Hey! Who Stole My Democracy?…or What’s Going on in the State of Michigan?

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Warning: You are about to enter the Twilight Zone.

Imagine, if you will, that you live in a state where a governor wields extraordinary power over its residents. Imagine, if you will, that your governor has the legal authority to appoint an “Emergency Manager” to oversee the local government in the town where you reside. Imagine that the monetary compensation for the Emergency Manager of your community has no cap. Imagine that your Emergency Manager declares that there’s a financial emergency in your town and then takes over control of it. Imagine that the Emergency Manager can break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services—and can also fire duly elected public officials who serve your community. Imagine, if you will, that the Emergency Manager empowered by your governor to run your town has the right to dissolve your school district and to disincorporate your town. AND imagine that you and your fellow residents have no say about what is going on! Just imagine how you might feel if you lived in a state where that kind of thing was going on. Well, the people who live in Michigan may not have to imagine much longer.

Who, you might ask, will be responsible for transforming the state of Michigan into a Rod Serlingesque otherworldly undemocratic Twilight Zone right here in the United States? Why, Governor Rick Snyder and his bold band of Republican state legislators–that’s who. In January, Governor Snyder called for “Emergency Manager” legislation—and the Republican state legislators were more than happy to comply with his request.

This all seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? I’m not making it up. Karen Bouffard of The Detroit News reported the following: Legislation that would allow emergency financial managers to throw out union contracts and overrule elected officials in financially distressed municipalities and school districts was approved Wednesday by the state Senate. Similar legislation passed in the House in February, and the two chambers are working on a final version to send to Gov. Rick Snyder.

In an article published in The Michigan Messenger, Eartha Jane Melzer wrote:

Under the law whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down.

An amendment to require Emergency Managers to hold monthly public meetings to let people know how they are governing was rejected by Senate Republicans, along with proposals to cap Emergency Manager compensation and require that those appointed to run school districts have some background in education.

Critics say that Republicans are manipulating concerns about budget problems in order to consolidate power by undermining unions.

According to E. D. Kain: Snyder’s law gives the state government the power not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed “Emergency Managers” in their stead. But that’s not all – whole cities could be eliminated if Emergency Managers and the governor choose to do so. And Snyder can fire elected officials unilaterally, without any input from voters. It doesn’t get much more anti-Democratic than that.

Mark Gaffney, Michigan State President of the AFL-CIO said: This is a takeover by the right wing and it’s an assault on democracy like I’ve never seen.

Do you agree with Mark Gaffney? Do you think what’s going on in Michigan is an assault on democracy?


Rachel Maddow Exposes Michigan Republicans Secret War On Democracy (Politicus USA)

Michigan Governor Plays Fast and Loose with Democracy, Invokes Radical New Powers (Forbes)

Michigan Republicans Use Budget Crisis to make Outrageous Assault on Democracy (AFL-CIO)

Michigan Senate passes emergency manager bills (Daily Tribune)

Emergency managers bill sweeps toward final approval (The Michigan Messenger)

Conyers: Emergency Manager bill ‘raises serious constitutional concerns’ (The Michigan Messenger)

Mich. Senate passes bill to give broad powers to emergency managers
State appointees could terminate contracts for teachers, government workers (MSNBC/Associated Press)

Financial manager bill passes Michigan Senate (The Detroit News)

Michigan bill would impose “financial martial law” (CBS News)

897 thoughts on “Hey! Who Stole My Democracy?…or What’s Going on in the State of Michigan?”

  1. Friends and neighbors in MI, I implore you to get involved with the Recall of Rick Snyder! If Governor Snyder has his way, he and his 300 Emergency Financial Managers in training, will take over towns and cities in MI eliminating democracy on a state and local level. Are you ready to have a dictatorship in MI? That’s what Governor Snyder is trying to do. Speak up and get involved, rally and be heard. Now is the time to contact everyone you know, and spread the word, Governor Rick Snyder has to go. He used the internet to get elected, let’s use it to get him out. Remember once a right is taken away, you never get it back. I love Michigan, and can’t stand to think this state will be ruled in the next four years by a dictator. The great State of Michigan belongs to the people of MI, and is a democracy. United we stand, divided we fall.

