CHILDREN OF FLINT: Semi-postponed, if just for one day!


Joe Biden and Limbaugh instead: On this one somewhat happier day, we hate to return to the question under review:

How much harm has been done to the good, decent children of Flint?

We'll push our discussion back one day, For today, we'll focus briefly on Joe Biden and Rush Limbaugh instead.

Yesterday, a bit before noon, Biden became the American president. He then delivered his inaugural address. We'll note a few things he said.

We'll note this part of his speech as we start. The president's highlighted statement is accurate, but it's also remarkably limited:

BIDEN (1/20/21): Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans? I think I know. Opportunity. Security. Liberty. Dignity. Respect. Honor. And, yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders—leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation—to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.

"There is truth and there are lies," the new president said. 

Each part of that statement is accurate. But the overall statement is remarkably limited, and it invites us to fail in a daunting task, a task the new president urges.

Concerning the existence of truth, Boise is the capital of Idaho; two plus two does make four. These are clear examples of "truth." There's plenty of truth in the world.

There are also plenty of lies. But as people have understood until recently, there are also a wide array of misstatements which aren't, or may not be, lies.

There are false statements made in good faith. Such errors are made all the time.

There are also misleading statements which are technically accurate. There are ironic statements, perhaps even jokes, where the speaker's intention may be misunderstood. 

There are pleasing narratives, Storylines, which distort our wider vision. And, as people once understood, it's often very hard to know if some other person is lying.

In recent years, we liberals have loved to accuse the others of lies. In doing so, we create debates we can't hope to win. In the process, we tend to heighten the tribal divisions Biden has said we should end.

In truth, the new president's highlighted statement was strikingly simplistic. That said, it fits a simple-minded view of the world we have adopted, here in Our Town,very much as our own.

The new president went on to say that there are "lies told for power and for profit." Undoubtedly, that statement is true, and it leads us toward Rush Limbaugh.

In this morning's New York Times, Jeremy Peters reports some recent remarks by Limbaugh. In fact, the remarks were made yesterday afternoon. Here's part of Peters' report:

PETERS (1/21/21): Rush Limbaugh, broadcasting his weekday radio show a few miles from the Palm Beach retreat where Mr. Trump is spending the first days of his post-presidency, told his millions of listeners on Wednesday that the inauguration of Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris did not make them the rightful winners of the election.

“They have not legitimately won yet,” Mr. Limbaugh said, noting that he would be on “thin ice” for making such a claim. He then gave his listeners a false and inflated vote total for Mr. Trump and predicted the Democratic victories would be “fleeting.”

“I think they know, with 74 million, maybe 80 million people who didn’t vote for Joe Biden, there is no way they can honestly say to themselves that they represent the power base in the country,” Mr. Limbaugh said.

Biden and Harris "have not legitimately won yet,” Limbaugh is quoted saying. From there, Peters' account of what Limbaugh said gets a little bit fuzzy.

According to official totals, 74.2 million people voted for Trump. We're not sure why Peters says that Limbaugh gave "a false vote total for trump."

 According to the leading authority, almost three million additional votes went to candidates other than Biden. That moves the total who didn't vote for Biden closer to 89 million. 

That said, why hasn't Biden "legitimately won?" Did Limbaugh try to support his claim? 

Peters never attempts to explain. What follows was somewhat clearer:

PETERS (continuing directly): On One America News, viewers saw a lengthy documentary-style segment called “Trump: Legacy of a Patriot” instead of the inauguration. One of the network’s commentators, Pearson Sharp, provided the voice-over and offered only flattering words about the former president while he leveled false claims about voter fraud.

Mr. Sharp repeated many of the discredited excuses that have formed the alternate version of events that Mr. Trump and his followers are using to explain his loss. The host claimed, for instance, that Mr. Trump couldn’t have been defeated because he won the bellwether state of Ohio and carried so many more counties than Mr. Biden did. “And yet somehow we’re still expected to believe that Joe Biden got more votes than any president in history,” Mr. Sharp said.

