surrounding properties. The Health Department tested the water and sent me a letter reporting they found a “safe level of e-coli”. The ditch runs across the back of people’s property and into Pleasant Run Creek – which is tested frequently.

    Flint, Michigan needs immediate attention by state and federal authorities. But; so does the bird sanctuary in Oregon and our own waterways here in Indiana along with the long abandoned buildings seeping hazardous waste into the entire environment throughout the country.

    Unless and until we rid the government at all levels of as many Republicans as possible; no beneficial bill will be passed at local, state or federal levels. Recent history and current news shows this fact daily…in the few articles the media allows between Trump, Palin and Cruz headlined stupidity. The media has become as powerful and as much to blame for current conditions as Congress and state level elected officials. With major issues plaguing this city and state during an election year with Pence in the front-running and John Gregg a shadow figure we are waiting to hear from in any media format.

    The Star has published a lengthy article today by someone named Peter Heck, columnist; “Students should study the Bible”. Who the heck is Heck? His article runs the length of the VIEWPOINTS page; to me it is a dog whistle to offset the Eugene Robinson column and two common sense letters to the editor with a Mike Luckovich cartoon about the GOP “debate”. Being Indianapolis, I know the other articles are not to offset Mr. Heck’s Bible thumping. The GOP would have to pull it’s head out of the sand (or their ass) to wrap their head around anything beneficial to all Americans – including the staunch Republican voters who keep them in office.

  2. I read recently that Indiana has the worst air quality in the nation, and our water quality is nearly as bad.

  3. Remember these are the same people who pass ultrasound examination and gender check at the bathroom door legislation. And still we don’t vote them out of office.

  4. I have worked as a regulator and industry employee in water pollution control. There is only one path to such a disaster: politics. The technical experts who understand the treatment options and processes would never allow something like this to happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are similar potential problems in a lot of states, including Indiana.

  5. You have the Farm Bureau and large agri-businesses to thank for making every attempt possible to stop the Clean Water Act.

    Average size farms have many exemptions and those will stay in place. The average farmer will not be affected by the Clean Water Act. It is the large CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) that are against clean water regulation because they are the ones that have manure pit leaks and spills of hundreds of thousands of gallons that pollute the waterways. The CAFOs include the huge dairy, hog and poultry operations. They are large and powerful corporations – not actual farmers.

    Typical farmers that are against the Clean Water Act are the ones (Republicans) that have fallen for the propaganda and lies they have heard. Rather than being reasonable and conducting their own fact checking to see if this reg would actually affect them, they choose to believe the BS that they hear or read. These are far right republican farmers that fall for the fear and hatred that is spread by their party and their religious zealots. Thankfully, most farmers realize that this won’t affect them at all.

    Unfortunately, the public only hears the corporate lobbyists – Farm Bureau. Our family never has had any respect for the Farm Bureau – ever! And I am talking about 5-6 decades of knowing they are an undesirable organization.

  6. It all stems from Ronald Reagan reporting that his government offered only problems and no solutions. Perhaps he was right but he’s been replaced.

    Now we have the government solving problems and offering solutions but Republicans are stuck back in Ronnies days of yore.

    I personally think that a lightly employed actor and B level celebrity in government could use his acting ability as a mass media spokesperson for products like the reduction of competition among businesses and wealth redistribution, but leader of the free world? I’m sure that he and his cronies were as surprised as the rest of us by how many and easily people were fooled. We as a country had gone from P T Barnum’s one sucker a minute to orders of magnitude more.

    Oh well, what’s done is over, time to move on. Get out the big broom time for a clean sweep. Problems are more global and infinitely more complex (our ancestors got to solve the easiest problems like surviving in a hostile environment) and require states people from the old mold and fortunately we still have some. It’s yet to be determined if what we have is enough.

  7. I hope someone will arrange for bottles of Flint water to be sent to all Members of Congress to drink for a month, and then let’s see how many want clean water.

  8. Nancy:

    Great idea! I used to hear stories about wastewater operators who were so sure their plant effluent was pure that they would drink it. Time for the politicians to step up.

  9. Way too many of today’s problems are due to political leadership putting money and power before the welfare of the people. When the majority of citizens in this country see their leaders for the greedy bastards they are, we might, just might make some headway on solving these terrible man made problems

  10. It hardly seems possible, but the Flint situation may be even worse, from a standpoint of politics and privitization, anyway, and further supports Sheila’s point: “What were they thinking?” I.e., privatization trumps health. Here are excerpts from an article at occupydemocrats.com:

    “Journalist Steve Neavling of the independent newspaper, Motor City Muckraker, believes that the water pipes were not switched in order to save money, thanks to the release of a new email which appears to indicate that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) offered Snyder a deal worth $800 million over 30 years, which would have been 20% cheaper than switching to the polluted Karegnondi Water Authority.
    . . . .
    Neavling not-so-subtly suggests that the ultimate goal was to break up and privatize the DWSD by starving it of a crucial customer base. It has already been split into two entities in 2015: the DWSD and the Great Lakes Water Authority; depriving it of the Flint contract would give the Snyder administration an excuse to sell it off. Others point to a desire to begin new fracking operations in Michigan. “

