Supplemental: New data concerning the water in Flint!


New York Times swamps Maddow:
Last evening, viewers of the Maddow Show were treated to one of the program's silliest recurrent features.

We don't refer to the Friday Night News Dump, in which the host gets to clap her hands, pretend she's a child (and a game show host), and play old videotape of herself.

Six minutes were wasted that way last night. But that isn't what we mean.

Last evening, we got to enjoy our weekly "News Dump," but along the way, we also got something that's even more foolish. Midway through the show, we got one of Maddow's trademark faux self-corrections, in which she pretends to correct a (very minor) mistake she has made, thus showing how honest she is.

In last evening's feigned self-correction, Maddow pretended to correct a mistake which she pretended she had committed on Tuesday evening's program. In truth, there had been no such mistake Tuesday night; in that sense, there was no correction.

Despite these minor problems, Maddow performed her latest overacted version of this gong, in which her viewers get played.

We'd like to show you the text of last night's gong, but the transcript hasn't been posted yet, not even by Nexis. Maybe we'll do so next week. If you have access to the videotape, we advise you to watch it. As you do, marvel at the ridiculous ways Maddow feigns repentance for the embarrassing, very minor mistake which actually never occurred.

Doggone it! Last night's program started with eleven minutes of otherwise useless self-promotion. It ended with the moronic News Dump. Along the way, we got the faux self-correction.

You were also handed a ludicrous account of the viewership of Thursday night's Trump-free GOP debate. Maddow's account was pure narrative, all the way down. We may show you what we mean once the transcript has been posted by our own slacker news channel.

In short, we were handed a lot of the standard BS on last night's Maddow Show. The self-correction caper may be the best of this program's trademark hustles, since it's a gambit in which we're persuaded, through means that are less than obsessively honest, about the host's uncontrollable honesty.

Rachel Maddow's a real piece of work! That brings us to the new information about the water in Flint.

Yesterday, a federal official released new data about the water samples which are being taken in Flint. In this morning's New York Times, Abby Goodnough actually used some actual numbers in her news report:
GOODNOUGH (1/30/16): Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response for the United States Public Health Service, said 26 water samples, out of nearly 4,000 collected, contained lead at levels higher than 150 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that lead in drinking water should be below 15 parts per billion.

Flint residents received filters designed to remove lead up to 150 parts per billion, Ms. Lurie said, adding that they could still be effective above that level.

“This does not mean that we think there’s a problem with the filters,” she said. “In fact, everything we know tells us that they are performing well.”
Ever-so-slowly, information is leaking out concerning the current state of the water in Flint. We wouldn't say that Goodnough did a comprehensive job in today's report, which focuses on other important questions which have been examined in slipshod fashion on Maddow's horrible program. But she does provide some basic statistical information.

According to the figures in that passage, 26 samples, out of 4000, have exceeded the level which is said to be safe in you're using a water filter. That means that 99.3% of the samples are theoretically safe if you're using a filter.

No one should have to use a water filter, of course. Presumably, this situation won't be resolved as long as these filters are needed.

Beyond that, Goodnough's data barely scratch the surface of the questions which should be explored by journalists in this matter. For example, here's a question to which we don't know the answer, though Professor Marc Edwards presumably does, if Maddow would ever ask him:

In the typical American city, how many such water samples would be above 150 parts per billion? Any at all? An embarrassing number? What's the situation facing parents and kids in other cities, in American cities writ large?

We mention Goodnough's data for a reason. If you watched the Maddow Show last night, you saw the host rant and rail about these new federal data. You saw enact her latest absurd morality play, the one concerning that water cooler in that one state office building.

You got to see all that dust. You just didn't see her cite the actual numbers which let us start to form a picture of the current sweep of the problem in Flint. On Monday, assuming the transcripts appear, we'll show you the way she reported this matter instead.

On balance, Maddow is a disaster. In our view, she's right up there with the most unbalanced people who have ever hosted "cable news" programs. And yes, that puts her right up there with some very unbalanced TV stars.

We the liberals have a hard time seeing this about Maddow. We have tended to fall for her self-corrections, utterly faux though they are. (Conservatives have a similar problem with some of their favorite stars.)

On Monday, we'll return to this matter. How much information are you getting, as opposed to those old standbys, narrative, fury, excitement?

For extra credit only: Did you note the last two prizes which were included in last evening's News Dump? Did the inclusion of those prizes strike you as possibly odd?

Supplemental: The New York Times makes its strangest claim yet!


Respondents haven't heard enough about Bill Clinton yet:
On the front page of today's New York Times, we get the same old subjective campaign piddle, joined to a polling result.

This latest puddle of subjectivity concerns some recent campaign appearances by Bill Clinton. The news report by Patrick Healy appears on the front page of our hard-copy Times. It seems to have been pushed inside the paper in later editions, apparently due to late reporting on last night's array of gong-shows.

In his report, Healy offers subjective assessments of some recent speeches by Bill Clinton. The polling result is found in this passage:
HEALY (1/29/16): Still, as Mr. Clinton starts a campaign swing through Iowa leading up to Monday night’s caucuses, he remains very popular among likely Democratic caucusgoers, with 87 percent viewing him favorably in a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll this month.

Nationally, however, Mr. Clinton’s favorability rating has fallen since he became more visibly active in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. Thirty-nine percent of Americans viewed him favorably in the mid-January poll, compared with 50 percent in a similar survey in early November.

Over that time, Mr. Trump has tried to make an issue out of Mr. Clinton’s sexual history and stir unease among some Americans about Mr. Clinton returning to the White House. The Clintons have mostly chosen not to respond to his attacks.
Wow! Bill Clinton's favorability rating has dropped from 50 percent to 39 just since early November? It sounds like Candidate Trump's sex attacks really have taken a toll!

As always, everything's possible! That said, it looks like the Times is perhaps being a tiny bit scammy here, perhaps in several ways.

On the bright side, Healy's statements are factually accurate. In the Times' most recent poll, Bill Clinton is indeed credited with a "favorable" rating from just 39 percent of respondents.

(Click here, scroll down to question 30.)

Also true: Back in the November poll, he was listed with a "favorable" rating from a much higher 50 percent. In that poll, 34 percent said their opinion was "unfavorable."

Here's where the problem starts:

In the Times' most recent poll, only 29 percent of respondents gave Bill Clinton an "unfavorable" rating. He's scored at 39 percent favorable, 29 percent unfavorable—still a fairly good overall balance.

Bill Clinton still comes out ahead in the new Times poll! Somewhat strangely, though, only 68 percent of respondents stated a view at all.

Why did so few people express a view of Bill Clinton, one way or the other? Here's the place where our puzzlement starts:

For reasons at which we can only guess, 16 percent of respondents said they "haven't heard enough about Bill Clinton yet" to rate him one way or the other. They haven't heard enough about the guy to have any opinion at all!

(Another 12 percent are listed as "undecided." Two percent "refused to respond.")

That leaves Bill Clinton ten points to the good, at 39 percent favorable, 29 unfavorable. In November, it was 50-34, back before all those respondents decided they "haven't heard enough about him yet."

In typical fashion, Healy picked and chose among those numbers and sold you a doctored impression. We also chuckled at the way he said that Trump "has tried to make an issue out of Mr. Clinton’s sexual history."

In the broader sense, so has the New York Times! We refer to the recent Amy Chozick report which focused on the way Hillary Clinton "discredited women who said they had had sexual encounters with" Bill Clinton.

Within the past year, Chozick has established herself as the nation's slipperiest new major reporter. Her January 21 report was a striking case in point.

In this previous post, we focused on the remarkable way Chozick treated a 1991 claim by a Little Rock woman named Connie Hamzy. She disappeared all information about who Hamzy is, and about the reasons why her claim wasn't believed at the time.

Amy Chozick is very slippery. She put that emerging trait on display in that report.

There are other aspects of Chozick's report we still plan to examine, just to establish the factual record. That said, the factual record plays zero role in our devolving national discourse, and we still aren't ready to make ourselves revisit the grimy old facts which lie behind the themes and claims the Times was happy to revive in the wake of Candidate Trump's exciting sex attacks.

Hamzy was never an especially credible source. In her recent report, Chozick kept you from knowing that—from knowing why Hillary Clinton almost surely didn't believe the story Hamzy told in 1991.

The same is true of Gennifer Flowers and her error-riddled if wonderfully thrilling claims. We reviewed that material not long ago. You'll never read any such facts in the New York Times.

That leaves Kathleen Willey, another accuser whose name has started going around again. We told you we'd go back over those facts. Once again, we're going to leave that for another occasion.

That said, understand this:

To judge from appearances, there is nothing the New York Times won't do to sustain its decades-old vendetta. We have no idea why they play it this way, but play it this way they do.

For today, let's agree to draw some amusement from Healy's effort. Patrick Healy was happy to tell us that Bill Clinton's "favorables" have dropped. He let us think that this has happened because of Trump's sexy-time sex attacks.

He didn't tell us that Bill Clinton's "unfavorables" have also dropped. And he didn't share the main reason behind these statistical changes: In the Times' most recent poll, 16 percent of respondents said they "haven't heard enough about Bill Clinton yet" to regard him one way or the other!

Let's be fair! As with everything else, it's always possible that this improbable polling result could somehow be true.

Still and all, Healy selected the one statistic that let him convey the most negative impression. For reasons no one has ever explained, they've played it this way for a very long time, and they're never going to stop.

THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: A highly exciting evening in Flint!


