Ask the sage.

I’m missing Rachel Maddow’s Flint town hall, which makes this the…first? Maybe second thing I’ve regretted missing since cutting the cable cord a few months back. I’m interested in seeing what R.M. does with the known information, although I can imagine. This story is going to blot out the sun in Michigan for quite some time, and the long tail of investigations and lawsuits is going to consume us even longer.

Meanwhile, I want to explore a moral question with you smart people: Do we have an obligation to donate to ease a man-made disaster?

I ask because water drives are the big thing here, and everyone is using social media to either collect for them or recruit people to shlep cases of bottled water to Flint. And this is very admirable, but I find myself wondering why anyone feels the need. It’s pretty clear this whole disaster came about through the direct actions of various arms of government; which ones and how blame is distributed is what all those investigations and lawsuits will be about, but still, government. Flint wasn’t hit by a tornado. This wasn’t an act of God. So shouldn’t the state pick up the tab for disaster relief? The whole tab?

I think people are simply good. They want to help. But this feels a little different, and I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Long day, lotsa driving, late lunch, dog walk, short errand run, late dinner. I’m-a ready to snooze. Quick bloggage:

When a person evades taxes, we call them unpatriotic shirkers, criminals. When a corporation does it, it’s just doing what corporations do.

I’ve barely had time to process the surprise grand jury indictments in the Planned Parenthood case. I should probably do that.

And now, Thursday. Huzzah.

Posted at 12:11 am in Current events |

32 responses to “Ask the sage.”

  1. Crazycatlady said on January 28, 2016 at 1:23 am

    I saw Rachel Maddow’s Flint Town Hall. I thought she did an amazing job. It was a fast hour, and she covered the issues, including the Emergency Manager Law and how that lead to the disaster. Good job, Rachel.

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 28, 2016 at 1:24 am

    After a travel and work related absence, I hate to come back bearing this gift, from one of my own local legislators (and one I work with regularly, making me even more confused as to what Jay is trying to accomplish here) . . . but it’s a link that belongs here, somehow.

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  3. Dexter said on January 28, 2016 at 1:49 am

    Flint residents face horrible dilemmas as the state certainly won’t relocate them to other communities and the master plumber who said he could get a thousand plumbers , a thousand laborers, and any other needed skilled trades people in there within a month, well, Snyder will never pay for that. Each of the approximately 22,000 single-family homes is going to require about 10,000 dollars to fix the pipe problem if they have lead pipes leading into and inside their homes. I only could watch half the Maddow Town Hall because the dogs needed their midnight bedtime walk…now it’s back to the dvr to watch the last half. From the thirty minutes I did see already, this may be Rachel’s best work.

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  4. Sherri said on January 28, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Some people here expressed some interest in hearing about life on the planning commission. I came onto the commission just in time for a doozy of an issue: figuring out where to allow retail marijuana. So I’ve been busy reading and researching about the issues involved, and our public hearing was last night. We had a huge turnout, standing room only in the council chambers, and listened to almost three hours of public testimony (much of it repetitive). The interesting thing is, almost all of the Redmond resident turnout was from our Chinese community, all very much opposed to the very idea of a retail marijuana store in Redmond. I’d guess probably 100 or so Chinese residents showed up, with a handful of other immigrants speaking as well, and and probably 10-15 representatives of the cannabis business community, some of whom live in Redmond.

    We’ve received a bunch of emails as well from Chinese residents, all of which was puzzling to me since the Chinese community is not typically very involved at all in government. I finally looked at a map and noticed that an Evangelical Chinese Church was near one of the proposed areas, and I assume that was the source of so many similar emails.

    We still have at least one more study session before we make a report to city council, so I don’t know what the outcome will be. I do know that personally I believe that we should make accommodation for at least 1 pot store to start (there are potentially up to 4 licenses awarded for Redmond). The voters of Redmond approved legalization and the system of regulation and taxation in 2012 by a 60-40 margin. My feeling is, it’s not acceptable to say, yea, we want it legal, but in someone else’s neighborhood not mine.

    As of last weeks report from the Liquor and Cannabis Board, Marijuana retails sales in Washington are doing $2 million/day in revenue and growing. I visited a pot store in Bellevue (the next town over) yesterday; it was a pleasant store, nothing like the head shop of old I saw in Pittsburgh in the 80s. A doorman greeted me and asked to see my id, then let me in. I wandered around a bit looking at paraphernalia, then approached the budtender to discuss the wares. I wasn’t in the market to purchase, but had I been, I would have needed cash; because pot is still illegal Federally, banks are reluctant to work with owners. There was a handy ATM in the corner.

