All wet.

“Flint still doesn’t have clean water” was how Michelle Wolf closed her now-notorious set at the White House correspondents’ dinner Saturday. I hear that a lot. The other day I saw a Facebook post featuring the brother of a friend, who lives in Indiana, thanking him for contributing to some church’s bottled-water drive, “for the people of Flint, who still don’t have clean water.”

As someone who lives about an hour away from Flint, this puzzles me. Flint has been receiving clean, treated Detroit water since shortly after the lead-poisoning scandal was fully revealed; the source was switched back from the Flint River. Of course, the damage had already been done, but in case you’re not up on all the deets, here’s what happened, in a nutshell:

The city, under emergency financial management, made the decision to make the switch from expensive treated Detroit water to the far-cheaper local source in 2014, restarting a riverfront treatment plant that had been mothballed for decades. This was done to save money and bide time until another source, a separate and brand-new water authority drawing from Lake Huron, came online. However, the people in charge of making the switch and running the utility didn’t properly treat the Flint River water.

We have known that corrosive water can eat away at lead pipes and leach the neurotoxin into drinking water for decades. Did we dig up every lead pipe in the country as a result? No. We started treating water with corrosion-control chemicals that, over time, build up a protective layer on the inside of pipes. When all this started, I had Alan check our service line, installed in the 1940s when the house was built. As far as we can tell, it’s lead, so we had the water tested. Lead levels were undetectable; Detroit water is treated properly. (Thanks, beb!) But in Flint, the plant had been out of service so long it didn’t even have the equipment necessary to inject these chemicals. They made the switch anyway. To save money.

And the rest, as Mitch Albom might say, using a cliche in a one-sentence paragraph, is history.

This is about as far as even a well-informed non-Michigan-residing American’s knowledge likely goes. But here’s some more: Besides making the switch back, the city began providing free water filters and bottled water to all residents. Experts advised letting the treated Detroit water flow freely, so the pipes could begin to “heal,” so to speak. As you can imagine, the residents of Flint had, shall we say, lost faith in expert opinion and most other forms of civic authority. Some stopped paying their bills. The public consensus was screw healing these pipes, tear them out and put in new ones. Cases of bottled water sat stacked on porches all over the city. The forces began to muster to start the slow process of pipe replacement.

When I went over there about 18 months ago, it was to watch a typical replacement process for one house and describe why it’s taking so long to accomplish. You can read the story I wrote then, or accept this summation: Because it’s amazingly complicated.

Flint is an old city fallen on hard times, and it has many of the same problems Detroit does with blight and abandonment. So when people elsewhere use “Flint doesn’t have clean water yet” as some sort of virtue-signaling catch phrase, I get a little peevish. Because before anyone turns one shovelful of dirt, about a million questions have to be answered: How do we prioritize? Who goes first? Who’s the owner of this property? (Often a difficult question to answer with so many rentals.) And so on. And that’s before money even enters the picture.

I don’t like to quote my own work, but I liked this passage:

It turns out that digging a hole in the ground in an older city like Flint is a lot like doing surgery in the 19th century. You never really know what you’re going to find in there.

What sounds simple – dig a hole, find the line, replace the line, fill the hole – rarely is. Once lines are laid, few clues on the surface hint at what might be underneath. People plant trees, gardens, live their lives in the houses above. Years pass, decades. The trees stretch their branches to the sun and roots deep into the earth. The city prospers and grows, falters and contracts. Residents move in and out.

And then, one day maybe 90 years after 1410 Ida and its neighbors were new, a bunch of guys in hardhats, mud on their boots, stand staring into a hole at the curb.

And this part:

Every pipe replacement starts with paperwork, because the city isn’t just replacing the lead service lines that run from the water main to the curb, i.e., the part of the line that is city owned. Because the entire system was damaged, they’re replacing the private portion as well, the lines that run from the curb to each house, and that requires written permission from homeowners, who may be absentee.

The houses on Ida Avenue were built in the 1920s. Part of the street is brick, laid in a herringbone pattern. Old street bricks are valuable, and must be preserved at the request of the city’s street department. Sometimes a sidewalk has to be destroyed to get to the line, and that requires repair, as does the street where the hole is dug.

But the main problem is, this is an old neighborhood in an old city. And the city did things differently decades ago.

Oh, and another complication: Winter, which regular readers know lasts for-goddamn-ever in Michigan. Asphalt can only be laid in warmer weather, and the holes created by this process are not suitable for the emergency winter pothole filler known as cold patch.

So you can see why “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” is a little glib. There is no magic wand, no hurry-up process, to replace thousands of service lines. In the meantime, state officials say (and I believe them) that a house with a properly installed water filter has safe drinking water. Again, you can’t blame residents for being suspicious, but chemistry is chemistry. Between the treated source water, filters and bottled water, even a poor resident of Flint in a lead-service-pipe house should be OK. (The state recently announced it was suspending free bottled water for Flint residents, in a move that should be in a dumbass-PR textbook eventually. But that’s a side issue.)