  11. These people, like “Lyin’ Ryan”, don’t apparently understand even the context under which the idea of “government” even exists. They have spent so much time trying to convince everyone that government is the enemy that to even intimate the opposite is true would undercut what they refer to as being their “conservative principles”. They have either forgotten about what government’s core job, that of the “common good”, is or that they never knew it in the first place. What they espouse is something else that’s entirely different. It is based on gross incompetence and with it the lack of any fundamental understanding of why they are where they are in the first place. I would think that even Speaker Ryan would realize that even his own constituents would benefit from having clean water and clean air available to them. At some point it would seem only rational to conclude this, even for him. Apparently not when ideology, in particular his Ayn Rand based nihilist spin on it, trumps everything. Where did these people come from and how soon can we send them back to wherever that is?

    As bad as things are in Flint, Michigan right now perhaps we all should be thankful that they, Ryan and the rest of these dolts, haven’t put the FAA in their sights – at least not yet. They might decide that airliners really don’t need maintenance or air traffic controllers really don’t need radar either.

  12. reading the New York Times about Flint and the efforts of the EPA and state and local governments to block safe water, the ineptness of the EPA in the Colorado river poisoning, and the LA gas fumes, why would anyone enhance the EPA and related groups? Fund them to improve cover ups? Sure makes little sense to me. Attorneys are disbarred, Doctors lose their license, priests get defrocked, government health agencies get more money?

  13. Tom: Maybe they’re so short-sighted and far removed from reality and science that the idea that something so obviously good as reducing the cost of water treatment couldn’t possibly have other consequences, so why bother looking before you do something stupid.

  14. Joyce J; “water pipes not switched in order to save money”? Are you getting the insurance offers for all of your utility lines, pipes and wires because suddenly they have become our private property? I keep wondering if this is legal to suddenly “give” us property we didn’t ask for and have been paying for monthly for decades on our utility bills…which keep going up. And; utilities are monopolies, not a service we can shop around for to get a better rate.

  15. JoAnn, Municipal water pipes belong to the water company up to the meter. After that, from the meter to your house and all the pipes inside are yours to maintain. Same as electrical lines.

  16. JoAnn Green, apparently Detroit Water was offering their governor better rates, or at least that’s what the article claims. I’m personally against privatization of utilities, and believe that things like internet access should be public, not private.

  17. Thanks daleb, you’re spot on.

    Just like you I’ve had some exposure to the environmental remediation industry as a researcher twenty years ago with a local Indianapolis firm. What you keyed mirrors my opinion as to who is really culpable up in Flint. The folks that I worked with were a dedicated bunch and I cannot imagine for an instance that any of them, especially the ones that I worked very closely with, would ever sign off on something that would leave the drinking water of an entire city toxic. This incredible failure occurred further up the food chain in Michigan state government and also with the city manager that was appointed by their Governor via the draconian laws that he pushed through the state legislature regarding the governance of cities in economic distress or default.

    It’s been interesting to watch and listen to Governor Snyder try in a variety of ways to dodge the bullet with his name written on it in regard to this horrific mess. The more he does to try to shift the blame, especially regarding his amazing comments regarding the “overly complicated language” used by the environmental workers involved as a contributing factor, the clearer and bigger the bull’s eye on his back is. It was his responsibility as Governor to safeguard the welfare of his citizens no matter what and no matter where and in that regard he totally failed and is still trying to smooth it over and dodge that bullet. His attempt at apologies were lame and clearly disingenuous. What he’s responsible for won’t, I suspect, allow for lame explanations or hokey apologies.

    When I think of the 8,000 kids that have been poisoned as a directly result of Snyder’s dereliction it both sickens and angers me just as it would anyone else. Governor Snyder is apparently immune from having those feelings, being demonstratively more concerned with protecting his backside than anything else. He is unfit therefore to continue as the Governor of his state and he should just walk away. My guess is that he won’t of course.

  18. I posted this on facebook. I agree with you and hope the American public can wake up and see that the Koch brothers want the abolishment of the EPA because they probably have a lot to hide. The soil, water and air is polluted from industry and waste is making us sick and die. The anti-tax lobby is financed by libertarians who have taken the GOP over and in the vacuum they gave us Trump and Cruz. I am looking forward to hearing Trump say “just kidding, I don’t want to be President because the only one qualified is Hillary. No shit I think he and Bill are writing the script that will put the last sword into the heart of the GOP when trump tells everyone he was acting and playing to the basest of human nature. The whole GOP is a bunch of confederates who never accepted abolishing slavery – don’t kid yourself., these people are dangerous. Like the Bundy crowd who have occupied a bird sanctuary from out of state to get attention for their anti-government attitudes, they are emboldened by the mainstream media which marginalizes Democrats and women! Go Hillary!

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