Supplemental: Drum offers information on Flint!


Or you can watch Rachel Maddow:
Over the weekend, we had a pair of conflicting experiences.

On the one hand, we read this informative, if slightly tricky, post by Kevin Drum. Drum presents information about historical blood lead levels across the country and also in Flint.

He also quotes a person he considers to be an expert about the likely severity of health effects from what has happened in Flint.

That was one experience. On the other hand, we read back through Rachel Maddow's presentations concerning Flint, starting with her initial reports on December 15 and 18 of last year.

First conclusion: we're not sure we've ever seen anyone in cable news who's less trustworthy than Maddow. You really, really can't believe the things you hear on her show.

We try to avoid the words "honest" and "dishonest" here. In doing so, we do a large favor to Maddow and her staff. It seems to us that her reports on Flint have been routinely deceptive. But then, that's the way she played it back in 2011, when she made her first attempt at discussing Michigan's "emergency manager" system.

We expect to flesh this matter out as the week proceeds. To revisit Maddow's first bite at this particular apple, you might reread this April 2011 column by Julie Mack, a reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette.

In her column, Mack identified herself as major "Rachel" fan. She also said that Maddow was grossly misrepresenting the situation in Benton Harbor, a community which was being run by an emergency manager at that time.

Concerning Maddow's "narrative," here's what Mack said in that column:

"It's a great story. If only it were that simple. Or true."

In our view, that column by Mack describes a syndrome which has been put back in play as Maddow super-simplifies and rearranges the known events in Flint.

In our view, Maddow's reports about Flint have been remarkably unreliable. It's amazing to see how far she and her staff seem willing to go to put both ass-cheeks on the scale as they shape their story-line. We expect to flesh out this claim as the week proceeds.

For today, let's consider Drum's information. Tomorrow, let's start compiling a list of basic unanswered questions concerning what's happened in Flint.

Drum presents two graphics in his post. The first portrays "elevated blood lead levels nationwide" among the nation's black and white children during certain time periods from 1976-1980 through the present.

Warning! Drum doesn't explain the graphic real well, and it requires some explanation. Please be sure to note:

In that earliest time period, Drum's graphic seems to show that roughly 50 percent of the nation's black kids had elevated blood lead levels (compared to roughly 17 percent of the nation's white kids). In the most recent time period (2007-2010), the numbers are well below 10 percent for both groups of kids.

Warning, though! In that earliest time period, Drum is using a very high standard for "elevated" lead in the blood—20 micrograms per deciliter. That's four times as high as the standard used today when you hear about kids in Flint being "poisoned," the standard Drum is using for that most recent time period.

From Drum's graphic, there's no way of knowing how many kids in that earlier period would have had an elevated lead level based on the current 5 microgram standard. That said, we're willing to take a wild guess—just about everyone would have been over the 5 microgram level back in that earlier time.

An urgent request to Drum: More information! More!

Drum's second graphic shows the tremendous decline in lead exposure which has occurred in the just the last fifteen years or so. According to Drum's graphic, 50 percent of children in Flint exceeded the 5 microgram level as recently as 1998.

By way of contrast:

When Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha reported the rise in lead exposure in Flint's kids, she initially reported a rise from 2.1 percent with elevated blood lead levels to 4.0 percent. Seventeen years before, the figure would have been 50 percent! As Drum notes at one point:

"As recently as 2008, the levels seen during the Flint water crisis would have been cause for celebration."

That doesn't mean that the mess of the past two years was anything other than "an unbelievable fiasco," to use Drum's term. It does provide some context for the wildly emotional, embellished stories Maddow has been telling you and will continue to tell.

In short, Drum's post provides information, an entity in short supply on the Maddow program, a program which is all about the promulgation of demons, heroes and victims.

Final point: Drum quotes a report in the New York Times in which Professor Dietrich says, according to a Times paraphrase, that "he did not think serious long-term health problems would be widespread" among the children in Flint.

That's a paraphrase, not a quote. Beyond that, any long-term health effects would be highly undesirable. Still and all, Drum says this:

"I've spoken with Dietrich, and he's not a guy who takes the effects of lead lightly. If he says the long-term effects in Flint are likely to be modest, I'd pay attention to him."

