No effect on public health in Flint?


The things our tribe isn't told:
Is Kevin Drum allowed to say that?

Drum has been the reporter of record concerning exposure to lead. For his 2013 cover report go Mother Jones about the effects of lead, you can just click here.

Drum has been the go-to guy on the effects of lead. But in his latest post about Flint, the gentleman tells us this:
DRUM (8/13/19): What happened in Flint was horrible. That said, Flint is now one of the most heavily studied cities in America, and virtually every credible study suggests the same thing: not only did the switch to Flint River water have no effect on public health, it never significantly increased blood lead levels in the first place. This might be because Flint water was never heavily lead poisoned to begin with, or it might be because Flint residents started using bottled water and tap filters fairly quickly after the alarms were sounded.

Either way, both parents and children in Flint should by now feel confident that their water debacle, as outrageous as it was, is vanishingly unlikely to have had any noticeable health effects. That’s a good thing.
Say what? Virtually every credible study says the switch to Flint River water "had no effect on public health?"

If you've read Drum's many posts and reports down through the years, you might not be surprised by that assertion. If you watch Rachel Maddow and read the New York Times, you'll think that claim has to be nuts.

Watching Maddow, we were told, again and again, about the way everyone in the whole city had been "poisoned." Needless to say, Maddow's main focus seemed to involve the desire to see people get thrown into jail.

Is it possible that what Drum says in this post is true? Is it possible that, even though the bungling was "horrible," the credible studies say there was no harm—and certainly, no major harm—done to public health?

We aren't specialists in this area, but based on our reading of Drum, we'd assume that this may well be true. As Drum later says, "that's a good thing"—except for the insult to the dignity of the tribe, of course.

Our liberal tribe loved the story about the way the Republican governor had "poisoned" the children of Flint. Maddow broadcast this pleasing story night after night after night.

As with Michael Brown, so too here—reliable sources aren't going to tell you what Drum's reporting has shown. This raises an anthropological question, one we've raised before:

Is man [sic] really "the rational animal," as we've long been told? Or are we instead inclined to divide ourselves into tribes, then run on "gossip" and on compelling group "fictions," with a healthy dose of our species' lack of tolerance thrown in the stew?

That's what Professor Harari has said.
And his book, a giant ongoing best-seller, is blurbed on the front by Bill Gates!

Barack Obama blurbed it too. Could Professor Harari be right?

One way harm may have done done: Flint's children were told, again and again, that they had been "poisoned."

Can such reports cause harm all by themselves, even in the absence of fact? We confess that we sent Drum the New Yorker report upon which he based this post.

As part of that post, Drum graphed the (vastly declining) blood lead levels among children in Flint from 1998 through 2016. If this matter is new to you, it's very much worth a look.

You heard nothing about this from Maddow. Is this just the nature of tribe?


  1. "Is this just the nature of tribe?"

    Oh, so brazen lies are "just the nature of tribe" - and the question mark.

    As opposed to 7 times "crazy" and 20 times "crackpot" for something that, at least in part, may very well be true.

    I'm sorry, Bob, but you sound like may be a zombie.

  2. “parents and children in Flint should by now feel confident that their water debacle, as outrageous as it was, is vanishingly unlikely to have had any noticeable health effects.”

    It was an “outrageous debacle”, yet without noticeable health effects.

    It seems good that the water crisis “never significantly increased blood lead levels in the first place.”

    But that may be, according to Drum, “because Flint residents started using bottled water and tap filters fairly quickly after the alarms were sounded.”

    Studies have shown significantly increased lead levels after the switch of water sources. That is presumably what makes this an “outrageous debacle” in the first place. That this resulted in no “noticeable” health effects, if that is indeed the case, is a good thing, but this seems to be due to a public outcry and focus, of which Maddow was a part, which caused Flint residents to take precautionary steps to avoid the worst of the health effects. This also caused the state and federal governments to step in quickly to remediate.

    Rather than condemning those expressing public concern over this outrageous debacle, perhaps we should thank those like Maddow who publicly intervened to ensure that there were ultimately no “noticeable health effects.”

    1. Good counterpoint to TDH. Great harm could have resulted and those in charge were acting in reckless disregard of the risk, which still demands accountability. But to TDH's point, now the facts should be reported by the same media outlets that sounded the alarm.

  3. Hey Bob, look: your goebbelsian zombie-hack Kevin is wishing for an economic downturn - to hurt The Donald. Zombie hatred is really going off the charts.

    The nature of your "tribe" - your liberal zombie cult - is truly amazing, isn't it, dear Bob?

    1. Who knew Mitch McConnell wants Trump to be a one term President too?

  4. We love our narratives: narratives let us determine the meaning of actions and situations. But, notably, when we have used a persuasive story to distill meaning, we have avoided analysis of function (knowledge of systematic necessity of a scientific nature). Humans have their hobbies, but most of us do not have much capacity to understand much of the science behind the modern world. So we want truth distilled into meaning, not the open-ended doubt and ambiguity that surround theory and evidence.

    The integrity and intelligence of those who mediate between factual determination and the telling of “true” stories is often doubtful.

    Did what happen in Flint justify a degree of moral panic? I think it did. I think it would have been better for the State of Michigan and the Federal EPA if official misconduct had been penalized more severely. Drum’s interpretation of long-term consequences as a narrative meaning “no harm, no foul” is a prescription for a failed state strikes me as likely to confirm complacency where it was not justified. You do not have to think Maddow’s Clowning to constitute adequate altruistic punishment or even to encapsulate some desire for justice to see that the country and world is more in danger from elite malfeasance than from crying wolf. Pooh-poohing pervasive corruption and mounting environmental risks is a bipartisan process that gives us a choice of monsters and drama criticism as commentary.

  5. Quiet day, eh?

    That's because Soros-paid dembots in India have the day off today. The Independence Day.

    No worries, poor bastards will be back tomorrow, to keep entertaining us with their word-salads.

    1. And you'll be right here, too. Running interference for your pals in the Establishment.

      BTW, do you have to pay David royalties for using his racist shtick these past few days?
      Pshaw. As if you give a shit about anything than the plutocrats grift. Who do you think you're fooling?

  6. The water *was* poisoned. Fortunately, the people largely didn't drink it.

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