    I talked to the manager about security concerns, and he showed me the state required hi-def cameras and the steel doors that cover the front. He’s had no problems. So, a little anecdata, since real data is still hard to come by.

    Redmond voted for legalization that included a regulated, taxed marketplace by a 60-40 split. Personally I have a problem with voting yes, but not in my backyard. The regulated marijuana business is up to $2 million per day in the state of Washington, so the demand for product is there. We can either sell it in a regulated market, or a black market, and I know which I’d rather see my 21 year daughter buy from should she choose to exercise her legal right to partake of a little weed.

    We’ll see if my fellow commissioners can withstand the assault of the voices tonight to remember that those voices aren’t the only one who matter, and whether the cit council remembers that too.

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  5. David C. said on January 28, 2016 at 6:20 am

    Of course, the state should pick up the tab, but are they? Sometimes you just can’t wait and when you wait for a Republican to pull his thumb out of his ass you’re going to be waiting a long time. That said, collecting water isn’t probably the best thing to do. Collecting cash is. I learned from volunteering at the local food pantry that they can get food, and presumably water, for much less than you can buy it at a store. It’s much more efficient to give cash instead of cans which have to be sorted, and so forth.

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  6. BigHank53 said on January 28, 2016 at 7:17 am

    What legal resources are being marshalled for the citizens of Flint? At the very least, they’re victims of criminal negligence. With a squint and a tilt of the head, deliberately poisoning a minority population is up there in the “crimes against humanity” category. I doubt the Snyder administration set out to commit an act of genocide, but I also don’t think there would be much weeping in the capital if the black half of Flint dropped dead. (To be fair, they wouldn’t miss the other half of Flint, either.)

    Those redacted emails need to be un-redacted and made public. A bunch of people need to lose their jobs, and some of them need to go to jail. Making that happen is a goddamned sight more important that schlepping a couple dozen gallons of water around. Because if they get away with doing this to Flint, it’s going to make doing the same thing to another city fucking inevitable.

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  7. Connie said on January 28, 2016 at 7:18 am

    Message I got from the director of the Flint Public Library: the whole world is sending us water. You can also contribute money.

    I watched Rachel and thought she did a great job.

    My husband grew up in a Flint suburb, and during the years we dated lived with two other men in several different rundown houses in so so neighborhoods in Flint, including one next to the concrete channel of the Flint river. I can’t remember the last time I was in the city, but have a seminar at the Flint PL in a couple of weeks. I find going there somewhat jarring as it is an area called the cultural center, an absolutely beautiful neighborhood.

    My exUAW husband and UAW inlaws have also taught me a lot about Flint’s role in the history of labor which is major. Including the great story of the red hat women during the Flint Sitdown Strike.

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  8. adrianne said on January 28, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Not to be a jerk about it, but this is all on the mighty state of Michigan. Fork over the money to fix Flint, Gov. SNyder!

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  9. alex said on January 28, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Jeff, it’s just a guess, but considering that the far right loves to equate bestiality and homosexuality, I suspect your legislator friend is trying cue outrage over the fact that one can be criminalized but not the other. Or perhaps he just senses that the right needs a victory of some sort in its never-ending quest to punish sex and this one’s a sure bet in an election year. In any case, it’s obviously a political ploy of some sort, perhaps an idea hatched by right-wing legal activists trying to create an opening through which they can criminalize other sexual behavior. It will be interesting to see whether the law covers just domesticated animals or livestock too. 😉

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  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 28, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Alex, it’s gotta be about running for some higher office . . . but this just strikes me as fraught with peril for any future run. Unless someone with an agenda has called in a favor and pressed him to put this bill forward.

    I will say that I’m a little startled by how many animal rights folks have very strongly supported this, a constituency that Jay hasn’t been cultivating. If this is a problem, I’ve not run into it. In the juvenile court, we get torture and killing of animal issues, but not, um, this. I’d understand amping up the penalty for harming animals — not to jail, but to give the courts more leverage to force pursuit of treatment & intervention — but I’m just flabbergasted by this being a PETA-promoted concern. Maybe I’m naive . . . it wouldn’t be a hard charge to prove!

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  11. alex said on January 28, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Ah, the taint of PETA. Even worse than people recognizing that it’s a bill for which there isn’t a real need. Guess he really stepped in it, eh?

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  12. Icarus said on January 28, 2016 at 10:19 am

    I’m still trying to wrap my feeble mind around the Flint catastrophe. My gut reaction to NN question is water is something you really cannot live long without and they need it. But seeing Dexter #3 comment, if sending money is better, let’s be sure every donor gets the benefit of a tax deduction.

    Could the money needed for infrastructure repair be taken out of the Governor’s salary? I think if politicians had to pay for their mistakes they way the rest of us do they might not be so careless.