Maddow eschews information:
A fascinating moment occurred during Wednesday evening's town hall—the "MSNBC Town Hall" which was held in Flint, Michigan.

This moment occurred at 9:18 Eastern. If you blinked, you probably missed it.

We refer to a statement by Professor Marc Edwards who, according to his introduction by Rachel Maddow, "collected hundreds of water samples showing elevated lead levels here in Flint, really blew this whole scandal wide open."

Edwards is one of a handful of actual experts Maddow presented that night. In this exchange shown below, he made a surprising statement. It was the last time his expertise would be consulted that night.

What did Professor Edwards say? Uh-oh! According to Edwards, the water entering homes in Flint may well meet federal standards right now, on this very day!

As we start, Edwards is describing the way the problem began, with water from the Flint River going untreated with "corrosion inhibitor." Note, though, what he goes on to say about where things stand today:
EDWARDS (1/27/16): The corrosive water actually ate up every metallic pipe in the system. The only pipe material that was immune is plastic. So the damage that was done from the lack of corrosion inhibiter affected all the metal pipes. That damage cannot be undone.

But the new coating with the phosphate is being formed as we speak and, in fact, probably it's largely re-formed already. The issue really is we really have to test that water before—we want to err on the side of caution before we tell anyone to even think about drinking it at this point.

MADDOW: Is there any scientific basis for expecting how long that's going to take?

EDWARDS: In our laboratory, under normal circumstances, it takes anywhere from four weeks to six weeks to get to a level where you can meet the federal standard. And, everyone, you know, acknowledges the federal standard is kind of weak? But it could very well— It'd be 50/50, if the legitimate lead and copper sampling was done today, whether Flint would pass.

But the water is much, much better than it was last August
when we sampled, when we issued our warning, you know—there's no way Flint water was meeting federal standards.
Interesting—or maybe possibly not! According to Edwards, the type of coating which was destroyed "is being formed as we speak and, in fact, probably it's largely re-formed already."

For that reason, Edwards said, there's an even chance that Flint's water meets federal standards right now, on this very day!

Please note. This assessment seems to coincide with the data which appeared in yesterday's Washington Post, the data we've already cited. According to the Post's report, 2,577 samples of water in Flint have been analyzed in recent weeks. Of those samples, "93.7 percent had less than 15 parts per billion of lead and 85 percent had less than 5 parts per billion."

Based on reading we've done elsewhere, EPA guidelines demand certain types of action only when that first number falls below 90 percent. As far as we know, that may be what Edwards meant when he said that Flint's water may well "meet the federal standard" today.

Why don't we know what Edwards meant? Because Maddow, true to her soul and her typical practice, didn't ask what he meant! In fact, that was the last time Edwards would speak at all that night. For the rest of the evening, Maddow kept letting activists and political figures describe the need to replace the pipes right now.

The politicians thrilled the crowd. The expert wasn't consulted.

That statement by Edwards went by quite fast. If you blinked, you probably missed it, especially since a certain excitement-oriented host didn't try to amplify what he said or clarify what he meant.

That said, Edwards' statement added to something he had said a bit earlier. Here too, we were struck by the way Maddow downplayed the knowledge of the expert in deference to the thrill of the crowd.

Maddow had started her town hall meeting with a speech about the need to replace those pipes right now. Maddow isn't an expert on any of this, of course. But so what? In her fervent opening speech, she took it upon herself "to report what I think is fairly shocking news that the problem here is not actually being fixed"—that is, to report the "fairly shocking" fact that no pipes have been replaced.

Maddow began the evening with her own fervent speech. She then played videotape of herself with a master plumber who told her, as they strolled through Flint, that he "could have a thousand plumbers on the ground in Flint in a couple weeks" to start taking out the lead pipes.

(Is Ammon Bundy available? It might be worth a call.)

Maddow isn't an expert on this. But then, neither is the master plumber, except on matters of plumbing. But so what! Maddow burned her program's first six minutes with two amateurs telling the world what needs to be done right now.

At the town hall, people cheered the fervor of the visiting non-expert. But uh-oh! After six minutes of pushing this line with the help of the master plumber, Maddow introduced two actual experts.

One of them, Professor Edwards, soon made the highlighted points:
MADDOW: Professor Edwards, you've been absolutely key to the country—to Flint itself, and now the country, understanding what happened here. You have gone from the state, you know, ridiculing you and trying to box you out to now putting you on their task forces. I know you're going go be overseeing lead testing here in Flint.

Do you feel like, as an expert in this field, do you feel like you know how much work needs to be done on Flint's pipes in order to make this city safe?

EDWARDS: Yes. There's actually three different phases of work that has to be done. First, we have to restore this coating to the pipe, which is being done through optimized corrosion control.

We have to determine that the water—if and when it's safe to drink again through a federally approved lead and copper sampling which hasn`t been done, unfortunately, in Flint, for a long time.

And longer term in Flint, not just in Flint, but around the U.S., we have to figure out a way to get these pipes replaced. And what we're struggling with right now is, there's really no precedent for this kind of man-made disaster.

MADDOW: Right.

EDWARDS: And we don't have a good roadmap to follow in terms of how to replace these pipes and do it right. And we could jump into this and actually do it wrong. Other cities have done it wrong and made the problem worse in the past. So, we have to, we have to work with the EPA—

MADDOW: Are there best practices out there about how to get corroded and, therefore, dangerous pipe out, replaced with good pipe?

EDWARDS: There are, absolutely. The hurdles we face, the records are so poor, not only in Flint but all around the U.S., we don't know where these lead pipes are. The records we have are oftentimes wrong. So simply identifying which homes have the lead pipes is kind of a monumental task.
For the full transcript, click here. At some point, they'll probably post it.

Maddow had spent the first six minutes insisting that the pipes must be replaced right now. But when she finally spoke to the expert, he said that her exciting plan could make the problem worse!

At this point, let's give Maddow some credit. After letting her second expert explain how hard it will be just to locate Flint's lead pipes, she actually turned to Professor Edwards seeking some clarification!

Maddow asked Edwards a relevant question! But look who jumped in to answer instead:
MADDOW: In terms of the urgency, I hear an echo of what Governor Snyder was saying today, the way you described this, Professor Edwards, in terms of this coating, this idea that running treated water now through these pipes is going to rehabilitate them a little bit.

Do you have faith that's the right next step? Is that happening? Do we know how long that takes?

MAYOR KAREN WEAVER: I don't know that we know how long that takes. That's what we've been waiting to see, how long will that take? The other problem is, you know, because we have been—our trust has been broken in the city of Flint. Because that's happened—


WEAVER: Because that's happened, if we don't get new pipes, people aren't going to trust that. And that's a lot of the underlying issue. We've had broken trust. So do we trust that that biofilm is built up and water is safe, that the pipes are safe, not the water, but the pipes are safe? And that will always be in the back of the residents' minds.
Maddow directed a very important technical question at an actual expert. In reply, she got a political answer from the mayor, producing applause from the crowd.

After the mayor answered for Edwards, Maddow went to commercial break. Ten minutes later, at 9:18, Edwards finally got the chance to note some basic points—in effect, to answer the question on which the mayor jumped in.

He explained that Flint's water may well be meeting the federal standard right now—and that, if we follow Maddow's amateur prescription, we might "make the problem worse," as others have done in the past.

Professor Edwards' statement went by in a flash. If you blinked, you probably missed it.

He wasn't asked to speak again. The rest of the evening was punctuated by exciting calls for the governor to resign.

What's the current state of the water entering homes in Flint? Like you, we can't answer that question. But then, we watch The Maddow Show, whose journalistic culture is leaching lead, as we've frequently said in the past.

Wednesday's town hall was a perfect example of excitement and narrative taking precedence over information. Quickly, let's review, putting events in order:

The program started with Maddow, a total non-expert, describing the need for instant action.

On videotape, we then saw her touring Flint with a second non-expert. He told her he could scramble a thousand plumbers in support of her action plan.

When Maddow finally spoke to an expert, he told her that her action plan could "make the problem worse." When Maddow asked him to amplify what he had said, the mayor jumped in to answer for him.

Ten minutes later, the expert made a rather significant claim. He said the odds were 50/50 that the water entering homes in Flint meets federal standards right now!

That statement went by in a flash. Maddow didn't try to draw it out. The expert never spoke again.

At this point, we'll venture a guess. We'll guess that very few of Maddow's viewers really heard or understand what Edwards said.

Was Edwards right in his suggestion? Is it true, as he suggested, that water entering homes in Flint already meets federal standards?

We don't know, and Maddow didn't draw him out on that very basic question.

Professor Edwards had never been on Maddow's program before. Will he be on her program tonight?

Let's ask that question a different way:

What role does information play within our declining tribe? What role does information play within our tribe's floundering culture?

This afternoon: Is Slate allowed to say that? Also, more highlights from Flint

Supplemental: Construing a comment on Reconstruction!


Frequently, we're surprised:
We're often puzzled by Gail Collins' columns.

Today, she does an easy-reader comparison of Candidates Sanders and Clinton, being careful not to tax her readers.

(Way back when, Collins voiced an explicit theory about journalism—if you make it really easy and fun, a whole lot of readers will come.)

Collins writes today's column in Q-and-A form. Below, you see two consecutive Q-and-A's. We're putting the questions in bold, just the way Collins does.

These Q-and-A's concern Candidate Clinton. Do the answers make sense together? The italics are ours:
So Clinton isn’t in the pocket of big special interests who paid her millions of dollars to give speeches?