Any long-term health effects would be undesirable. Here too, though, you may be getting a useful perspective in the face of the irresponsible conduct Maddow keeps exhibiting, in which she heightens her own hero quotient by scaring Flint children to death.

Simply put, Rachel Maddow shouldn't be on the air. Her work is inexcusably bad. We've come to believe that she's too unbalanced to hold a major journalistic position, especially at a slacker corporate entity which seems to provide zero supervision.

That column by Julie Mack could have been written today, it sounds so much like a critique of Maddow's current work. Tomorrow, we'll draw a list of basic questions which remain unanswered about the story in Flint. But before the week is done, we hope to take a detailed look at the reports Maddow has done.

Julie Mack, a "Rachel" fan, described a syndrome five years ago. Five years later, the syndrome in question is very much with us again.


  1. Drum may seem fuzzy to Bob in that he seems to view the situation as as something more complex that a stick to hit Rachel Maddow with.

    1. Greg's Disappointed FamilyFebruary 1, 2016 at 5:37 PM

      Sorry, Greg, but to the extent Maddow is misleading and misinforming (rather a large extent!) -- she very much deserves what stick she's getting.

    2. Rachel had been hit with Bob's stick ever since someone wrote that she said something nice about Chris Matthews. Since she did not respond to Bob Somerby's blog, which demanded an explanation, he announced he would treat her with contempt. And he has kept his word.

      He keeps a vendetta going equal to or better than the New York Times.

    3. What responsible LIBERAL journalist at a supposedly LIBERAL station would gush over Chris Matthews as Maddow did? She deserves contempt because she sucks up to power when she should be speaking truth to it. And she keeps doing bad things, which is why he keeps writing about her.

    4. The MSM (the propaganda arm of corporations) will never allow a LIBERAL to speak truth to power.
      If you want to heap contempt on Maddow for play-acting in order to make a good living, feel free. But don't make believe she could be a LIBERAL and still hold a job in the MSM.

  2. Another great piece--Maddow is disgraceful.

    1. Bob Somerby's #1 Fan Since Before The Teapot Dome ScandalFebruary 2, 2016 at 2:26 AM

      Another great comment - Bob's so good it's not even funny.

    2. She is. And I'll keep bringing this up until it sticks:

      Maddow (and now Media Matters agrees) takes credit for first breaking this story. Wrong. Amy Goodman did on December 17 on Democracy Now. And she's been covering the independent manager fiasco for years.

      Maddow continually steals from Democracy Now, and they never get the credit.

  3. Off topic. Responding to the claim that the New York Times is conducting a vendetta against Hillary. The Times haven't reported this story, so far:

    Discussions with Intelligence Community officials have revealed that Ms. Clinton’s “unclassified” emails included Holy Grail items of American espionage such as the true names of Central Intelligence Agency intelligence officers serving overseas under cover. Worse, some of those exposed are serving under non-official cover. NOCs are the pointy end of the CIA spear and they are always at risk of exposure – which is what Ms. Clinton’s emails have done.

    Not only have these spies had their lives put in serious risk by this, it’s a clear violation of Federal law. The Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, enacted due to the murder of the CIA’s station chief in Athens after his cover was blown by the left-wing media, makes it a Federal crime to divulge the true identity of any covert operative serving U.S. intelligence if that person has not previous been publicly acknowledged to be working for our spy agencies.

    People really go to jail for breaking this law. John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, recently emerged from two years in prison for unauthorized disclosure of classified information, including exposing the identity of an Agency colleague who was serving under cover.

    Anyone possessing political memory will recall that this law was also the centerpiece of the 2003 scandal surrounding Valerie Plame, a CIA NOC officer whose identity appeared in the media after it was exposed by the George W. Bush White House.

    1. Wasn't the guy who wrote that article fired from his job for sending e-mail photos of the same item as a Congressman from New York named Weiner?

    2. Sure enough...

    3. They haven't released any info so conservatives feel free to say whatever they think will hurt her.


      One good turn deserves another. W never went to jail for "breaking this law."

      What a trite, predictable, tired troll you are.

    5. So what are you trying to say, Soapy?

      1) Whatever Clinton did with her e-mails is OK because others before her did something similar? or

      2) Clinton was well aware of what the Bush people did with private e-mail servers so she should never have established her own private system.