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  13. brian stouder said on January 28, 2016 at 10:20 am

    In just a few paragraphs, Sherri conveyed so much about ‘where the rubber meets the road’ in local governance.

    It makes tons of sense (and public dollars) to legalize-and-tax, rather than ban-and-prosecute marijuana…but then, you have to have an orderly implementation process.

    There was eye-opening special (on msnbc?) on the banking issues Sherri mentioned, with relation to the legalized marijuana, leading to the merchants having to handle very large amounts of cash….

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  14. brian stouder said on January 28, 2016 at 10:26 am

    re: Flint –

    I think this is beyond local or state, and is in fact a catastrophe requiring a full national response.

    The relative silence from our president is becoming a major demerit (in my opinion) and all the candidates for that office (from both parties) need to address this (and hopefully try and out-bid one another), on what they’ll do to fix/follow-through for the citizens – and especially the children – of Flint, Michigan, United States of America

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  15. brian stouder said on January 28, 2016 at 10:53 am

    With all sincerity, and any necessary apologies to the memory of departed NN.c friends – it strikes me that there is more than a little bit of cultural resonance between the Katrina-induced debacle in New Orleans, and what’s happening in Flint, right down to the bottled-water band-aid.

    If I was one of the non-Trumps on the stage tonight, I’d launch a sincerely blistering attack on President Obama’s almost total non-response

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  16. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 28, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Horrifically fascinating — I knew none of this. Lots for me to catch up on; I’ve been hearing about issues with lead in paint for years working on housing issues in Ohio & WV, but lead in pipes literally never came up. FYI, my congregation is already at work taking lead water pipes out of our properties, as a new property committee chair noted that this was a potential concern that we could get ahead of while doing other upgrades to our utilities and energy use:

    “After an EPA study in 1986 showed one in five of the nation’s drinking water systems carried more lead than considered safe, Congress passed a new Clean Water Drinking Act the same year. This law is still the basis for our current efforts to control the lead that can leach from our water pipes.

    Michigan Republican politicians, including Governor Rick Synder, have borne much blame for the Flint crisis – and some of them continue to invite more. But their party was instrumental in the genesis of this act.

    It was Ronald Reagan who signed the bill that finally banned the use of leaded pipe and high-lead soldering. And it was George H. W. Bush’s EPA that implemented it, through a 1991 Lead and Copper Rule that required “high-risk residences” to be monitored, with further measures if 10 percent of households exceeded unsafe lead levels of 15 parts per billion (ppb) in their tap water.

    The Clean Water Drinking Act, along with environmental and health officials, did encourage gradual replacement of lead pipes with nontoxic materials such as PVC. But municipalities mainly turned to a chemical fix to lower lead levels, namely anti-leaching agents. Cheaper and faster-acting, these substances could largely prevent lead from entering the water from pipes, soldering and when the source of drinking water changed.”

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  17. brian stouder said on January 28, 2016 at 11:23 am

    This huge crisis in Flint SHOULD be the sort of thing that people who seriously think they want to be president (let alone, who ARE already president!) should absolutely go into over-drive on!

    Rahm Emanuel, who I never liked (and who I increasingly dislike, nowadays) expressed it perfectly with his ‘never let a crisis go to waste’.

    This should be the sort of huge, ongoing, critically important challenge that policy wonks and governmental nerds ought to wanna jump all over…and that a top executive (governor/president, and his or her staff) would want to be leading, literally right down Main Street.

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  18. nancy said on January 28, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Those of you calling for a Katrina-level response from the White House? It’s far more complicated than simply putting do-gooder boots on the ground. There’s a lot we don’t yet know about the physical structure of the corroded pipes, including whether the whole infrastructure needs to be dug up and replaced, or whether a few months of properly treated Detroit water running through them will rebuild the protective phosphate layer that was there before the switch.

    Throw in the problem of Flint, period. These are predominantly older, decaying neighborhoods, and in many of these cases, replacing the service lines would cost more than the houses they’re running to, which raises the question of whether we’d be better off relocating residents, and that raises the inevitable chorus of “but I don’t want to move” that we see over and over in Detroit.

    I could go on and on, but I have some pressing tasks today. Maybe later. Bottom line: This story is going to take months, YEARS, to play out.

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  19. brian stouder said on January 28, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Agreed; years and years.

    And indeed, it’s all about the young folks – for whom there’s not a do-over (thinking of developmental handicap, and so on)

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  20. Mark P said on January 28, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Nancy’s comment is on point. Assuming that there was no problem with elevated lead prior to the change in the water source, and that the pipes can return to their previous condition when the corrosive water is removed, then the short-term solution is to supply properly treated water and flush the lines for as long as necessary. If that means two weeks, then the residents need two weeks of water. If that means a year, then the short term solution really isn’t practical and a more expensive solution will be needed. And that runs into other problems, as Nancy indicated. This really doesn’t seem like a federal issue to me. This is a state issue, and the state obviously needs to step up.