Many people think her Wall Street reform plan is O.K. But on a personal level, it was inexcusable of her to give those $200,000 speeches for investment bankers and the like when she knew she was going to be running for president. Not good at all.

You’d better say something positive about Hillary Clinton now or I’m going to call this quits.

She’s stupendously smart. She has a lifetime record of fighting for good causes, particularly children and women’s rights...
Do those answers make sense together? First, Collins says it was inexcusable for Clinton to give those $200,000 speeches when she knew she'd be running for president.

In her very next breath, she says Clinton's "stupendously smart!"

To us, those answers are a difficult fit. That said, let's consider that second assessment of Clinton.

For ourselves, we've never quite understood why so many people say that Clinton's "stupendously smart." It's a fairly standard line. We've never quite seen the evidence.

On the brighter side, Candidate Clinton plainly isn't dumb! What does seem slightly dumb to us is the way her recent extemporaneous comment was interpreted, her remark about President Lincoln.

Uh-oh! At the end of Monday night's CNN forum, Clinton was asked to chat about the one past president she finds most inspiring. It's the type of question candidates get asked 1) in the hope that we can finally learn what they're really like, or 2) in the hope that they'll put their foot in their mouth.

Despite being stupendously smart, Clinton quickly created a problem. We highlight the part of her rumination which got people upset:
CLINTON (1/25/16): He kept his eye on the future and he also tried to keep summoning up the better angels of our nature. You know, he was willing to reconcile and forgive. And I don't know what our country might have been like had he not been murdered, but I bet that it might have been a little less rancorous, a little more forgiving and tolerant, that might possibly have brought people back together more quickly.

But instead, you know, we had Reconstruction, we had the re-instigation of segregation and Jim Crow. We had people in the South feeling totally discouraged and defiant. So I really do believe he could have very well put us on a different path.
That answer wasn't stupendously helpful. In our view, Kevin Drum offered the smartest assessment, sagaciously saying this:

"It's not totally clear to me what Hillary meant by that."

In our view, that was a very bright comment by Drum. Here's why we say that:

People! Extemporaneous speech isn't like a written text. In extemporaneous speech, people often make slightly murky remarks, statements which can be understood more than one way.

We're often surprised by the number of people who don't seem to grasp or acknowledge that fact. Instead, they impose an interpretation on a somewhat murky remark, usually an interpretation which makes them mad. It doesn't seem to occur to them that the speaker may not have intended her remark in precisely the way they took it.

In the case of Clinton's remark, you can take it to mean that Clinton thinks that Reconstruction was a bad idea. Quite a few pundits did take it that way, at which point they began to explain why that was wrong, so wrong.

Later, her campaign said that wasn't what she meant. Essentially, they said she expressed herself a bit clumsily. We'd have to say that could be true.

For Drum's more complete assessment, you can just click here. For ourselves, we're often amazed when people formulate hard-and-fast interpretations of some extemporaneous statement which may just be a bit murky.

(For the record, we recommend applying this forgiving interpretive rule to people in both major parties.)

Is Hillary Clinton "stupendously smart?" We've never quite understood that standardized assessment. On the other hand, it seems to us that Collins possibly vegs out on a lot of low-grade TV shows.

Last year, she referred to "The Cupcake Wars" as if everyone would know what that meant. This morning, she poses this question to us the humans near the end of her piece:

"Do you ever watch those house-hunting shows where people make the list of what they want in their next home, and it’s always a place in the heart of the city that’s quiet and has green space for the dog and four bedrooms so guests can come visit, for no more than $500 a month?"

Crackers, please! For us, the answer arrived with stupendous speed:

No! We never do!

Coming soon: People who judge candidates as if they were college professors

THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: Health effects, phosphates, current readings!


In search of information in Flint:
Back in 1939, Mr. Smith famously went to Washington.

At the end of the famous film about him, Mr. Smith gave a speech. Last night, at the end of her trip to Michigan, Rachel Maddow gave a version of the same speech.

We won't discuss her speech today. Instead, let's list a few areas in which we could use more information concerning events in Flint.

The Maddow Show rarely traffics in that tedious product. Last night's town hall conversation was highly scattershot, with several major carts arriving before their horses.

Below, we note two areas where more information would be journalistically helpful.

Concerning possible health effects:

One of Maddow's guests last night was Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. From January through September of last year, she conducted a survey of children in Flint.

Hanna-Attisha found that 4.0 percent of the children she tested had lead in their blood exceeding 5 micrograms per deciliter, the current marker of an elevated lead level. According to Hanna-Attisha's study, this compared to 2.1 percent of Flint children with elevated levels before the switch in water supply.

Here's our question: What sorts of health effects can we expect in the wake of such exposure to lead?

On the Maddow Show, you will repeatedly hear about "mass poisoning," with Rick Snyder's name tossed in. The language is dramatic, exciting. But what sorts of actual health effects might we expect from that degree of exposure?

Because we watch Maddow's show, we can't really answer that question. Below, you see part of what Kevin Drum wrote in his recent post about Flint. He refers to the highly informative graphic he composed concerning lead levels in Flint:
DRUM (1/26/16): I've added a line that shows the percentage of children with lead levels above 10 m/d. I wouldn't want my kids to have anything above 5 m/d, but 10 is where things really start to get scary.
That isn't very precise concerning possible health effects, but that wasn't Drum's focus. Drum seems to say that the real problems start at that higher level of exposure. That said, do you have any idea what sorts of health effects are likely with a 5-microgram exposure?

If you've been watching the Maddow Show, the answer is no, you pretty much don't. Maddow rarely wastes her time giving you information.

Below, we offer a second very general assessment of the possible health effects. This assessment came from a journalist who is experienced in the area of lead exposure:

"...5 micrograms per deciliter is a pretty conservative level. It doesn't cause a ton of damage. But it definitely causes some: a couple of IQ points on average, plus other damage at about that level."

Is that accurate? We have no personal knowledge in this area. We'll only note that the Maddow Show hasn't really tried to inform the public about this basic point. (We also haven't seen much of an effort in our major newspapers.)

No one wants to lose IQ points, of course. As Drum has reported in recent years, other undesirable effects are often associated with exposure to lead.

With that in mind, we'd like to see real information about the types of effects we're discussing. While we're at it, remember this:

Before the switch in water supply, 2.1 percent of children in Flint were already recording that elevated lead level, according to Hanna-Attisha's study. According to Drum, the national percentage was 2.6 percent from 2007 through 2010. (This seems to be the most recent information available.)

We don't know what the national percentage is today. But then, we watch Maddow every night.

Once again, here's the oddness of the way this event has been discussed. That previous reading—2.1 percent of children in Flint with an elevated lead level—was creating exactly zero discussion. But when the percentage rose to 4.0 percent, Maddow decided we were in the grip of "an American disaster."

Does that seem to make sense to you? We'd like to see it explained.

Meanwhile, Maddow makes no mention of the national rate of exposure, which seems to be somewhat similar to the rate in Flint. To what extent is this a wider problem? Why isn't that being explained and discussed?

Concerting the current state of Flint's water:

How much lead can be found in Flint's water today? In this morning's New York Times, Julie Bosman offers a capsule account of the way the problem started:
BOSMAN (1/28/16): Concerns about the water were first raised in 2014, after Flint, under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, switched from Lake Huron water delivered by Detroit to water taken from the polluted Flint River. Lead that leached from the pipes, a result of a lack of corrosion control, has been blamed for illnesses, rashes and other ailments. The problem has persisted even as the city has switched back to getting its water from Lake Huron through Detroit.
When the Flint River became Flint's water supply, "a lack of corrosion control" created the leaching of lead from lead water pipes. Based on other reading, we understand that to mean that engineers failed to use the chemicals which were needed to create that "corrosion control," to forestall that leaching.

If our understanding is correct, it was that failure which produced the leaching of lead from the pipes, a problem which continued even after Flint switched back to Lake Huron water. That said, Bosman offers this additional note:
BOSMAN: State officials said they had increased the level of phosphates in the water to coat the inside of the pipes, an initial step that could help alleviate the problem. Keith Creagh, the interim director of the State Department of Environmental Quality, said that lead levels in Flint had dropped significantly.
Is water quality improving as the inside of the pipes get coated again? (In the briefest flicker of a discussion last night, you saws that coating of the pipes referred to as the "biofilm.")

Is water quality improving as the the pipes get coated again? Bosman quotes an official making that claim. But in this morning's Washington Post, Lenny Bernstein offers actual data from that same official:
BERNSTEIN (1/28/16): Keith Creagh, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the state was continuing to sample Flint water for lead and that "things are trending better." Of 2,577 samples analyzed, 93.7 percent had less than 15 parts per billion of lead and 85 percent had less than 5 parts per billion.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency recommends that homeowners and municipalities move to reduce any lead level higher than 15 parts per billion,
but some health researchers say there actually may be no safe level for lead in drinking water.
If those data are correct, and if Bernstein's analysis is sound, that seems to mean that 94 percent of current samples fit within EPA guidelines. In our search for information, we'd like to see knowledgeable people discuss what that might means.

By the way:

What are comparable readings like elsewhere in the nation? Maddow persistently treats Flint in a vacuum, as if it's a stand-alone disaster-unto-itself. In this way, she fails to put the situation into two wider contexts. She fails to discuss lead exposure in Flint before the recent government failure. Perhaps more significantly, she fails to discuss lead exposure around the country as a whole.

Do other kids in the country count? Or are we just going to ratchet excitement about exposure in Flint?

On the Maddow show, you get a lot of shameless clowning, mixed with a lot of proselytization.

