Supplemental: It's time for Maddow to get off her asp!


For information concerning Flint, please read an opinion column:
How should people understand the situation in Flint?

Many questions remain unanswered. Indeed, most questions remain unasked, unaddressed. Here are a few examples:

How serious are health effects likely to be for the children of Flint? How do rates of exposure to lead in Flint compare to rates in other communities?

Also this: How do rates of exposure in Flint compare to nationwide rates over the past fifty years? Questions like these might help us assess the level of harm which has been done in Flint.

Questions like these aren't being addressed in our major newspapers. Questions like these aren't being addressed on the Rachel Maddow Show, whose host likes to pat herself on the back for allegedly making Flint a national topic.

On Maddow, it has largely been narrative all the way down—and the narrative has been politically partisan. The most basic types of information have barely been allowed to intrude.

On the Maddow Show, Flint is sold as an AMERICAN DISASTER, the "mass poisoning of an entire town." Beyond that, the disaster was caused by a perfect villain—Michigan governor Rick Snyder.

Viewers don't need to know more than that. Information can go hang; it's been story-line all the way down!

Ironically, a familiar old pattern emerged last week with respect to the situation in Flint. That peculiar old pattern looks something like this:

If it's information you want, you must read an opinion column!

In this case, the column was that of Nicholas Kristof in Sunday's New York Times. The column was full of the type of information you aren't being given by Maddow, or by the news divisions of the Times or the Post.

Should Flint be understood as an AMERICAN DISASTER—presumably, as an unusual outlier? Kristof seemed to say that the answer is no—but then, he added some basic information to the politically partisan, bathos-based story-line Maddow has been peddling.

Early on, Kristof said this:
KRISTOF (2/7/16): [L]ead poisoning goes far beyond Flint, and in many parts of America seems to be even worse.

“Lead in Flint is the tip of the iceberg,” notes Dr. Richard J. Jackson,
former director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Flint is a teachable moment for America.”

In Flint, 4.9 percent of children tested for lead turned out to have elevated levels. That’s inexcusable. But in 2014 in New York State outside of New York City, the figure was 6.7 percent. In Pennsylvania, 8.5 percent. On the west side of Detroit, one-fifth of the children tested in 2014 had lead poisoning. In Iowa for 2012, the most recent year available, an astonishing 32 percent of children tested had elevated lead levels. (I calculated most of these numbers from C.D.C. data.)
Are Kristof's data accurate? If so, an obvious question arises:

If Flint is an AMERICAN DISASTER, what are we supposed to call the state of Iowa, where Kristof says the statewide exposure rate is roughly nine times that of Flint? (At present, the exposure level in Flint in back down in the general range of 3.5 percent.)

What about the city of Detroit, whose exposure rate is more than five times that of Flint? How should we think about that?

Kristof's column was the latest source of this type of context. Before it appeared, other articles had appeared, noting that exposure rates are much higher in many other areas than they are in Flint. For two examples, see last Friday's report.

None of this information has been allowed to intrude on the spotless story-line being churned by Maddow's spotless, corporate cable, multimillionaire celebrity mind. For years, we've told you that Rachel Maddow just isn't obsessively honest. Her disgraceful handling of this topic has become an ugly case in point.

Kristof and those who came before him help us see an awkward fact. Despite the giant bungling which led to the situation in Flint, there seems to be nothing especially shocking, within the modern American context, about that city's rate of exposure.

Despite this fact, Maddow continues to rant and rail about the "mass poisoning" of the children of Flint. She says nothing about the children in Allentown, Pa., where the exposure rate is six times that of Flint. She says nothing about the children of Iowa, a state at which she has directed reams of time-wasting nonsense of late.

She'll tell you about the Hawkeye State's polls, but not about its even more "mass poisoned" children!

Kristof's column offered the type of information which start to give us perspective and context. A letter in today's Washington Post takes matters one step further.

The letter is from Joseph Cotruvo, director of the EPA’s drinking water standards division from 1976 to 1990. In speaking up for his former agency Cotruvo offers some historical context. More significantly, he starts to poke at the most important question of all:

How serious are the health effects likely to be in Flint? (And in Iowa, and in Allentown, and in all the other places Maddow refuses to mention.) We were especially struck by the second passage we've highlighted in this excerpt from Cotruvo's letter:
COTRUVO (2/9/16): The EPA has taken some flak for its regional office’s inaction. But the EPA should get credit for the major nationwide reduction in lead exposure when it eliminated leaded gasoline, the dominant source of lead exposure, years ago. The average lead blood level for children was 16 micrograms per deciliter in 1976.

A recent report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services indicated that 3.4 percent of the child blood measurements in Flint were greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter, and 0.6 percent were greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that fewer than 2.5 percent of U.S. children between ages 1 and 5 exceed 5 micrograms, its reference level. It recommends medical treatment at 45 micrograms per deciliter.
Maddow viewers may be surprised to learn that "the EPA has taken some flak for its regional office's inaction" during the mess in Flint. Maddow has studiously avoided this fact during her utterly phony "coverage" of this topic.