Did OAN's Preston Sharp (actual name!) actually make those ridiculous (paraphrased) claims? Did he really say that Candidate Biden couldn't have won because Candidate Trump won Ohio?

Did he really say that Biden must have lost because Trump won more counties, presumably nationwide? Those would be transcendently stupid claims. Sadly, though, we know of no reason to doubt that Sharp (real name!) may have made them.

This sort of thing has been going on roughly forever. Utterly ridiculous claims have been broadcast for many years. Along the way, these ridiculous claims have been tied to oodles of profit. 

As has become abundantly clear, many people believe such absurd misstatements. For roughly the past twenty years, we've said this about that:

When people like Limbaugh and Hannity broadcast such claims, it should be treated as front-page news. Today, the New York Times placed Peters' report deep inside, on page B4. 

For the record, when people believe and repeat such claims, they're emitting absurd misstatements. But unless we've decided to change the English language, such people are not "telling lies."

In recent years, the children who live in the streets of Our Town have been eager to change the language. Because we're almost as dumb as the others, we seem to think that accusing people of "lies" is more effective and accurate, in some undisclosed way, than accusing them of having made "absurd / unsupported misstatements."

That's how childish we've turned out to be over here in Our Town! And since the L-bomb is a fairly obvious "fighting word," it seems to us that we harm our own interests when we play the tribal game in this pleasing way.

The statement by Biden posted above is, in a word, simple-minded. It's true that the world is full of "lies." But as Hamlet thoughtfully said, "There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

The world isn't just truth and lies. It's also damn-fool stupidity and gross self-regard, each of which is widely observed here in the streets of Our Town.

We end with a second statement about Biden's speech, and with a statement about Rachel Maddow and the children of Flint:

The president went on make these remarks. They shape the key message of his address. We agree with every word:

BIDEN: I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation...

But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility.

As my mom would say just for a moment, stand in their shoes. Because here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days when you need a hand, there are other days when we’re called to lend a hand.

Biden suggested at several points that we must learn to stand in the others' shoes as we seek to rebuild our national unity. At each juncture, it seemed to us that those in Our Town might hear that as advice delivered to the others, not to us right here in Our Town.

In Their Town, many people believe the things they hear from Limbaugh and OAN. Over here, in the streets of Our Town, we seem to trust Rachel Maddow.

What happened to the "poisoned" children of Flint? We return to that question tomorrow.

Coming tomorrow:  Kevin Drum's statistics. Also, what The New Yorker said



  1. First Somerby lists a couple of objective facts. Then he switches from facts to lies and begins talking about misstatements. Biden is referring to untruths deliberately foisted upon people for power and money. He says that in his second paragraph. He is not talking about misstatements that the speaker believes to be true. But Somerby wishes to go there instead of grappling with the deliberate lying that was done by Trump and his party, to dupe his supporters and the broader public. Because Trump is not a deluded fool (like his supporters) but a deliberate con man.

    So, Somerby is muddling the issue and to what end? To let Trump and his co-conspirators off the hook. And that is despicable, deplorable, unforgiveable under the current circumstances. Somerby, you should be ashamed of yourself.

  2. "In recent years, we liberals have loved to accuse the others of lies."

    How can Somerby say this with a straight face after we have spent 5 years during which Trump blatantly lied to the American people, and Republicans repeated his lies to echo and amplify their effect on our nation?

    Liberals do not LOVE it when someone lies to our nation. We are sickened by it. We hate it. We wish it would stop. There is no joy in calling out a lie -- except perhaps for Somerby, who apparently can no longer recognize a lie when he hears one.

  3. Dear Bob, Rush Limbaugh, and millions of other, are perfectly entitled to express their opinion of the validity of the 2020 election.

    And of course they have reasons to hold this opinion; The Commander winning all (or nearly all) bellwether states and counties being just one small part of those reasons.