Information? Not so much. On one topic after another, we'd call it a toxic blend.

Tomorrow, we'll attempt to outline a basic question: Do Flint's pipes have to be replaced, or can they be recoated? Professor Edwards tried to discuss that question last night, but the discussion scattershot all around.

That said, how much do you know about health effects? About the current state of Flint's water? How much so you know about the rest of the country? How many other kids, in other places, have elevated lead levels too?

These seem like basic questions to us. We'll grant you, they could be excitement killers.

Will we ever be told?

Supplemental: Reporting the mess in Flint!


Excitement v. information:
On the last two Rachel Maddow programs, Maddow has wasted a fair amount of time on pointless topics. As always, she has also spent time just generally clowning around.

Down in Maine, will Governor Paul LePage deliver a state of the state address? Or will he just send a letter to the legislature, with which he is feuding?

Maddow has spent almost as much time on this question—surely, no one in Maine even cares—as she has on the topic she described in this manner last night:
MADDOW (1/26/16): As you know, we're going to have a show tomorrow night from Flint, Michigan. We're doing what's basically a town hall on the mass lead poisoning of that city and what's going to happen next in that city because of it.
A bit later on, Maddow described tonight's program like this:
MADDOW: So as you have heard, tomorrow night we're going to be broadcasting the show from Flint, Michigan. We're going to be hosting a town hall there on the water crisis, on this American disaster in Flint created when the state government lead-poisoned that whole town.


We're going to be joined by many of the people central to the story of what has happened in Flint and elected officials like Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, local champions like Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who's the doctor who first exposed the elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint's kids. But most importantly, the people who are going to be there tomorrow in bulk are the people of Flint...
We'll definitely be watching tonight's program. The program is officially titled this way:
Maddow has spent a lot of time on this matter since her first report on the subject on December 15. How good a job has she done with the subject?

We think she's created a lot of excitement, and a whole lot less information.

The excitement is obvious in the way she and MSNBC are describing the situation. According to Maddow, tonight's program concerns the "mass poisoning" of Flint. The current situation is an "American disaster"—a disaster "created when the state government lead-poisoned that whole town."

That's very dramatic language. On a journalistic basis, the language is somewhat hard to square with some of the basic facts on the ground—basic facts on the ground in Flint and also around the nation.

What kinds of information has Maddow been skipping as she gives us the thrill of a "mass poisoning" crisis joined to a partisan narrative? For that, we recommend Kevin Drum's recent post, which includes a very informative graphic about the rates of lead exposure in Flint since 1998.

We think Drum's graphic is highly instructive. This is the bulk of his text:
DRUM (1/25/16): I wanted to get a read on historical levels of lead poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan, so I put together the chart on the right...What you see is very steady and impressive progress from 1998 to 2013, with the number of children showing elevated blood lead levels (above 5 micrograms per deciliter) declining from approximately 50 percent to 3.6 percent.

Then Flint stopped using Detroit water and switched to Flint River water, which corroded the scale on their lead pipes and allowed lead to leach into the water. The number of children with elevated lead levels rose to 5.1 percent and then 6.4 percent.

In late 2015, Flint switched back to Detroit water. Preliminary testing suggests that this had a beneficial effect: the number of children with elevated lead levels dropped back to 3.0 percent. However, these numbers are still very tentative, so take them with a grain of salt.
The recent events in Flint involve a giant governmental failure. We're already hearing about similar failures elsewhere; see today's New York Times.

That said, are we talking about a "mass poisoning," an "American disaster" which was created "when the state government lead-poisoned that whole town?"

According to Drum's homegrown calculations, the percentage of kids with elevated blood lead levels rose from 3.6 percent to 6.4 percent in the wake of the change in Flint's water supply. By way of contrast:

As recently as 1998, a full 50 percent of children in Flint displayed that elevated level!

In recent years, Drum has done a lot of journalism about lead exposure. In his post, he explains the methods by which he created his data, though it gets pretty technical.

A second set of numbers is also worth noting. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha—"Dr. Mona" to Maddow viewers—is Maddow's "bad-ass" "hero" of the mess in Flint.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha did the original survey of children in Flint which helped convince the state government that rates of elevated exposure to lead were rising. According to the results of her survey, 2.1 percent of Flint's kids had elevated levels before the change in water supply—a figure which rose to 4.0 percent in the period from January through September 2015.

Should a journalist be describing that as a "mass poisoning" in which "the state government lead-poisoned that whole town?" We think the answer is obvious. That said, Maddow's language creates a lot of excitement, which is good for exciting us rubes.

Again, let's understand. As recently as 1998, a full 50 percent of children in Flint were "poisoned," if that's really the journalistic term we want to use. According to David Mastio of USA Today, virtually all American kids had elevated levels in the 1970s, if we go by the 5 micrograms per deciliter standard which only came into use in 2012.

(Before that, the standard for elevated lead level was 10 micrograms per deciliter.)

If we're trying to be journalistically sober, has "the whole town" really "been poisoned?" Has anyone been "poisoned?" Basic questions of this type are being ignored by Maddow as she explores this American disaster.

A second question has gone unexplored as Maddow builds excitement and pathos. In a highly exclusive and very private email exchange with Drum, we were told this about the rates of elevated lead among the nation's children as a whole:

"Bottom line: In 2007-10, among all children, 2.6% of children had levels above 5 micrograms/deciliter." He even supplied this link.

However undesirable it may be, Flint's current rate of exposure doesn't seem to be massively higher than the rate around the nation. We mention that in the context of this report by Maddow last night:
MADDOW: OK. We have some breaking news to report out of Flint, Michigan.

In terms of the response to the lead poisoning crisis in Flint, President Obama, you'll remember last week dispatched this person, Dr. Nicolle Lurie, to be on site in Flint, heading up the federal response to the mass poisoning there.

Dr. Lurie hit the ground in Flint last week, again, as the federal point person for this crisis. Late this evening, we're getting new news of what kind of federal help she might be asked to muster and coordinate.

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan tonight says she is requesting that the federal government provide medical care for young people in Flint. He's going to ask Dr. Lurie's agency, the public health service, to cover long-term health care for people in Flint under the age of 21. Governor Snyder says tonight that he wants a Flint specific expansion of Medicaid so that federal health insurance program will cover every young person in Flint regardless of income. He's asking for comprehensive medical treatment for the long haul for all Flint kids because they all drank that lead poisoned water because of what his administration did.
As always, Maddow said she had "breaking news" to report. Needless to say, the excitement was high. But does Snyder's request make sense?

If so, what about all the other kids around the country who apparently suffer elevated lead levels? Will they get a special expansion of Medicaid through the age of 21 too? You'll never see such questions asked on the always exciting Maddow program. On her show, no one has said so much as a word about exposure rates around the country, which don't seem to differ from those in Flint all that much.

The current mess in Flint is the result of a major government failure. That said, Maddow produces major journalistic failures every night. We know that because we fact-check her work.

The results are routinely bad. We'd call it a liberal embarrassment.

On balance, Maddow is a terrible, horrible, overwrought clown who seems to get no journalistic supervision at all. Her reports are almost always embellished in ways which seem designed to pander to viewers, who she treats like rubes.

In the case of Flint, she's providing viewers with a massive amount of excitement, but not a whole lot of information. Also, with a relentless script. On the Maddow Show, Snyder is asking for comprehensive medical treatment for all Flint kids "because they all drank that lead poisoned water because of what his administration did."

It isn't that it isn't true. It's just that Maddow constantly says it. As she does, she fails to provide even the most basic background information.

One last important point:

How bad are health effects likely to be for kids with that 5 microgram level of exposure? Maddow has made virtually no attempt to answer that question. However bad the effects are likely to be, virtually every adult who's fifty years old had a higher level of exposure in childhood.

However bad the effects may be, it seems that we adults all have them! In fairness, that may help explain the journalism seen on the Maddow Show.

Maddow's providing a lot of excitement along with a lively partisan script. On the down side, she's providing very little basic information, perspective or context.

Low-income children exist to be used. That's always been the rule of thumb on The One True Liberal Channel.

THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: Kathleen Parker drinks the waters!


Edmund Hillary travels to Flint:
Just this once, let's say it:

Absent the guiding hand of gatekeepers, we the humans simply aren't up to the challenge of playing this game.

(On the other hand, when we do have gatekeepers, gatekeepers can be corrupt. That's the powerful portrait we recall from the Robert Graves novel, I, Claudius.)

We the humans simply aren't up to this task! For today's example, we give you Kathleen Parker's astonishing column in today's Washington Post.

Within the modern establishment press corps, Parker is typically found on the "saner" end of the spectrum. This morning, though, she seems determined to prove that we the humans simply aren't up to the task.

She finds herself drifting back twenty years to William Safire's woeful 1996 column, in which he said that first lady Hillary Clinton was a "congenital liar."

Twenty years later, Parker finds herself supporting that claim. She finds herself offering two examples.

We will focus on one:
PARKER (1/27/16): Safire’s concerns at the time—Whitewater, Travelgate, “lost” records—may seem remote and trivial to some, but the drip-drip he identified didn’t stop with the White House years. Subsequent to the various “-gates” were, for example, the story of coming under fire on a tarmac in Bosnia or about her having been named for the explorer Edmund Hillary, the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, despite her having been born about six years before his history-making climb.
"These are such trivial stories to invent that one wonders why she bothered," Parker says as she continues.

