BREAKING FROM BABEL: The New York Times finds Allentown!


Will Maddow follow suit:
This morning, right on the front page, the New York Times has finally found Allentown.

You might say the famous newspaper has located life outside Flint. Hard-copy headline included, this is the way Michael Wines began his news report, which carries a Cleveland dateline:
WINES (3/4/16): Beyond Flint, Lead Poisoning Persists Despite Decades-Old Fight

CLEVELAND—One hundred fifty miles northwest of here, the residents of Flint, Mich., are still reeling from the drinking water debacle that more than doubled the share of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood—to a peak, in mid-2014, of 7 percent of all children tested.

Clevelanders can only sympathize. The comparable number here is 14.2 percent.

The poisoning of Flint’s children outraged the nation. But too much lead in children’s blood has long been an everyday fact in Cleveland and scores of other cities...
Say what? According to Wines, Flint had a 7 percent excessive exposure rate at the worst point in its current ordeal. (We don't know where he got that number.)

In Cleveland, the rate of excessive exposure is twice as high! Eventually, Wines even said this:
WINES: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that four million of those most dangerous households have children. A half-million children—in Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Allentown, Pa., where a remarkable 23.1 percent of children tested had excessive lead—are believed to have enough lead in their blood to merit a doctor’s attention.
Say what? At its worst point, seven percent of children in Flint displayed excessive exposure to lead. The corresponding figure from Allentown is 23.1 percent—more than three times as high!

Thanks to other people's work, we've been noting such facts for the past two months. It took the Times a while to get off its ascot and do this reporting. But Wines goes into detail about the scope of the problem in today's front-page report.

Eventually, returning to Cleveland, Wines even tells us this:
WINES: In 2010, researchers estimated that 7.7 percent of the nation’s black children younger than 6 had blood lead levels above five micrograms per deciliter. But in Glenville, 26.5 percent of children tested in 2014—286 children in all—exceeded that standard. Two registered more than 45 micrograms, the threshold for hospitalization to remove lead from the body.

Cleveland tested less than half its under-6 population. How many other children are at risk is unknown, but an Ohio State University analysis suggests that in some census tracts, it could be more than four in 10.
In Flint, the alarm was triggered when Dr. Hanna-Attisha's study showed that the exposure rate had gone from 2.1 percent up to 4.0 percent after the switch to Flint River water. According to Wines, the exposure rate may be ten times that high in some census tracts in Cleveland! As recently as 2010, the exposure rate was twice that high for the nation's black kids as a whole.

Wines explains a key point. In most of these instances, the exposure to lead is caused by exposure to lead paint, not by ingestion of lead in drinking water. That said, the potential damage is the same, however a child is exposed.

We'd say Wines is guilty of one or two key omissions. He doesn't explain what exposure rates were like in earlier decades. We think those extremely high exposure rates help provide some basic context for people who want to understand this nationwide state of affairs.

We'd also say he does too little explaining about the types of damage one should expect at lower rates of excessive exposure. "Lead poisoning" is a scary term. For journalistic purposes, it may spread more heat than light.

That said, the fact that the Times has finally done this background reporting raises an important question. Will someone tell the Maddow Show to stop its disgraceful clowning around with this national state of affairs?

For viewers of the Maddow Show, overexposure to lead is a problem for children in Flint and for children nowhere else. In a highly typical manner, Maddow has played the state of affairs in Flint as a way to attack Rick Snyder, one of her favorite political demons. (For better or worse, she has several—and she's thrilled when they end up in jail.)

If you watch the Maddow Show, lead poisoning exists in Flint, and it exists nowhere else. Maddow has never so much as mentioned the fact that exposure rates are much higher elsewhere. On Maddow's highly novelized program, Flint represents "a humanitarian crisis of international proportions." The lead-exposed children in Cleveland and Allentown don't even seem to exist.

In many ways, Rachel Maddow has become our own tribe's Donald Trump. This is why we say that:

Over in the other tribe, many voters can't see through the silly scams they're constantly sold by Trump. Over here in our own brilliant tribe, we tend to have the same problem with the endless mugging and clowning and pimping of self which is constantly peddled by Maddow.

Exposure rates in Cleveland and Allentown are substantially worse than that in Flint. The same can be said of many other cities. At sites like Vox and Kevin Drum, this news has been spreading for months. As of today, even the Times has gotten around to reporting this basic fact.

Will the day ever come when Maddow, who isn't obsessively honest, tells her viewers the rest of the story? Or will she keep using the children of Flint as stars of a private morality tale in which Governor Snyder is the key villain and she herself is cast in the role of one of the genius heroes?

We'll guess that Maddow will never tell. Whether we tribals can see it or not, she tends to play it that way, something like Candidate Trump.


  1. No comments yet? On the facts?

  2. Perhaps his comparing Maddow to Trump made both fans and trolls realize that Bob needs professional help.

  3. Of course Bob doesn't tell you that on the day the New York Times ran this one article, they had five more on Flint.

    Will the day ever come when Bob tells his readers about the latest NAEP scores? Or will he cover them just like Rachel Maddow has covered Allentown?

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