Meanwhile, lead levels are rising among children in? Anyone? Yes, Detroit. Why? The usual suspects — paint, mostly — but in a new delivery system: Dust. Demolitions of the city’s infamous oversupply of vacant and blighted housing have picked up in recent years, and even with a firehose spraying over the wreckage as it comes down, a certain amount of lead is aerated, and kids living within 200 feet of these demos are at risk.

Basically, it sucks to be poor. Or, put another way, they don’t call it “poor health” for nothing.

Man, I am running slow this morning. Barely slept last night, thinking about the approaching 4:30 a.m. alarm. I had to take Kate to the airport, where she left for three weeks of study abroad in Havana. I’m so envious, as I’d hoped to go to Cuba sometime this year, before the door slammed shut again. (I know, it’s possible. It’s just more of a pain.) She’ll be exploring the roots of native music and dance for two credit hours before commencing the rest of her summer break. I tried to shove all the knowledge I have of travel in places that aren’t modern Western democracies into her head; we’ll see if it takes. I just want her to have a good time and learn the rumba.

But now she’s laying over in Ft. Lauderdale, and will be officially overseas by mid afternoon. She’s carrying my vintage Nikon SLR, and I hope to see it again, but who knows. Alan packed her off with saxophone reeds and guitar strings as gifts for the native musicians they’ll be encountering; I expect new ones are hard to come by. She’s also carrying little Dove chocolates and Twizzlers to share with kids. I expect she’ll make some new friends.

Me, I gotta get some chores done.

Posted at 10:32 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

61 responses to “All wet.”

  1. Bitter Scribe said on May 2, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Thanks for this, Nancy. It’s yet another reminder that political issues often are a lot more complicated than they seem. That’s a lesson that never seems to get all the way through, no matter how often life teaches it.

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  2. Deborah said on May 2, 2018 at 11:01 am

    See, it’s posts like this that make me want to say, Nancy, keep writing for a living. This is the most understandable thing I’ve read so far about the complex Flint situation. You’ve laid it out clearly and concisely. Bravo.

    I have wanted to go to Cuba all of my life, maybe one day I’ll get there. What a great experience for Kate.

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  3. Icarus said on May 2, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Thanks for the update on Flint. In a couple of Facebook comments I used the phrase “flint still doesn’t have clean water” which is perhaps technically true but obviously not accurate.

    Puerto Rico still doesn’t have electrical power, right?

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  4. nancy said on May 2, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Thanks, Deborah. One thing I learned over and over, reporting for Bridge: American infrastructure is fucked. When that bill comes due, it’s not going to be fun.

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  5. David C. said on May 2, 2018 at 11:44 am

    I just got back from one my occasional trips to see my parents in Michigan – West Michigan – the part that’s supposed to work. Coming up I-94 from Indiana, you could tell where Michigan starts if you were blindfolded. Local roads are even worse. Michigan roads make Wisconsin roads look good and Wisconsin roads are terrible. Everything is going to shit and too many people are just as happy to see that happen as long as they think they’re getting a tax cut.

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  6. Deborah said on May 2, 2018 at 11:50 am

    Yes, didn’t Trump promise an infrastructure overhaul?

    Our building is in the process of testing some pipe lining, they’re doing it on one floor only at first, if it works they’ll do it in both the buildings in our trust. And it’s going to be pricey.

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  7. Heather said on May 2, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    In regards to infrastructure, the city of Chicago has been replacing water mains and doing a lot of work on the gas lines. They ripped up our landscaped corner parkways already and may have to do it again . . . after reading Nancy’s comments, I guess I should stop complaining and be happy they are doing it.

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  8. Icarus said on May 2, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    In regards to infrastructure, the city of Chicago didn’t ask me for written permission to tear up my private portion…why is it different here? is it better that way?

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  9. LAMary said on May 2, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Off topic…Dorothy, your email is sending out spam. Nothing nasty but definitely not from you.

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  10. Suzanne said on May 2, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    I had to drive I 94 last fall on my way to GD Rapids. It was terrible. I had not been on it for a number of years and my thought while I was driving was that it was just as bad as ever.

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  11. nancy said on May 2, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    It’s possible, Icarus, that your water utility is set up differently, where they own the entire line. That’s how Lansing is. I really don’t know. Seriously, once they start digging, you never know what’s down there. One bit of drama I left out of the piece — one house had a telephone pole planted almost directly over their main. There was a question of whether they’d have to get a truck to temporarily stabilize the thing when they went in, but they were able to do it without. I mean, once the dirt goes back in the hole, everyone forgets what’s down there.