Let's consider one of those trivial stories and ask what form of moral or intellectual illness led Parker to revive in support of Safire's ill-advised, reckless claim. As we do, let's turn Parker's question around:

Let's wonder why Kathleen Parker bothered with this trivial story! That said, the answer is largely clear.

Good God! Hillary Clinton invented a story "about her having been named for the explorer Edmund Hillary?"

We'd say that Parker's use of this "example" comes close to raising the possibility that she, the columnist Parker herself, is flirting with something resembling mental illness. In fairness, that often seems true of us the humans at a fraught juncture like this.

Good God! Parker reaches all the way back to 1995 for this troubling example, which supposedly helps us see that Clinton may be "a congenital liar." In that year, the first lady met Sir Edmund Hillary during a goodwill trip to Nepal, at which time she related an old family story.

Apparently, it was the only time Clinton ever told the pointless old story in public. Todd Purdum did the reporting in the New York Times:
PURDUM (4/3/95): "To be honest with you, in America, before if anybody recognized the name Hillary, it's always been me," Sir Edmund, 75, told reporters just before greeting Mrs. Clinton. "And now they say, 'Oh, you must be a lady!' "

For her part, Mrs. Clinton confessed that her mother, Dorothy Rodham, had read an article about the intrepid Edmund Hillary, a one-time beekeeper who had taken to mountain climbing, when she was pregnant with her daughter in 1947 and liked the name.

"It had two l's, which is how she thought she was supposed to spell Hillary," Mrs. Clinton told reporters after the brief meeting on the tarmac, minutes before her Air Force jet flew past the peak of Everest itself. "So when I was born, she called me Hillary, and she always told me it's because of Sir Edmund Hillary."
Reporter Purdum's pointless report appeared beneath this headline: "Hillary Clinton Meets Man Who Gave Her 2 L's." Now let's get down to brass tacks:

Did Dorothy Rodham always tell Clinton that story when she was a girl? Down here on this troubled planet, Kathleen Parker has no earthly freaking idea!

If told, was the story actually true? Once again, Parker has no idea! She lacks the first hint of a nub of a clue about these pointless matters.

Hillary Clinton's pointless story was utterly pointless that day. It was never worth discussing at all, after maybe the first ten minutes.

But alas! Even by 1995, a large, ugly effort was underway to brand the Clintons as liars. Starting in March 1999, this assault was extended to Candidate Gore. In the end, this effort succeeded. It sent Bush to the White House.

Even by 1995, the establishment "press corps" crawled with gatekeepers who wanted to sell us this story. People like Safire pimped it out. People like Parker drank their waters and contracted their illness.

People like Dionne and Alter sat around and looked away as these destructive wars went on. Simply put, pseudo-liberal careerist "journalists" don't challenge the guild when a powerful script takes hold. They let it go in the case of the Clintons, then in the case of Gore.

(People are dead all over the world because of Safire and Parker. People are dead all over the world because of those others as well.)

This morning, almost twenty-one years later, Parker recalls the troubling story Hillary Clinton once told. Tell us why we shouldn't think that Kathleen Parker is spiritually ill in some manner or form. Tell us why this doesn't establish the claim that we the humans, absent benevolent gatekeepers, simply aren't up to this task.

Do we see a connection here? Do we see a connection between Parker's column and the journalism which is unfolding concerning events in Flint?

Well actually, yes we do. To understand that, you must understand an extremely basic point.

Let's start with this. The current situation in Flint was plainly caused by a serious failure of government.

(For what it's worth, failures of government do occur. In this morning's New York Times, we're already starting to read about similar breakdowns elsewhere.)

The current situation in Flint was caused by a failure of government. Having established that obvious fact, let's establish another:

Lousy journalism can be performed in the wake of a government failure.

Are we able to grasp that point? Trust us, many of us the humans cannot! For that reason, let's state it again:

A journalist can do lousy reporting about a failure of government. This is especially likely to happen when, as in the case of Parker's column, some larger tribal narrative, claim or belief is involved.

In our view, the reporting on Flint has often been quite weak to this point. In a great deal of the reporting, we'd say we're getting an excess of narrative, a shortfall of information.

Within the modern celebrity press corps, Kathleen Parker actually sits on the saner end of the spectrum! In our view, some of the people reporting Flint are perhaps less stable and less reliable even than she.

Parker's column today is just this side of insane. On the brighter side, it shows you where our human-ness frequently leads.

We think the reporting on Flint has been rather poor to this point, almost in an embarrassing way. Again recommending Kevin Drum's graphic, we'll explain in this afternoon's post.

Are we the humans up to this task? Again and again, the answer is no. In parting, here's an important warning:

This is true on the corporate careerist undercompetent left, as it is on the crackpot right.

This afternoon: Excitement, narrative, information in the reporting on Flint

Supplemental: Maddow batters Beltway reporters!


Presenting the art of the con:
In recent years, the conservative world has been burdened with the ludicrous Sarah Palin and her endless complaints about the depredations of "the lamestream media."

Due to the nature of tribal belief, many conservatives can't see that they're often being played when Palin makes these complaints.

Unfortunately, we in the liberal world now have our own counterpart to Palin. We refer to Rachel Maddow's endless pseudo-complaints about "the Beltway press."

Last night, Maddow started her program with a tale about the work of these fiends, who went unnamed, as always. Her silly complaint developed into a longer story about What Happens in Iowa Every Four Years at This Time.

Essentially, Maddow seemed to be making the whole thing up, as she rather frequently does. At any rate, this was Maddow's complaint last night about the lamestream/Beltway media:
MADDOW (1/25/16): And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

So this is the time when weird stuff starts to happen.

I don't mean, you know, 9 o'clock on MSNBC is when weird stuff happens, although sometimes that's true too. What I mean is, a week before Iowa is when weird stuff starts to happen. It's around this time every four years when we get two things happening at once.

First, Beltway reporters start writing these wistful, patronizing, reductive little sing-song lullabies about how sweet and quaint everything is in Iowa with all these little Iowa people going to their little caucuses and how little and pure it is, right? It restores your faith in the American political process. Right? Every four years, you get that stuff from Beltway reporters.

Simultaneously, every four years at this time, you see those articles from the Beltway and, in Iowa, at the exact same time, stuff starts to get really freaking sketchy. And in some cases, it gets downright criminally corrupt.

Iowa may be rural and it may be landlocked but Iowans are not rubes. Iowans are pros. And honestly, be on your toes. Be ready for anything.
If you watch the videotape, you'll see that Rachel can barely contain her contempt for the way those "Beltway reporters" write those "wistful, patronizing, reductive little sing-song lullabies about how sweet and quaint everything is in Iowa with all these little Iowa people going to their little caucuses and how little and pure it is."

Damn Beltway reporters! They do it every four years! As usual, though, Maddow cited no specific examples of this reductive work.

This morning, we went to Maddow's blog and checked the links for last night's program. Those links offer no examples of those patronizing sing-song lullabies about how sweet and quaint everything is.

Strange, isn't it? Beltway reporters write those pieces every four years, but Maddow seems to have no examples! But over and over, again and again, that's how this program works.

From there, Maddow went on to a long, confused, embellished ramble in which she pretended to show that "stuff starts to get really freaking sketchy" in Iowa every four years at this time, at least among Republicans. It sometimes gets criminally corrupt! On the Republican side, "the Iowa caucuses are kind of gangster," Maddow entertainingly says at one point.

Maddow offered no evidence for her sweeping claims. More significantly, she muddled the very serious way the Iowa GOP really did mismanage its caucuses in 2012.

That opening segment was an embarrassing, disingenuous mess. But then, this is the Maddow Show, a nightly freaking gong-show.

Maddow loves to make sweeping claims about those "Beltway reporters." In doing so, she gives us rubes the false impression that she's being daring, transgressive.

That isn't even close to being true, of course. In fact, since she never names any names or cites any examples, she's basically running a con. In truth, she will never name the names of the major reporters who turn out elections into clown shows every four years at this time.

Dearest darlings, it just isn't done! Homey don't play it that way!

This morning, we'd have to honor Amy Chozick as clown prince of "Beltway reporters" for the ridiculous way she covers Candidate Clinton in this front-page New York Times report. As always, Chozick's report is marked by its sheer inanity, its focus on everything trivial. But that's a fact of life, and a major name, you'll never hear Maddow discuss.

For the record, Maddow seems to be having one of her euphoric weeks. As we watch her strange behavior, we often wonder if her owners are getting her the help she seems to need.

Given the way the corporate world works, we'll guess that they aren't. Given the way she behaves on the air, we're going to guess that they should.

At any rate, conservatives have the lamestream media. We have the Beltway press.

For people of strong spirit only: If you want to see how sad this gets, go to 7:45 of the videotape to watch Maddow say this:
MADDOW: Iowa gets treated by the Beltway press like it's some cross between a Hallmark card and a Norman Rockwell painting and a slice of apple pie with a puppy on top, right? But Iowa, at least on the Republican side of the caucuses, has been kind of a banana republic in recent years.
You'll see Maddow clowning very hard. You'll also hear one of her resident hacks laughing helplessly off-camera at the boss's masterful wit.

This is now a regular part of this increasingly horrible show. For ourselves, we think its host could probably use some help.

THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: Maddow and Coates!


Part 7—The year of liberal embarrassment:
In the realm of journalism, was 2015 really "The Year of the Liberal," as so many observers are currently claiming?

We're always reluctant to join stampedes of this type. That said, we'd have to agree with that growing assessment, on balance.

In our current award-winning series, we've already discussed 2015 as the year of liberal dumbness. Also, as the year of liberal narrative/script.