  2. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_corporate_state_wins_again_20110425/

    The Corporate State Wins Again

    By Chris Hedges

    “When did our democracy die? When did it irrevocably transform itself into a lifeless farce and absurd political theater? When did the press, labor, universities and the Democratic Party—which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible—wither and atrophy? When did reform through electoral politics become a form of magical thinking? When did the dead hand of the corporate state become unassailable?” and the story continues…

  3. UPDATED: Group files petition in Ann Arbor seeking recall of Gov. Rick Snyder
    By Cindy Heflin, 4/18/2011
    Ann Arbor

    A group called Michigan Citizens United filed a petition seeking the recall of Gov. Rick Snyder with the Washtenaw County clerk’s office this morning.

    The group, which spokesman Tim Kramer said is made up of a broad coalition of Michigan residents, filed the petition at 10:01 a.m. this morning.

    The group had to file the petition in Washtenaw County because this is Snyder’s legal county of residence, said Matt Yankee, acting director of elections for Washtenaw County. Snyder lives in Superior Township.

    A hearing on April 29 before the Washtenaw County Elections Commission will determine whether the petition wording is clear. At that point, the group can begin seeking signatures on recall petitions, Yankee said. The petition cannot actually be submitted to the state until six months after the governor took office, which is July 1.

    In order to force a recall election, the group, which filed paperwork with the state last month to form a political action committee, will need signatures from enough people to equal 25 percent of those who voted for the office of governor in the last election. That’s close to 807,000 names, Yankee said.

  4. Benton Harbor Public Workers Forced Into Concessions
    Cara Palmer | April 19, 2011
    Staff Columnist
    USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

    On March 16, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that would allow the state to appoint an “Emergency Financial Manager” (EFM) to essentially take over a city within the state when it is deemed that the city is in a state of “financial crisis.”

    This state-appointed official has the power to void union contracts, remove elected officials, and can dissolve local authority completely, replacing it with the authority of the governor through the EFM.

  5. Thousands of protestors expected today in Lansing
    6:00 AM, Apr 13, 2011

    LANSING, Mich. (WZZM) – One of the largest protests of the year is expected to happen today in Lansing over Governor Snyder’s budget proposal. Organizers say today’s protest will be the largest one this year.

    Thousands of people are expected on the steps of the Capitol building. The Michigan ALF-CIO, teachers unions and other associations.

    One of the organizers says Snyder and other lawmakers are moving too fast with budget plans. They’re upset about proposals they say would undermine collective bargaining rights and other proposed cuts.

  6. @Maury: I will point out that we often use the same method, on purpose, to study gene function: To find out what a gene does, we can engineer a strain of “knockout mice,” i.e. mice conceived with just that one gene deleted from their genome; so by seeing what dysfunction they exhibit (if any) we can figure out what the gene is doing. For example, if the mice do not develop eyesight, or all are born with a malformed heart, or shrunken brain.

    It isn’t perfect, sometimes we can’t detect a difference, even after vivisection. Sometimes the mice are all spontaneously aborted. The latter can tell us the gene (or more accurately the protein it codes for) is critically important, but not exactly what it is doing.

    This is much like studying people without amygdalae, or with damage to various parts of their brain.

  7. And now back to our regular programming.

    Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse over at DKos has another of her excellent legal updates on the doings of Dane County, Wisconsin, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. The DA is going to court again today. He is not specifically asking for a contempt citation from Judge Maryann Sumi. My reading of the pleading is that he is setting up the scofflaws for a contempt citation without doing so overtly. Let it be the Judge’s call, sua sponte.


    Also, blogger Kodiak54 reports on some kids being fined for holding a banner in the capitol building right there in Fitzwalkerstan.


  8. @Maury: We use an abnormal brain because with humans, we can communicate with the patient.

