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. Brian, et al:

    Regarding normal. Question is, how do we define normal. If it is those outside one standard deviation either side of the mean in whatever function we are measuring, then about one third of the population is abnormal.

    Abraham Maslow set out to study the top tier of mentally healthy people. For purpose of his study, he set up a study of the two two percent of the population. He ran into a snag. The truly mentally healthy did not make good research subjects. They were simply uninterested in answering questions. They had other interests and did not want to be derailed. He called the top mentallyl healthy people “self-actualized.” And he found few, if any, people who reached that level of mental health before the age of about 61. It takes that long to mature fully.

    Now, to turn back to the original question. By definition, those people are ‘abnormal’ because they are outside the norm. Yet, they are not abnormal in the sense of something being wrong with them.

    And one other thing, the self-actualized people Maslow found were not always the smartest or most well educated. But they were happy and did not sweat the small stuff.

    Or, how about geniuses? Einstein, Franklin, Edison and any number of high functioning and creative geniuses managed to thoroughly screw up their interpersonal relationships.

    What is normal? It is a moving target.

  2. Maury 1, March 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Brian Harris:

    I agree that an injured brain is a good way to determine information about what areas of the brain do what. But is it a good idea to use an injured brain when trying to define “normal” brain/organism function?


    In terms of definition, is not normal defined in contrast with abnormal and normal defined in contrast with abnormal?

    Is any alternative way other than pure whimsey?

    If so, publish it…

    Methinks it will be a “first.”

    If I am mistaken, I would appreciate being so told.

  3. Tony C. 1, March 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    @Woosty: Interpret it as you wish; in my mind, trust is an emotion (like love or lust or disgust) because it does not rely on rational thought but on how somebody makes me feel.
    then you will be setting yourself up for dissapointment!

    Trust is not trust if it is not rational and understood to be supported by reasonable and reciprocal expectation. If you intuitively trust someone based simply on emotional feedback or attraction you are not really trusting, you are gambling! Trust is what comes before you make your emotional self vulnerable and vested…Trust is a damn difficult bitch to earn and very easily lost. Ask any guy that ever cheated on his wife…

  4. AY,

    Not to put words in OS’s mouth, but that’s the right Gage (pardon the pun). I read my first copy of “Broca’s Brain” until the spine fell out. It was the first book that made me really fall in love with science.

  5. Elaine,


    I liked Oliver Sacks book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. I was actually able to use that case as an example for a jury once in an accident case. The little girl who was injured got an eight figure judgment.

  6. Brian Harris:

    I agree that an injured brain is a good way to determine information about what areas of the brain do what. But is it a good idea to use an injured brain when trying to define “normal” brain/organism function?

  7. Otteray,

    Isn’t Phineas Gage the man who suffered a physical injury when a metal rod when through his head?

    Did you ever read Carl Sagan’s book “Broca’s Brain?”

  8. Brian,

    Thank you…I enjoyed your posting….and Buddha thanks for acknowledging the effort on all of the peoples part….

  9. Maury
    1, March 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm
    Annoy Yours:

    give up socialism and bring back constitutional government. I’ll shut up then.


    Maury, Maury, Maury……

    Define the socialism you wish me to give up? Exactly what type of socialism is it that you are talking about……

    What area of the constitutional government is it you want it back too? I await your reply…..

  10. Tony, Maury, Brian, et al.

    You have now wandered into an area about which I know just a bit. In fact, I have about seven feet of bookshelf space devoted solely to the topic of neuropsychology and neurobiology. Serious systematic studies of brain injury and the relationship to brain function go back to people such as the unfortunate man named Phineas Gage and also a patient of Dr. Paul Broca they called, “Tan.”

    I do think if you try to go down that line of argument, you will become hopelessly tangled in organic conundrums. Not a useful analogy for practical purposes if one wants to talk about politics, love, or gourmet food.

    BTW, the stories of Phineas Gage and Tan are fascinating in a macabre sort of way.



  11. Brian,

    By the way, much better postings recently. They are concise, topical and make you a much better and more productive party guest.

  12. Brian is correct there, Maury. The bulk of our understanding of healthy human brains comes from examination of damaged human brains. Especial value can be obtained from instances where someone was normal functioning until illness or trauma because we can trace the new affection to specific areas of the brain we know to be damaged by said illness or trauma easier than cases where the abnormality has always been present.

  13. RE: Maury, March 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Tony C:

    why would you want to use the example of a damaged brain to make your point?


    Much of what has been learned about brain functional structure has been learned by neurologists studying people with diverse brain conditions, including physical brain damage.