Before this week is done, we plan to discuss the year just passed as the year of liberal hatred and loathing. But first, let's spend a day or two discussing another characteristic of 2015:

Let's discuss the year just passed at the year of liberal embarrassment.

In our view, 2015 was the year when it became embarrassing, on a daily basis, to read the routinely ridiculous work done by our liberal savants. For a tiny example of what we mean, consider what Lena Dunham just said.

In the past year, it became a bit like what President Kennedy said! In our liberal journalistic realm, "the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world."

Well—the new generation of which we speak wasn't exactly born in this century. Although, in some cases, they come amazingly close.

(As we'll note in the next week or so: Especially in the case of young women who are deemed sufficiently telegenic, our corporate "cable news" bosses are willing to make some remarkable booking decisions. Cable hosts play along.)

Here's the prob! In some cases, the pleasing youth of this new generation of Americans has them discussing various matters concerning which they seem to lack the first clue. For a tiny example of what we mean, consider what Dunham has recently said about the "rabidly sexist" coverage of Candidate Clinton.

“The way that Hillary Clinton’s been talked about in the media is so gendered and rabidly sexist in every single portrayal,” Dunham is quoted telling Variety. “Whether it’s the attacks on her personal life or the adjectives that are used to describe her clothing, we have to do a full reexamination.

"If we were allowed to talk about male candidates like that, I’d have a f–king field day,” Dunham thoughtfully said.

(Full disclosure: Our analysts say that the word Dunham used was almost surely "f*cking.")

There is no doubt that Clinton has sometimes met with sexist and misogynist coverage down through the years, often from stars of the corporate liberal firmament. (When that occurs, the rest of us liberals have always seemed to know that we mustn't notice or speak.)

That said, what sorts of rabidly sexist treatment did Dunham have in mind? Speaking to The Guardian, she spelled it out.

Prepare for a very minor example of the type of "liberal embarrassment" which became so common in the past year. Jill Abramson did the reporting:
ABRAMSON (1/24/16): “I am so frustrated with the dialogue around Hillary among my peers,” Dunham told me in an email. “It feels so gendered, even from women, so harshly sexist. We never throw claims of too establishment or too stiff or even too selfish at male politicians. It’s unfair in the deepest sense.”
Good God! "We never throw claims of too stiff at male politicians?"

According to standard biographies, Dunham, who is 29, was alive on the planet during Campaign 2000, when the charge of being too stiff (and even too wooden!) was dumped on the head of Candidate Gore for two solid years, helping send Candidate Bush to the White House.

Dunham was alive at the time—she just wasn't paying attention. This has her making remarks to Abramson which produce the latest case of AALE—Acute and Astounding Liberal Embarrassment.

Dunham seems to have no earthly idea what she's talking about! That said, she plays a very marginal role in the emergence of the liberal journalistic world which, according to various scholars, made last year "The Year of the Liberal."

Dunham's statement are embarrassing, but she isn't really part of the liberal journalistic world. For better or worse, the new Salon is part of that world.

So are Rachel Maddow and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

In 2015, reading the work at the new Salon became a daily embarrassment, and the pattern continues right into this week. Can any serious person believe that Steve Almond composed this embarrassing mess in good faith? Can anyone explain how the person who wrote this piece became a Penn State professor?

Reading the new Salon is now a daily embarrassment. That said, Maddow and Coates are much bigger journalistic stars, and their work became a frequent embarrassment in the course of the past year too.

Without saying as much in so many words, Kevin Drum has been sketching the world of liberal embarrassment in the past few days.

In this post, he presents the data behind the recent Oscar nominations flap. (We presented similar data last year.)

In this very significant post, he presents a graphic which lets us see that we are perhaps being misled by some rather bad journalism about the mess in Flint.

We'll look at that post and consider that topic tomorrow. For today, let's consider the latest bit of liberal embarrassment surrounding the work of Coates, which Drum explores in this post.

In Drum's unspoken but obvious view, Coates' recent remarks about the 1994 crime bill are about as insightful as Dunham's comments on stiffness. As with Maddow, so too with Coates—he seems to have swollen with wealth and fame, to the point where Americans are starting to cite Shakespeare's words:

"Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed,
"That he is grown so great?"

In his most recent departure, Coates holds court on the 1994 crime bill, concerning which he seems to know about as much as Dunham knows about Campaign 2000 and other such phenomena. When Drum read this recent proclamation by Coates, he felt he'd at last heard enough:
COATES (1/24/16): Voters, and black voters particularly, should never forget that Bill Clinton passed arguably the most immoral “anti-crime” bill in American history, and that Hillary Clinton aided its passage through her invocation of the super-predator myth.
How much does Coates know about that bill? We're sorry, but that statement suggests the essence of AALE, as Drum explains in his post, though not in so many words.

Why is it so painfully silly to demonize the Clintons so? Perhaps because roughly two-third of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for that bill?

Perhaps because our own congressman, Kweisi Mfume, voted for the bill? (Later, he became head of the NAACP.) Perhaps because the nation's only black senator, Carol Moseley-Braun, voted for the bill?

Perhaps because the House's only former Black Panther, Bobby Rush, voted for the bill? Perhaps because James Clyburn voted for it?

So far, we've only named well-known black pols who voted for the bill which exposed the Clintons as demons, according to Coates' over-the-top assertion, which we should never forget.

For those who want the names of white pols, be advised that Senator Wellstone voted for the bill. As did Senator Kennedy.

In the House, who supported the bill? A future speaker named Pelosi. Also, a future presidential candidate. His name was Bernie Sanders!

None of this means that the bill in question was a good bill (or that it wasn't). It means that Coates is displaying a possible case of Dunham Syndrome in his overwrought presentation--a presentation which captures the kind of work, from a great many parties, which established the year just past as the year of liberal embarrassment.

Upon what meat does Coates now feed? Along with Maddow, he feeds on the best cuts of steak! The spiraling of the work of the pair illustrates an important point: when we humans are handed massive money, affirmation and fame, it may tend to harm our performance.

Dunham's recent statements are liberally embarrassing, but so was a fair amount of Coates' work last year, starting with the first seven pages of his award-winning book. Because of the dumbing down of our liberal world, few people noticed or mentioned this fact.

Who voted against the 1994 crime bill? Almost all Republicans did, on the basis that it spent too much money on too many projects which were designed to aid the black community.

That doesn't mean there weren't perfectly valid reasons to vote against the bill, and some white and black Democrats did. Rep. John Lewis voted against the bill. So did Senator Feingold.

(He was the only Democratic senator to vote against the bill, except for Senator Shelby of Alabama. Shelby remained a Democrat ten more weeks, at which point he switched parties.)

There is plenty to say and learn about that 1994 bill. It's just that Coates' demonization sounds so much like the sort of thing Dunham would say.

Tomorrow, we'll move to Drum's important post about the situation in Flint. We'll discuss the endless liberal embarrassment created by Maddow last year.

As so many people are saying, 2015 was the year of our own tribe's embarrassment! As that that unfortunate theme took shape, Maddow played an extremely active part.

That role has continued this week.

Also tomorrow, or later: Sagacious remarks by Professor Painter on the topic of "never forgetting"

Supplemental: Peters and Parker pretend to report!


The cynical joined by the silly:
How silly does "campaign reporting" get at the New York Times?

It gets extremely silly; more accurately, it gets almost completely faux. Consider a pair of hard-copy "news reports" from this morning's editions. In our hard-copy Times, the utterly silly pseudo-reports appeared beneath these headlines:
"Resurgent Rubio Sprints To the Finish in Iowa"

"Stump Gets Bush Across in Way TV Hasn't"
In the first report, Jeremy Peters was describing Candidate Rubio's alleged resurgence in Iowa. In the second report, Ashley Parker was reporting that Candidate Bush comes across better in person than he does on TV, at least in the state of New Hampshire.

Each "news report" was an upbeat journalistic gong-show. Let's start with that report by Peters, who claims to have spotted a resurgence by Rubio in Iowa, or something to that effect.

Peters has his ear to the ground in the Hawkeye State! Headline included, here's how he starts his report:
PETERS (1/25/16): Resurgent Rubio Sprints To the Finish in Iowa

For months, it was the biggest question nagging at the Rubio campaign here: “Where’s Marco?”

His schedule was not packed with 16-hour days spent rolling across Iowa’s hinterlands in a bus. As an Iowan, you were probably more likely to see him on Fox News or hear about him visiting New Hampshire or South Carolina. Other candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald J. Trump had the support of more high-profile conservative leaders.

But something appears to be shifting for Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. It is a change evident in his growing crowds; a string of endorsements; a friendly nod from a popular Iowa senator, Joni Ernst; and the cautious confidence he is starting to express.
"Something appears to be shifting" for Rubio, Peters semi-excitedly says. He bases that judgment on "a string of endorsements," and on the quiet confidence Rubio has begun to express!

Has Rubio picked up "a string of endorsements" in Iowa? It's possible, but as he continues, Peters cites exactly one. That's the endorsement of the Des Moines Register, which isn't exactly scriptural reading for Republican caucus-goers.

(In a photo caption, some editor has made this general claim more exciting. The caption says that Rubio has picked up "a string of key endorsements," which have "produced momentum for him.")