    Picking out a small part and ridiculing it as if it's the whole thing is one of the typical goebbelsian methods of your goebbelsian dembots.

    1. Let's not make it more complicated than it is.
      They won the white vote, so they think they should rule.

  4. "When people like Limbaugh and Hannity broadcast such claims, it should be treated as front-page news."

    No, because that would enable the lie to spread, because too many people will see the claim but not remember the rebuttal to it. It is better to ignore people like Limbaugh, and better yet to take them off the air by complaining to their sponsors and producers and networks.

    If you attack Limbaugh on page 1, you will make a martyr out of him and give him importance he doesn't deserve, and enhance his stature in the eyes of those who believe him. So doing that is a very bad idea.

    Why would a supposed liberal such as Somerby suggest doing something that would help Limbaugh? You tell me.

  5. "The statement by Biden posted above is, in a word, simple-minded. It's true that the world is full of "lies." But as Hamlet thoughtfully said, "There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.""

    This is absurb. First, the Hamlet quote is taken way out of context and was never meant to say what Somerby attributes to it here. Second, Horatio is a fictional character and knows nothing about political lies told in our time. Third, Biden is far from simple-minded and was never talking about the dupes who believe lies but about the evildoers who tell them. Fourth, the people who hear lies have a duty, according to Biden, to evaluate and not repeat lies, to seek truth, just as much as those who are leading our nation.

    That means that Somerby himself needs to stop pretending that Maddow is spreading untruth as much as Tucker Carlson, a huge lie, and starting contradicting the Q-Anon garbage and other lies spread by Trump while in office, so that people will encounter the truth more often.

    It has been a long time since Somerby engaged in any "critical thinking" here. These days it is propaganda all the way down, and I am sick of it. Biden says it is time to knock that shit off. I hope Somerby will pause from his energetic defense of The Other, and listen to what Biden is actually saying.

  6. "How much harm has been done to the good, decent children of Flint?"

    There is no amount of harm that should be allowed done to children because of lead in the water supply.

    Somerby wishes to say "no harm, no foul" because the lead level was low for some children. It doesn't work that way.

    No amount of lead is tolerable. Lead accumulates and cannot be removed. It impairs cognitive functioning. There is no argument to be made about tolerable lead levels.

  7. No, there were not 89 million voters who voted for someone other than Biden, it was 77 million according to us Election

    1. Why don't we go all the way?
      There are approximately 331,000,000 people in the United States. That means that 249,715,222 of them did not vote for Joe Biden – NO MANDATE!!!!!!!

    2. akleem: Trump claimed a mandate in 2016. At least Joe Biden won the popular vote.

    3. Hillary won the popular vote too in 2016. Many of us think that she had a mandate given the circumstances of her loss.

  8. In truth, the new president's highlighted statement was strikingly simplistic. That said, it fits a simple-minded view of the world we have adopted

    Biden was given a speech -- an inauguration speech meant to be poetic and uplifting and hopeful -- not a Tuesday afternoon seminar in the political science department.

    Honestly, you are often pedantic and sometimes you try way too hard to look for any little thing to pick on.

    I still like reading you, though, don't worry!

  9. “In recent years, we liberals have loved to accuse the others of lies. In doing so, we create debates we can't hope to win. In the process, we tend to heighten the tribal divisions Biden has said we should end.”

    The “others” are laughing right now at opinions like this from supposed liberals. GOP politicians and right-wing media can lie to their heart’s content about Covid and about non-existent election fraud (and yes, they were clearly lying), but they then turn around and say that liberals must reach out for the sake of unity and how dare the liberals accuse Republicans of lying. This allows Republicans and their media allies to continue lying with impunity.

    You’re not going to correct false belief by pretending it isn’t engendered by deliberate lies.

    It’s a sad commentary on our country when supposed liberals like Somerby attack liberals as divisive simply for telling the truth.

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