    What is interesting about communicating with such humans is we can see their rational brains are functioning just fine. They can solve puzzles, and word problems, and quote from their professional lives and perform their duties, like a calculus teacher can find derivatives and integrate new functions, or a lawyer can quote law and successfully find relevant precedents or hear a new client story and provide a correct analysis. They score as well on IQ tests as their previous standardized exams suggest they would.

    So we know that rational part of the brain is functioning properly. So why do theu balk at making aesthetic decisions? Why doesn’t their rationality ever just say, “this has taken too much time, pick one at random?” One hypothesis is that the rational mind, even though it shows every appearance of functioning properly, does not have the ability to take control. Which further suggest it never had that ability.

    What it does have is the ability to independently answer questions within the purview of rational thinking, but if the question demands how you feel about something or someone or some action, it has absolute deference for the decision of the amygdalae, even if it never answers. So it isn’t exactly a master slave relationship; the rational mind isn’t ordered to work, it is just analyzing away on whatever comes to hand, even if what comes to hand is the product of its own work (it is recursive).

    I can’t claim you are absolutely wrong, but your claim that rationality can overcome emotionalism runs counter to this evidence and hypothesis. What seems to happen instead is that when the amygdalae have the urge to take a negative action, the rational mind martials matching patterns and projects the consequences, it basically presents enough evidence of fucked up consequences to the amygdalae that the amygdalae perceives the future as undesirable, and enough so that IT chooses to forego the negative action. It is kind of like an informed but authoritarian boss. The rational mind presents a cost/benefit analysis, the amygdalae choose, and when they choose then the rational mind more or less gives up on further analysis (not always).

    So it is a fine point, but the rational mind never really overrode the emotional mind; it just managed to persuade it, using images and projections that created worse emotions. It is like a backseat driver, it isn’t in charge of steering or braking or acceleration. It can’t take the wheel or hit the brakes.

    What keeps me from hitting some people that piss me off is my rational mind imagining the consequences; but that imagining is interpreted by my amydalae, it generates the counter emotions that keep the violence ONLY in my imagination.

    What allows some people to hit others is a failure to imagine the consequences at all, or an unrealistic imagination of positive consequences (like applause or a cheer or a sense of conquering pride).

    From what we can tell from people missing their amygdalae or with non-functional amygdalae, purely rational brains cannot make aesthetic decisions without them, at least not real decisions of preference. They can follow instructions to make pseudo-random choices; like “On weekdays, always take the first dress shirt in the closet.”

    On the other point, men go into battle primarily for emotional reasons; it is the emotions that override the rationality, not the other way around. Drill sergeants don’t build up the rationality of recruits, they build up the emotions. They want soldiers to hate the enemy, to think of them as sub-human, not as men with children that might be their neighbors. Hence the ubiquitous and demeaning slurs. Hence the prestige and rivalry and disrespect as a recruit until they “earn” their right to be men. Hence the decorations and honor and even the non-functional dress uniforms; designed only to impress. Hence the fake “family” of promoting one’s fellow soldiers as kin, e.g. “brothers in arms.”

    Rational soldiers will avoid battle. War is an emotion-laden operation; the trick is, like the Vikings, to make victory in battle transcendent, death in battle an honor and cowardice in battle a shame worse than death (and punishable BY death). A soldier will lay down his life for his brother (that isn’t his blood kin) and is taught there is no greater sacrifice or honor.

  9. Is it possible to get a “thread 2” on this thread and the Scott Walker one? A continuation, so to speak. Even my computer is developing problems in loading these two threads and I don’t want to stop following them.

  10. BIL, you just proved you are related to that aviator we were discussing the other day.

    Funny thing, my kids and grandchildren talk about me the same way. I can be carrying on a conversation with my teenage granddaughter (who is seriously off the charts in many respects) and others around us just shake their heads and mumble, “You guys are weird.”

  11. OS,

    A gal I loved in college, and truth be known – love to this day, used to refer to me as “highly functional weirdness”.

    I always kinda liked that description.

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