Have endorsements, or anything else, produced momentum for Rubio? Peters doesn't present a scintilla of evidence to that effect in his 22-paragraph report—a silly-bill, Potemkin report which strangely ends like this:
PETERS: Mr. Rubio is still facing unrelenting attacks from opponents, none more apparent than those from the Right to Rise “super PAC,” which supports Mr. Bush and has inundated the airwaves in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

“If you add up all the other candidates, more has been spent against me than all the other candidates combined,” he told his audience here.

The most potent attack so far—and the one that has Mr. Rubio’s backers most concerned—is an ad that depicts him as a weather vane, shifting his political positions on immigration as the wind blows.

In the crowd on Sunday afternoon, there was evidence the attacks were sticking. A man stood up and asked Mr. Rubio to clarify how his support for immigration reform did not amount to supporting “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

“I’m a little confused,” the man said. “Where’s the difference?”
According to Peters, Rubio is picking up steam in Iowa, except for the fact that all those attacks seem to be sticking! What newspaper except the Times publishes piddle like that?

On the same page, Parker seemed to be trying to top her colleague's work. For whatever reason, she was trying to pretend that Candidate Bush is on the make in New Hampshire, or something like that. This is the way she began:
PARKER (1/25/16): Expectations are not always high at Jeb Bush’s campaign events, where impressions of his halting performances in debates and other TV appearances often precede him.

“He comes off on television as being boring,” said Robbie Munce, 38, an undecided Republican who owns a portable-toilet company and who came to see Mr. Bush speak here last month. But after watching Mr. Bush field questions for more than an hour on issues as diverse as banking regulation and homegrown terrorism, Mr. Munce left impressed.

“I think he really listens to what people have to say. He doesn’t just pick the one term in someone’s question and turn it into a talking point,” he said. “He’s answering the questions that people are asking.”

The frequency of that assessment—that Mr. Bush is a lot more compelling in person than on TV—suggests a possible, if challenging, path toward reviving his faltering campaign. And as he makes his way from veterans’ halls to high school gyms in New Hampshire, a state that typically rewards retail campaigning in presidential races, he is not only surprising voters with his skills on the stump, but also winning over many of them.
In fairness to Parker, she at least seems to signal that, despite her upbeat air, Bush faces a "challenging path" toward a state of resurgence.

Still, Bush isn't just surprising voters with his skills on the stump. According to Parker, he is also "winning over many of them."

Later on, Parker admits that "Bush’s perceived improvement has not yet resulted in a significant shift in the polls." As a matter of fact, she offer no evidence that there has been any improvement at all.

On the other hand, Parker also reports that Bush is "drawing larger, more enthusiastic crowds"—at least according to a Republican committeeman who presumably supports him. A bit later on, she goes upbeat again, offering this weird statement:
PARKER: Voters here have a history of blunting the momentum of the winner out of Iowa, where Mr. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas lead the Republican polls for the caucuses next Monday.

New Hampshire Republicans seem open to a candidate who is perceived as more moderate—like Mr. Bush, Mr. Christie, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
New Hampshire Republicans "seem open to candidates" like those? We have no idea why Parker says that. In the most recent Fox poll of New Hampshire, the four candidates she names are commanding 22 percent of the Republican vote between them.

In the most recent Monmouth poll, they command that same puny share of the GOP pie in New Hampshire—22 percent. Mathematically, that's out of 100 percent in all!

These news reports aren't news reports—they're offerings from the silly-bill side of Times post-journalistic culture. As a general matter, we'd say these reports express a disingenuous time-honored theme:

Something seems to be happening out there!

Something seems to be happening! By making this suggestion, the New York Times lets readers think that the newspaper has its ear to the ground, that it's serving them the famous product known as news.

Alas! In the case of today's reports, there isn't a scintilla of evidence that anything's happening in either one of these states for either one of those candidates.

Alas! At the New York Times, "campaign reports" seem to come in two forms: cynical and silly.

Full disclosure: Parker began her career at the Times as Maureen Dowd's "research assistant!"

As far as we know, no one has ever explained what that could possibly mean.



Interlude—Public knowledge in the age of the Emperor New York Times:
More and more often, we think of the Robert Graves novel, I, Claudius, when we read the works of the New York Times.

In the 1970s, the novel became a heavily watched PBS series. We watched the series first, read the novel later (along with its successor, Claudius the God).

It's been decades since we watched the series or read the books. Still, a strong impression lingers, increasingly so when we gaze on the works of the Times.

Who the heck is the Claudius to whom we refer? The leading authority describes him as shown below, clouding the issue of the way we link him to the Times:

"Claudius was the fourth Emperor of Rome (r. 41–54 AD). Historically, Claudius' family kept him out of public life until his sudden coronation at the age of forty-nine. This was due to his being perceived as being a dolt due to his stammering, limp and other nervous tics. This made others see him as mentally deficient..."

In our day, the Times keeps no one from public life due to perceptions that they are dolts! In the modern era of the Times, Maureen Dowd is the prime example. And sure enough—consider the claim Times readers encountered in her most recent column:
DOWD (1/24/16): [Sarah Palin] used the last refuge of scoundrels in Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday, wrapping herself in patriotism. In her convoluted, disingenuous way, she charged President Obama with a lack of “respect” for veterans and suggested that Track had post-traumatic stress disorder and became “hardened,” implying this is what led to the incident prompting his arrest. This from the archconservative who presents herself as a model of personal responsibility and scourge of victimhood?

Outraged vets urged Palin not to reduce PTSD to a political “chew toy,” as one put it, or to excuse domestic violence by citing the disorder.

The rattlebrained Palin has reversed her Iraq position, so that now her stance somehow matches Trump’s consistent and prescient one against the Iraq invasion.
Stunningly, Dowd defended Barry O'Bambi against the pitiful claim that he caused the apparent problems of Palin's son. But even as Dowd did that, good God!

She crazily said that Candidate Trump always opposed the war in Iraq! Trump was "prescient" concerning Iraq, the Pulitzer prize-winner crazily said!

Gong-show survivors, please! There is zero evidence that Donald Trump ever opposed the war in Iraq. Last summer, Trump began to bruit that claim in major, high-profile forums. On several occasions, he said he could produce dozens of news reports to that effect.

No such news reports have ever been presented or found.

Presumably, Candidate Trump was simply lying about his brilliant stance on Iraq, and about those dozens of news reports. But so what?

At the Times and at other big papers, they let his high-profile claim go unchallenged. Yesterday, Times readers saw the claim restated by Dowd, with a garland of "prescience" draped around Trump the God's neck!

At the Empress Times, it's fairly clear that Dowd has been promoted because of her various "mental deficiencies," not in spite of them. Over the past twenty years, she has repeated the claims her owners seem to love, and much other nonsense besides.

What sorts of claims have Dowd's owners loved? For one potent current example, consider the claim Times readers encountered in another of yesterday's columns, the column by Nicholas Kristof.

As he started, the noble Kristof recalled some of the ways Hillary Clinton has "suffered for being a feminist."

"Even when Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008, there were put-downs," the columnist noted, "like the two men from a radio show heckling her, 'Iron my shirt!'”

Playing by the rules of the game, he failed to mention the much more significant putdowns of Clinton which came from his colleague Dowd. As a result of her endless putdowns, Dowd was savaged for her misogyny in this June 2008 column by Clark Hoyt, then the newspaper's public editor.

Whatever! Kristof went on and on in yesterday's column, presenting his progressive bona fides. But then, dear God! It happened again! As he ended his column, Kristof repeated one of the mandated scripts of the empire by which he is owned:
KRISTOF (1/24/16): One way in which attitudes have changed has to do with sexual predation. Shaming women who make accusations—in short, the Bill Clinton campaign approach of 1992—is much less tolerated today.

So today Hillary Clinton is scolded for turning on and helping to stigmatize the women who accused her husband of misconduct,
which oddly means that she may pay more of a price for his misbehavior than he ever did. That irony would encapsulate the truism that whatever the progress, women are often still held to a higher standard than men.
He stated it not once but twice! Candidate Clinton is being scolded "for turning on and helping to stigmatize the women who accused her husband of misconduct."

Stated a slightly different way, it seems that Candidate Clinton is being scolded for "shaming women who make accusations—in short, the Bill Clinton campaign approach of 1992."

Please note! Kristof doesn't exactly say, in his own voice, that Hillary Clinton engaged in that conduct. Technically, he merely says, with technical accuracy, that Candidate Clinton is now being scolded for such offenses, which may imaginably just be alleged.

There was a time when such careful phrasing would have been called "Clintonesque," in our view quite unfairly. Because Kristof is understood to be noble, we'll assume he didn't mean to play that slippery old game. We'll assume that he is alleging, in his own voice, that Hillary Clinton did engage in that "shaming of women."

It's one of his empire's favorite claims! But to whom does Kristof refer? Who got "shamed" and "stigmatized" in 1992?

Gruesome! Once again, we're forced to discuss the background to this favorite imperial claim. Because it's a favorite ownership claim, you'll see few others supplying that background, not even your favorite liberal heroes and stars!

It's nauseating to discuss the accusers who, according to this favorite script, got shamed and stigmatized by the Clinton machine back in the bad old days. It's painful to go back over the lists of facts you'll never read in the glorious Times.

In the days of Claudius, the Roman masses were constantly deceived, misled and misinformed about the way their empire was actually run. The Graves novel brilliantly sketches this state of affairs, as does any sagacious daily reading of the New York Times.

We liberals! On a journalistic basis, last year is now being widely described as "The Year of the Liberal." In the two weeks which remain to this site in its present form, we'll continue to explain why that assessment has been sweeping the nation.