    6. Dave the Guitar PlayerFebruary 2, 2016 at 1:08 PM

      I really don't see how having a private server is "unauthorized disclosure" of anything. And, I don't believe there is (at present) any verifiable facts that suggest that there were any names in the emails that should not have been disclosed. And, what George Bush did was deliberate and for political gain and is not really comparable and had nothing to do with private servers. Given what we know today, Hillary Clinton has done nothing illegal, despite the allegations of her enemies. You can believe what you like, but that does not make it true.

    7. @ 10:48 AM-

      1) No.
      2) No.

      Breitbart ->>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  4. Huffington Post is calling Iowa a dead heat even though Hillary won, 49.9 to 49.6. The person with the most votes wins, unless it is Hillary.

    1. Is it 49.9 in total votes or 49.9 in delegates?

    2. It is truly unfair since Clinton herself claimed a "big sigh of relief."

    3. @10:31

      It is percent of the votes of the people caucusing. Clinton got 23 delegates, Sanders got 21. That makes Clinton the winner and it was not a tie, although it was close.

    4. Well @ 10:41 I not only believe you are mistaken, I know it.

      The percentage results reported are the number of delgates won to the state convention. The total number of delegates assigned to counties and the precincts were detemined before election. Thus Sanders could have won all the delegates from a precinct and won the actual vote by 100 while Clinton won all the delegates in a
      neighboring precinct and won the actual vote by 200. But because the number of delegates were predetermined, both Sanders and Clinton could have won 5 delegates each.

      Delegate counts do not tell you who got the most votes.

      A 23 to 21 outcome cannot possibly result in a 49.9% to 49.6% margin in any mathematical system I ever learned.

    5. Then the NY Times is wrong too. And the various other sites reporting the outcome. Your beef is with them, not me.

    6. I have no beef with those who make mistakes.

      I do have a beef with people who cannot admit them. They are like those who believe that because Donald Trump says the Mexican coming here are rapists, they are rapists.

  5. I'll repeat something said in an earlier combox thread about this Drum post.

    Drum read the same New York Times article Bob did. He himself includes some quotes, including this:

    "Kim Dietrich, a professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said that based partly on the blood lead levels of children in Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s study, he did not think serious long-term health problems would be widespread."

    Then Drum himself immediately says:

    "I've spoken with Dietrich, and he's not a guy who takes the effects of lead lightly. If he says the long-term effects in Flint are likely to be modest, I'd pay attention to him.

    But why would the effects be modest?"

    You will note that two times Drum uses a phrase he attributes to Dr. effects are likely to be modest. You will also note that Dietrich is not quoted as saying that at all. He said serious effects are not likely to be widespread.

    I can imagine "Dr." Bob and "Dr." Kevin explaining to parents of a seriously lead poisoned child:

    "Don't worry, the serious damage to your child is really modest because he is the only kid on this block who suffers from it. That means overall the effect is not widespread so it is, therefore modest."

    Embarassing jibber jabber from a liberal journalist and it is amazingly missed by a blogger who spend 18 years telling us the differnce between "create" and "invent."

    1. How many seriously lead poisoned children do you imagine there were, given the small percentages of lead being reported? In such a case, there must be other sources of lead than the water supply because the amount of lead measured there was insufficient to cause serious lead poisoning. THAT is the point of all of these articles.

      Imagining serious effects is not healthy for anyone, liberal, journalist, parent or troll.

    2. I am not imagining the fact that because there is one seriously idiotic commenter loose in the combox, the effects of idiocy are widespread. Nor do I think that because it is not widespread, your idiocy is modest.

    3. Explanations Wasted on TrollsFebruary 2, 2016 at 7:30 PM

      The damage to one kid = not modest

      The damage to Flint = modest

  6. I enjoy Maddow's presentations.

    1. She must be funnier than Bob. He never made $7 million in his whole comedy career. He probably never made $70 thousand. We just don't know.

    2. Trump Logic Prevails in ComboxFebruary 2, 2016 at 7:31 PM

      Maddow isn't awful, she's rich!

    3. Combox Logic Prevails in Trump TowersFebruary 2, 2016 at 8:28 PM

      Richie Rich isn't awful, he's Maddow.

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