Instead, she has tended to play the EPA as a hero, with Snyder cast as the story's sole villain. Indeed, he's the one who "mass poisoned an entire town," according to the terms of Maddow's morality play.

Cotruvo's letter provides some striking historical context. In 1976, he says, "the average lead blood level for children was 16 micrograms per deciliter." Presumably, that would mean that something like half of American children had lead levels above 16 micrograms per deciliter at that time.

Today, those children are in their 40s. You may know some people like that.

In 1976, something like half of American children had lead levels above 16 micrograms per deciliter. By way of contrast, in modern-day, "mass-poisoned" Flint, the exposure rate topped out at 4.9 percent of children having lead levels above five micrograms per deciliter—and five is less than 16!

By all accounts, we don't want anyone displaying such rates of exposure. That said, this historical information creates a bit of perspective as we try to figure out how big a DISASTER this situation actually is.

So how about it? How big a disaster is the AMERICAN DISASTER which is now being peddled, for profit and fun, by Maddow and her corporate owners? In other words, how bad are the health effects likely to be in Flint?

Maddow has made exactly zero attempt to answer that ultimate question. Neither have the news divisions of the Washington Post and the New York Times.

So far, we've barely seen anyone try to explain how bad the health effects are likely to be. But as we read Cotruvo's letter, we were struck by this assertion:

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention...recommends medical treatment at 45 micrograms per deciliter."

Say what? According to Cotruvo, well under one percent of Flint's kids are testing above 10 micrograms per deciliter. Meanwhile. the CDC "recommends medical treatment at 45 micrograms per deciliter?"

A cynic would say that this situation sounds less like an AMERICAN DISASTER all the time. Having said that, let's quickly add this:

It's time for the horrible Maddow to do some real reporting. It wouldn't hurt if the Times and the Post did some reporting too, even in this post-Dowd era.

Here's what the horrific Maddow should report, preferably speaking to qualified experts rather than to the inside of her own unstable head:

What are the health effects likely to be for the children in Flint? How bad are the health effects likely to be at the blood lead levels which seem to have recorded?

We ask for an obvious reason:

Maddow keeps telling the people of Flint that they've been "mass poisoned." This makes for a very good partisan narrative if you're happily seeking the head of your latest partisan villain.

It also makes an extremely scary claim for the parents and children of Flint.

History teaches us a very important lesson. Unbalanced people like Rachel Maddow will do many things for the fame and the dough, and perhaps in the need to persuade themselves of their internal worth. Starting tomorrow night—tonight is reserved for Granite State speculation and clowning—Maddow should try to provide some real information about those real children's actual lives.

Maddow has been playing an ugly game with the lives of the children of Flint. It's been partisan narrative all the way down, with script and bathos and partisan pleasure in place of information.

Just for a night or two, Maddow should drop her clowning and her hero posture and try to present information. She might even have Professor Edwards as a guest, something she seems to have been avoiding.

(Warning! Edwards is very, very negative about the EPA. He seems to think that Snyder was lied to at some point. These unfortunate heresies could complicate our tribe's preferred story-line.)

How will those actual children in Flint actually be affected? In our view, it's time for Maddow to drop her revolting hero pose and do some actual work.

In theory, she's paid her $7 million per year to develop real information. Our question:

Will this deeply entitled cable monster ever get off her corporate-fueled asp?

Tomorrow: Recent pseudo-reporting about Flint in the Post and the Times


  1. ...and, Of Course, we've got to implicitly praise the idea of replacing all those dangerous pipes right away, now, now, now.

    Never mind the fact that disaster has sometimes followed such action in other areas areas that recklessly jumped to this seemingly obvious solution.

    Let's quote some reporting from the NYT, today:

    "Residents did not find out [about elevated levels of lead in Washington DC tap water, following a 2001 change in disinfection] for three years. When they did, officials ripped out lead water pipes feeding 17,000 homes -- and discovered three years later [!] that many of the repairs had only prolonged the contamination."

    1. Bob's Ascot Busser strikes again, and like the Blogger himself, conveniently leaves out a major point.

      "The CDC concluded that homeowners [in D.C.] who had pipes only partially replaced may have made the problem worse.

      From 2004 to 2008, the District replaced water lines serving 17,600 homes, Hawkins said. Homeowners were responsible for the portion of the pipes on their property. In 14,800 of those homes, owners chose not to make any additional repairs."

      Blogger Bob and his friend, in an effort to discredit their foe, presume mistakes made elsewhere will always be repeated. Thus endorsing the status quo.

      Because Bob would rather poison children than resist a chance to take a swipe at Maddow.

