March 19, 2016 -- by Jim Neff







I'm a words guy, not a numbers guy. Sometimes, however, looking at numbers is interesting, to say the least. They can reveal and explain some things better than thousands of words. Or, they can raise a question in stark black and white.


Take, for instance, Governor Snyder hiring two independent law firms to “assist” him in relation to the Flint water crisis. One of the firms will: “Represent Snyder in any criminal investigations and prosecutions arising from the Flint water supply matter.” The other has expertise in civil litigations. The tab, which the Governor wants taxpayers to pick up, is $1.2 million. However, the number that stands out is the pay for one of the lawyers – $540 per hour. The State Bar of Michigan notes that the median pay for attorneys in this state is $245 per hour, so this $540 guy must be twice as good as regular every day lawyers. Then again, price is no object when you are sticking someone else with the bill. (


Speaking of someone else paying the bill, the Justices on the Supreme Court know how to work a tab. “From 2004 to 2014, the nine justices took more than 1,000 reported trips paid for by outside sources. Scalia was by far the most traveled, with more than 23 trips on average a year.”


Of course, no one is suggesting the outside sources paying for all these junkets expect anything in return, right? They are all shelling out largess just out of the goodness of their hearts. That said, you have to wonder. There is a code of ethics that governs all other federal judges, but it does not apply to the Supreme Court. USA today opined: “The justices, who earn nearly a quarter of a million a year, shouldn't need a code to recognize that they ought to pay their own way to certain events or stay away from pricey retreats labeled as educational events.” (


Life is not so lavish when you are paying your own way, though. “Experts have long known that rich people generally live longer than poor people. But a growing body of data shows...The poor are losing ground not only in income, but also in years of life, the most basic measure of well-being.” A study released last week shows for men born in 1920...”there was a six-year difference in life expectancy between the top ten percent of earners and the bottom ten percent. For men born in 1950, that difference had more than doubled, to 14 years. For women, the gap grew to 13 years, from 4.7 years.” Apparently money not only talks, but continues conversing for several extra years if you have enough of it.



You have to wonder what the Flint water crisis has done to those life expectancy numbers. CNN found that the average family of three in Flint used 151 bottles of water a day: 36 bottles for cooking, 36 were for washing hair, 27 bottles for drinking, 24 for doing dishes, and the rest were used for washing faces, brushing teeth and more.”


It turns out that's a pretty conservative total. According to the EPA: “The average American uses 100 gallons of water a day. That translates to roughly 757 bottles of water.” So, that Flint family of three would use 2271 bottles of water just to get to the EPA average. If you are an average person living in Cadillac, reduce your water usage by 80 percent every day and see how that goes. Now you know what it's like to live in Flint. (


Well, the good news is that there is one way way to increase your chances of living a longer life – watch where you are going. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports: “A 10-percent spike in pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of last year - the largest year-to-year increase in such deaths in four decades - may well be fueled by America's increasing distraction with mobile devices...In the first half of 2015, there were 2,368 pedestrians killed - a six percent increase from the 2,232 killed during the same time period in 2014.” If I may paraphrase (for pedestrians) an old highway safety ad slogan: “The app you save, may be your own.” (


By the way, if you go for a jaunt on the McKellop Walkway along Lake Cadillac and mesh that with sections of the White Pine Trail and/or Clam River Greenway, you might want to know the distances for each segment of those routes. You can get a full mileage chart at


Finally, even if you do not live longer, at least you can live smarter and have fun doing it. “A study, published recently in the journal, Appetite, indicated that people who eat chocolate at least once a week saw their memory and abstract thinking improve...researchers found eating chocolate was strongly linked to superior brain function.”


This backs up research done in the past. “Previous studies have shown that food containing nutrients called flavanols, such as chocolate, improves brain function. In 2009, research found mental arithmetic became easier after volunteers had been given large amounts of flavanols in a hot cocoa drink. In 2014, a study also suggested that a diet rich in cocoa could help stave off dementia-like memory loss in the elderly.” (


I don't know about you, but I now feel vindicated. I always knew chocolate lovers were a higher form of intelligence, and now I have the science to prove it. Of course, much research still needs to be done. For instance, is it more beneficial to eat the ears of a chocolate Easter bunny before you eat the body, or visa versa?


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at or  

An illustration that 10-year-old Iain MacIntyre from the beleaguered Genesee County city apparently drew in time for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’stestimony before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday has gone viral, earning raves for its blunt assessment. -- Detroit News