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  21. Suzanne said on January 28, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    I was surprised by the PP indictments at first but when you read the details, it makes sense. 48 Hours or one of those news shows often used hidden cameras and fake names to get the dirt on somebody, but these people went over the top by manufacturing fake driver’s licenses. Nonetheless, the reactions of pro-choice & pro-life friends have pretty much gone where I expect. Pro-choice gleeful, pro-life, wringing hands and pronouncing the impending doom of all that is sacred in this world.

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  22. beb said on January 28, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Every times I see cases of 16 oz bottles of water being hauled to Flint I get the urge to facepalm. People need a lot more water than they’re going to get from a 1/8 gal. bottle. They need water in gallon and 5-gallon jugs. The other thing is that now that Flint is connected to the Great Lakes Water Authority’s pipeline, Flint can easily find a place to draw off safe, potable water in the millions of gallons per day. So scoop up a 100,000 5-gallon water bottles, distribute them to Flint residence and let them refill the jugs as often as they need. Of course a lot of residence will have to be taxied to the refill station but now that they’ve got the national guard there that shouldn’t be too hard.

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  23. Dexter said on January 28, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    The Flint-based master plumber said what nance wrote…each house, minimum ten Gs to replace pipes from main line to house, inside pipes, water heaters, everything else. Few will fork over life savings to dump cash into a rathole like that, as when that money is spent, their homes will still not be worth anything to anyone in a buying situation…none of those houses can be sold. Hangers on out of necessity…working class families can’t simply relocate…it’s fucking expensive to move.

    Connie, I went to the 1987 Sit-Down Strike 50th anniversary celebration parade in downtown Flint. Times hadn’t gotten totally bad yet, Flint’s festival marketplace downtown was booming, it was a fun day. I got to see Gov. Blanchard waving to us, we got to see the surviving sitdowners, who got a loud constant standing ovation as their cars passed the sidewalk crowd. A commemorative mural had just been completed and it was beautiful, close by the old AutoWorld Museum.
    I was there representing UAW Local 164, Auburn, Indiana, as Skilled Trades and Shipping Department and Forklift drivers shop floor steward, second shift. I wasn’t sent…it was on my nickel, and worth every damn dollar. I used to be so proud to be a UAW member and officer. Then I retired, the insurance got so pathetic I simply dropped out of the policies, and eventually they even cut off my UAW magazine they mailed to me for years. Now I feel like they treated me, in retirement, as if I simply kicked the bucket.
    Life is strange. I bad-mouthed the Vietnam war for years, demonstrated against it as a member of the V.Vets Against the War, in Chicago, Washington, DC, even three times in Fort Wayne. All I ever did was praise the UAW , even got into a couple bar fights over my dedication to unions. In the end, the UAW just shoved us out of the way, and that US government who I railed against so much opened doors for me through the VA and is taking care of my sorry ass. Fuck me. I don’t know what’s coming next, but damn…shit didn’t turn out AT ALL like I figured it would. 🙂

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  24. Sherri said on January 28, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Washington passed a bestiality ban after an infamous case about ten years ago where a man died having sex with a horse:

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  25. Peter said on January 28, 2016 at 2:41 pm


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  26. alex said on January 28, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you, Sherri! That’s the funniest thing I’ve read in quite some time.

    Some of you Chicagoans may remember the guy who kept getting busted en flagrante with a cow in the Lincoln Park Zoo, commemorated in song.

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  27. Suzanne said on January 28, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Oh, Alex! Johnny B & the Moo Moo song! A blast from the past!!

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  28. ROGirls said on January 28, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    The government will probably end up having to buy the houses. Whatever value they had before has plummeted to almost nothing by now.

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  29. Peggy said on January 28, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    You can have the audio of the Rachel Maddow show automatically sent to your phone every day through the ITunes podcast app. I listen to it every day.

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  30. Peggy said on January 28, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    Brian Stouder: The president had Flint’s mayor to the White House on Monday, addressed the issue at the Detroit auto show a couple of days later, and freed up $17 million dollars (or something like that) to send to Flint to ameliorate the problem. He’s talked about it several other times, too. What more do you want him to do?

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  31. brian stouder said on January 28, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    Peggy – I want him to go there, and own the crisis, and prod the governor, and set the course of events so that concrete gets busted, and assure that the United States citizens there get water that won’t kill them, or scramble the brains of their children

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  32. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 28, 2016 at 11:41 pm


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