    2. None of that vindicates Maddow a bit, of course.

    3. No. It simply indicates Bob Somerby and you are unpaid versions of that which you and he claim Maddow to be.

      Once again the average member of Tribe Bob shows neither the smarts or the honesty to realize that criticism of Bob does not mean defense of his targets.

  2. Leave it to Honest Bob to Use a Reliable Source to Refute a Rhodes Scholar

    "For years, we've told you that Rachel Maddow just isn't obsessively honest."

    Bob Today

    "Kristof isn’t always especially smart. In our view, he wasn’t obsessively honest."

    Bob A Year Ago

  3. "Kristof and those who came before him help us see an awkward fact. Despite the giant bungling which led to the situation in Flint, there seems to be nothing especially shocking, within the modern American context, about that city's rate of exposure."

    This can't be. The nooz says there is a DISASTER POISONING CRISIS SCANDAL.

    1. Of course Bob, to arrive at what "seems" not to be shocking about Flint has to diappear the openiong of the Kristof piece:

      "WE have been rightfully outraged by the lead poisoning of children in Flint, Mich. — an outrage that one health expert called “state-sponsored child abuse.”

      Bob has a meme:

      "Should Flint be understood as an AMERICAN DISASTER—presumably, as an unusual outlier? Kristof seemed to saythat the answer is no.."

      Bob went on to quote some statistics compiled by Kristof, who he has previously repeatedly called a cherry picker, then gleefully say:

      "Are Kristof's data accurate? If so, an obvious question arises:"

      Then Bob, who rails and rails about reporters disappearing things that harm their meme, diappears Kristof's very next paragraph:

      "none of this diminishes the tragedy of Flint, which is particularly horrifying because it was delivered by the government through the municipal water system even as state officials scoffed at the local outcry. In any case, data collection is poor so we don’t have a good handle on the scale of the problem either in Flint or elsewhere: Take comparisons with a grain of salt.

      Bob has to save his salt. He wants to flavor the Rachel Pig after he kills it and roasts her.

  4. Why in the world would a life-form like Kristof deceive his readers this way?

    Dumb and dishonest? Disgusting and strange?
    Kristof seems to get stranger by the month.

    Kristof is becoming a relentless moral scold. Our Own Dimmesdale—Our Own Upper-Class Moral Scold!

    Kristof is turning into one of the worst examples of a familiar type, the condemnatory moral scold. As a columnist, it seems to us that Kristof is becoming a bit of a basket case.

    Who died and made Nicholas Kristof the king of Dana Carvey’s “church ladies?”

    In a remarkably deceptive way, Kristof cherry-picked.

    Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! For those who have read Kristof over the years, it’s impossible to imagine the sensitive scribe offering fair-and-balanced sets of complaints.

  5. Trolls here don't seem to understand that you judge people's behavior, not their essential being. If Kristof writes a bad column, it is the column that is bad, not the man. If Maddow does a bad show, it is the show that is bad, not her.

    That means it is possible for Kristof to do something right one day and something wrong the next without there being the slightest contradiction in the chastisement of one columns and the praise of the other.

    1. Moral scold. Deceptive. Cherry picker. Deceptive Life form. Dumb. Dishonest.

      Seems like Malala like praise from a lifelong follower of Martin Luther King, Jr. to me.

    2. But if you keep doing it, there might be something functional that's wrong with the behavior.

    3. The good news is that the totally unacceptable, unsustainable state of America's infrastructure is being exposed for what it truly is by the press. The bad news is that there is no real movement to push for meaningful change or reform. It's not just the infrastructure that's crumbling. All of our institutions are suffering The nation exists in stasis.

  6. whatever you think of bob, can't we all agree that maddow is an annoying hack?

    1. whats with the comma and question mark

  7. Did anyone notice how Bob failed to mention the child Kristof covers in his column?

    Bob disappears a little boy named Malachi. A child who was lead poisoned.

    Surely Bob would want to mention Kristof covering a child who suffers from lead poisoning. Because Bob wrote a whole series "Crucifying Kristof" in which he criticized Kristof for not giving more coverage to the children of a dead childhood friend Kristof had eulogized.

    Bob didn't mention Malachi. He is a black child.

    Plainly, this is a terrible story, however one might explain it. But so what? In his rush to condemn Maddow, Bob brushes past this obvious tragedy in a truly remarkable way.

    Bob didn't mention Malachi. Kristof wrote a column about him before back in June. Bob never mentioned him. He is from Baltimore.

    Bob doesn't care about black children.

  8. Poor Bob. He can't get over his Maddow obsession. Just can't handle that she makes $7 million and he doesn't.

  9. Hillary Clinton is pimping the hell out of the Flint myth.

    1. Hell, if Alabama driver's license office closings were worth two "blasts from the Jim Crow past" then Flint ought to be high on her list. Real people were poisoned.

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