    John Hughlings Jackson was a pioneer in this field, A. R. Luria wrote “The Man With a Shattered World” (1972, Solotaroff translation 1987) provides a good starting book. Oliver Sacks, (The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, and many more recent books), Robert Scaer, Abraham Low, and quite a few other neurologists have given most of what we know of the functioning of living human brains, and much has been learned when a physically located lesion can be correlated with changed brain function.

    Kim Peek, the person on whose life the movie “Rainman” was partly based was not autistic in the usual sense; Kim had agenesis of the corpus callosum; that main right-left hemisphere connecting structure did not form in his brain; his hemispheres communicated mainly (so I understand) through the anterior and posterior cerebral commissures.

    Esprit de corps can be a very strong affective motivator for participation in combat.

    So, why use people with unusual brain structure(s)? How else to sort out what different parts of the living human brain ordinarily do?

  14. Tony C:

    why would you want to use the example of a damaged brain to make your point?

    From my limited knowledge the rational mind can over-ride the emotional mind. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to go into battle since survival is a pretty strong “emotion”. Navy Seal training teaches the candidates to overcome their fear of drowning. So how do you account for this?

  15. @Buddha: Agreed; there is some conflation between Trust and reliance on past performance.

    @Maury: You are unaware of how the brain works; in fact all decisions are emotional. Persons with damage to their amygdalae (due to cancer, injury like a bullet to the head, accident or some other atrophying diseases) are completely rational, and simultaneously dysfunctional because they cannot make a decision. As I have posted here before; a person in this condition can spend hours trying to pick out a shirt: they don’t get bored (an emotion) they don’t get anxious or embarrassed because they can’t, they don’t get angry, they do not even get fearful. If you ask them to narrate what they are thinking, they are processing endless rabbit-holes of remote possibilities to weigh the logical advantage of one shirt pattern over another. They don’t LIKE anything, which is ultimately what picking an outfit is, an non-rational, emotional preference informed by rational consequences.

    But it is the amygdala that makes the decisions. The rational mind will search and project and keep on going until the amygdala says “enough, I want this,” and then the rational mind will start on the plan to acquire whatever “this” is. The rational mind is a subordinate tool, and if the master is rendered mute, it will spin until it is physically tired (or hungry or in pain or has to go to the bathroom or some other non-emotive sense interferes with the program.

    Knowing that, it can be helpful to the rational mind to understand that the only thing to counter one emotion is another emotion; in particular long-term emotions are good for countering the impulses of short-term emotions.

    More importantly, it is important to understand that the rational mind is there to serve your emotional life.

    I am not giving psychological advice here, this is just our best understanding thus far as to how the brain works (and that understanding is woefully sketchy, but there are parts like this reasonably well filled in by empirical studies). Informed by that, I have found it useful to rationally consider what my emotional objectives are, and build plans to achieve them.

  16. Tony C:

    You should never take a decision based on emotion. It may be right but it isn’t a good way to do it. Unless of course it has to be split second, then you hope your experience is sufficiently integrated to give you a correct response to the issue at hand.

  17. Tony,

    I submit that the distinction you are seeing is that of emotive trust and rational reliance. Trust is like a quality of metadata attached to relationships. Both trust and reliance have the same key traits: a perception of honesty, competence and benevolence/value similarity and a resultant predictability in outcomes. The primary difference being trust is rooted in emotive thought (as signified by a perception of benevolence in place of value similarity) while reliance is based on reason; the checks of rationality. Trusted relationships of either the interpersonal or business type are “mentally flagged” as trusted but for slightly different reasons. It’s a quality of data and/or associated processes rather data or processes proper.

  18. @Woosty: Interpret it as you wish; in my mind, trust is an emotion (like love or lust or disgust) because it does not rely on rational thought but on how somebody makes me feel.

    The relevant definitions (to me) are the “feeling” ones; a feeling of “confidence,” a firm reliance on “character” or “integrity,” etc.

    I don’t mind if it is just me; but I see rational expectation and emotional expectation as being distinct, even if they can coincide. For example I have plenty of rational reasons to love my wife, but I was in love with her before I had any rationale for it, even when it was irrational, like during the first year I knew her when I thought she was happily and permanently attached.

    For me trust (or confidence, or a belief in somebody’s character or integrity) is a similar thing; I feel it but understand that I frequently feel it without reason or evidence, and sometimes the feeling is misplaced.

    Unlike embarking on a fundamentally emotional partnership, I think if I am embarking on a fundamentally rational project (like a business or lawsuit or contract or job or retaining an employee) then I should employ a double-lock: the emotional feeling of trust should be there, but should always and consistently be backed up by rational double-checks.

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