We liberals slid in some bad directions in the year just ended. But why not cut us some slack? As we liberals showed the world how much we long to resemble The Others, we were constantly assailed by the deficits at the Times, the empire's least forthcoming newspaper.

Trump was prescient about Iraq! Hillary Clinton stigmatized women! Day after day, we the utterly clueless liberals read these claims in our empire's most famous newspaper. In thrall to our silent tribal leaders, we're rarely exposed to a wide range of facts which underlay such claims.

In Graves' depiction, the Roman masses were constantly conned and deceived by the lordly figures surrounding Claudius.

Lumpen prole-cats, cough it up! How different is our world today?

Tomorrow: Amid the hammering, banging and pounding, our plan for the next two weeks

Supplemental: Flint's poisoned children, then versus now!


Scribe takes a look at the record:
Does USA Today's David Mastio know what he's talking about?

More specifically, does Mastio know what he's talking about concerning elevated levels of lead in the blood of children? Specifically, in the children of Flint, Michigan?

We don't know how to answer these questions. That said, Mastio is deputy editorial page editor of USA Today. In an earlier life, he was an environmental reporter for The Detroit News.

Trigger warning! Mastio also worked for the Washington Times for three years! That fact may convince you to stop reading this post right now.

Increasingly, we modern liberals like our stories uncomplicated and novelized, with perfect villains and victims. If that's the way you like your tales, we advise you to stop reading this post, if only based on Mastio's prior affiliation.

For everyone else, we recommend Mastio's new, detailed report about Flint. We'd like to see it fleshed out by environmental and medical reporters, if any such people exist.

Warning! The magic phrase "Governor Rick Snyder" won't be served to you in every sentence of Mastio's piece, as happens when you watch Rachel Maddow pretend to report this event. If that omission will kill the fun, we advise you to stop reading now!

No amount of Mastio's report is safe for people who like their tribalized news reports to display the familiar logic of dreams and fairy tales. Before we get to Mastio's report, let's explain how we hit upon it.

In the past few weeks, we've been puzzled by a basic pair of statistics concerning the situation in Flint. These statistics lie at the heart of the clear, concise report which helped make Flint a national topic.

According to that clear, concise report, 4.0 percent of children in Flint now show elevated levels of lead in their blood. Before the switch in Flint's water supply which produced the current story, the figure stood at 2.1 percent, according to that report.

We'd seen those figures in many news reports. They struck us as odd, and yet not odd, given the novelization which defines so much of our "news product."

Why did those figures strike us as odd? Because 4.0 and 2.1 are somewhat similar figures!

According to that pair of statistics, a figure of 4.0 percent was so upsetting that it touched off a national front-page story about the poisoning of Flint's low-income children.

By way of contrast, the pre-existing figure, 2.1 percent, had been accepted, by one and all, in a state of complete total silence. You never would have heard a word about the children of Flint if that pre-existing situation had been maintained, with just 2.1 percent of those children being "poisoned."

In short, 4.0 percent touched off a political firestorm on our own liberal channel. But when the figure stood at 2.1 percent, no one gave a fig or a farthing, or even a good rat's ascot. When 2.1 percent of kids were "poisoned," it wasn't even worth discussing, even though that was more than half the current figure!

On face, that situation struck us as odd, and yet not odd. In the past several weeks, we've Googled and Nexised about, trying to see if we've misunderstood those figures in some way.

We've also tried to find national figures for elevated levels of lead—figures which would let us put Flint's situation into a broader perspective.

What percentage of children nationwide test for elevated levels of lead? In Flint, that report seemed to say that the figure now stands at 4.0 percent. But what's the figure nationwide? We're sure that statistic exists somewhere, but we haven't been able to find it, certainly not in any of our nation's "news reports."

(Rachel doesn't have time for statistics. She's too busy saying "Rick Snyder," while fashioning the EPA as a hero of her tribalized fairy tale.)

Let's be honest. Within the world of American journalism, no one actually cares about the kids in Flint, Michigan. Similarly, no one actually cares about what is happening in low-income schools around the nation. That fact is proven by the way our mainstream news orgs, and our own liberal heroes, refuse to report even the simplest facts about the rising test scores achieved by the nation's black and Hispanic kids.

Nobody cares about those kids, except to the extent that they can be used, at occasional times, to produce exciting stories of the type which attract eyeballs and please a tribal audience. No fact on this planet could be more clear, and no fact is less often discussed.

What's the role of low-income kids within our corporate news business? Multimillionaire cable stars like to jump in when a villainous story can be created, keeping viewers barefoot and happy and thereby justifying $7 million salaries. But the overwhelming evidence tells us this—no one actually cares about the nation's low-income kids, except to the extent that they can be used to generated simple-minded, tribally-pleasing tales.

This brings us back to Mastio's report, which we encountered yesterday in our latest search for the types of data mentioned above. At one point in his report, Mastio even links to statistics of the type we had been trying to locate!

Early on, Mastio makes a few standard points. "As any public health official will tell you, there is no safe level of lead," he writes. "Once you are exposed, lead can haunt you even as it disappears from your blood."

A few other points are obvious. First, the problems that followed the switch in Flint's water supply have created a gigantic public inconvenience, with residents unable to use their own tap water.

The switch in water supply also created a real public health problem in which, according to that pair of statistics, almost twice as many children in Flint have elevated levels of lead.

Public officials seem to have made groaning mistakes in the course of creating those problems. But in the bulk of his report, Mastio notes a significant fact—present-day American adults grew up with much higher levels of lead in their blood than today's children in Flint. Mastio even says this:

"Even after Flint’s disaster, the city’s children have far less lead in their blood than their parents or grandparents did at the same age."

Some people want to rant and rail about whoever their villains may be. On Morning Joe, you're told that the EPA is the villain in Flint. Twelve hours later, Maddow will tell you it's Governor Rick.

If all you want is the chance to live in the realm of the fairy tale, you can turn to one of those novelized pseudo-news programs. If you want a wider array of facts, we'll recommend Mastio's report, which includes information like this:
MASTIO (1/22/16): In 2005, Michigan completed the years-long process of collecting 500,000 lead blood tests from children in the state under 6. Back then, 26% of kids tested—that's more than one in four—had blood lead levels (5 micrograms per deciliter or greater) that would cause concern today. In the hardest hit parts of Flint now, only 10.6% of kids have such concerning levels of lead in their blood.

How can that be? While drinking water management in Flint has obviously been a mess in recent years, it's a mess that comes amid one of the greatest public health and environmental triumphs in U.S. history.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data are clear. In the late 1970s, 88% of Americans ages 1 to 5 had at least 10 micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood, or twice as much as today's level of concern.

By the early 1990s, only 4.4% of children were exposed to so much lead.
And year by year since then, according to more than 31 million blood tests compiled by the CDC just since 2005, lead has been steadily disappearing from American kids’ blood.
Please note: According to Mastio, 88 percent of American kids had at least ten micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood in the late 1970s! And please note this additional point:

As Mastio says, ten micrograms is twice as much lead as today's official level of concern. In 2012, five micrograms per deciliter became the official point of concern.

According to that recent study in Flint, 4.0 percent of the city's kids have lead levels that high. But according to Mastio, almost everyone had higher levels of lead when current generations of adults were kids.

What is likely to happen to kids who have five micrograms or more? The adults who are stampeding the public about that question grew up with much higher levels of lead! Perhaps that's why their sense of proportion so commonly seems to fail them!

Two final points:

Across the country, how many kids have five micrograms of lead or more? How many have ten micrograms?

Mastio links to this voluminous chart, which he sources to the CDC. If we're reading that chart correctly, only 0.53% of kids nationwide now have ten micrograms or more.

Also this, however:

If we're reading that chart correctly, it looks like roughly 3.5 percent of kids nationwide have levels of five micrograms or more. That would mean that Flint's kids, at 4.0 percent, are right around the national norm, at least based on that one study.

Are we reading that chart correctly? We'd like to see specialists tackle these points. In theory, Rachel Maddow or Joe Scarborough could help us with these basic points. But she's too busy chanting "Governor Snyder" while he chants "EPA."

In closing, we want to note another point by Mastio. Near the end of his piece he says this: "What happened in Flint starting in 2013 needlessly risked the health of thousands of people...Of this, there is no question. But it also true that the health threat in Flint is being exaggerated."

Is that true? Without any question, exaggeration is the lifeblood of our culture's successor to "news." But is this matter being overstated? We can't exactly tell you.

That said, Mastio offers an intriguing view about the harm such exaggeration can cause. Especially from a snarling conservative, we were struck by the highlighted point:
MASTIO: After years of progress [in the reduction of lead levels], context-free panic over events in Flint is counterproductive. It feeds the cynical idea that government always fails. And, when a more sober analysis of the health threat in Flint eventually emerges, it will damage the credibility of the politicians, public health advocates, scientists and journalists who raised alarms shorn of nuance.
According to Mastio, this latest panic could "feed the cynical idea that government always fails." If you watch Morning Joe, you'll be told it's the feds. If you watch the Maddow Show, you'll be told it was Governor Snyder.

Might this "panic" feed some such cynicism? We have no idea. But that is certainly what has happened as horrible people like Rachel and Joe refuse to discuss the rising test scores of the nation's good, decent, admirable black and Hispanic kids, a code of silence which has served all sorts of corporate interests.

How much do you have to hate those kids, and their public school teachers, to keep their improving performance a secret? We don't know how to answer that question. But we can tell you this:

Over on cable, our corporate stars await the next chance to put those children's lives to use. You can't pay "journalists" millions of dollars without producing such outcomes.