    One thing I learned on that story, a little bit of Poverty Economics: If you know the right people, you can buy or borrow the key the water utility uses to turn accounts on and off. It’s basically a long rod with a fitting at the end that matches the valve at the bottom. Some plumbing-supply places keep them behind the counter.

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  12. Bitter Scribe said on May 2, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    American infrastructure is fucked. When that bill comes due, it’s not going to be fun.

    What kills me is that repairing it is not only necessary, it would be a great way of pumping money into the economy. The government would become, if not the employer of last resort, at least a significant alternative. And the money would go into the pockets of people who are likely to spend it, stimulating demand and strengthening the economy.

    But we can’t afford to do that because rich people and big corporations need tax cuts, and they’re the job creators. They can’t create jobs with the money that’s being firehosed at them just yet because they’re busy spending it on c-suite bonuses and stock buybacks, but it’ll happen any minute now.

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  13. Jolene said on May 2, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    You might consider posting a version of this on FB so your FB friends could share it with their FB friends.* I’m big on correcting the record.

    *I know I can share it myself, but thought you might rather post a version that’s entirely about Flint.

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  14. Dorothy said on May 2, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Mary – the hotmail address? I use that mostly for junk and rarely check it. I’ll go change the password immediately. Thanks for letting me know – and I apologize even though I didn’t actually do anything wrong!!

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  15. Deborah said on May 2, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    This is what you get when the right pretends they are interested in ideas instead of what they really care about which is raw power Ridiculous.

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  16. David C. said on May 2, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    Well, actually, first it brings me to the case of Robin Hanson, a George Mason economist, libertarian and noted brilliant weirdo. Commenting on the recent terrorist violence in Toronto, in which a self-identified “incel” — that is, involuntary celibate — man sought retribution against women and society for denying him the fornication he felt that he deserved, Hanson offered this provocation: If we are concerned about the just distribution of property and money, why do we assume that the desire for some sort of sexual redistribution is inherently ridiculous?

    Libertarianism is astrology for men.

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  17. Suzanne said on May 2, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Deborah, that is one of the strangest things I have ever read. Only a man would argue that sex inequality of distribution is like income inequality. You cannot live without an income; you can live without sex.

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  18. nancy said on May 2, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Also, you can’t masturbate your way to a rent payment.

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  19. Icarus said on May 2, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    But we can’t afford to do that because rich people and big corporations need tax cuts, and they’re the job creators. They can’t create jobs with the money that’s being firehosed at them just yet because they’re busy spending it on c-suite bonuses and stock buybacks, but it’ll happen any minute now.

    any minute now

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  20. Sherri said on May 2, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Speaking of George Mason, there’s a good reason they’ve been acting like a Koch Bros think tank:

    George Mason is a public university.

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  21. Sherri said on May 2, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    As for Bezos, the constitution of the state of Washington forbids an income tax, more’s the pity.

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  22. LAMary said on May 2, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    No apology needed, Dorothy. Idiots get into everyone’s email from time to time. I’m sorry I deleted it so I can’t tell you which email address it was. I get an insane number of emails so I clean out the mailbox pretty often.

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  23. Brian stouder said on May 2, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    The meta-story of Flint is seems to be the old Kennedy line …you can’t beat brains…..which seem to be scarce in Flint utilities

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  24. beb said on May 2, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    The problem about the purity of Flint’s water is that no one hears about the results of any recent testing. And in any case paranoia is such a part of American life that who would believe any clear water advisory from the State. The State, after all was the one who causes the whole mess to begin with.

    A second point, when Detroit started their corrosion control program they dosed at higher than 1 part per million. After a couple years that was reduced to about 2/3 parts per million. Flint’s current water isn’t being doses at the higher level so it will take longer for the coating to build up.

    Before I retired there were plans being made to identify the lead service lines in Detroit. The short answer is that there’s no reliable map where service lines are, what they were made of and whether the connection from the service box to the the main (called a gooseneck) is also made of lead. Replacing the gooseneck would mean tearing up the road.

    Ruth is going to have the experience of a lifetime.

    Icarus @3: From what I’ve heard they were making progress then a tree was blown over that knocked out power again.

    Deborah @6: Trumps idea of infrastructure repair is to donate a smidgen of money and making state and city governments come up with the rest. Like everything else Republicans come up with it’s all hat and no cattle. (I’m not from Texas but I like that expression). Perhaps Democrats could propose an Infrastructure tax that does only to infrastructure construction. I’d like to see it based on the amount businesses use various infrastructures. Republicans have been lowering business taxes for 40 years and all we have to show for it are jobs in China. It’s time for businesses to start paying their share.

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  25. Bitter Scribe said on May 2, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    Also, you can’t masturbate your way to a rent payment.

    Well, if you set up a webcam and market yourself properly…

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    David C. excerpted Ross Douthat’s latest NYT column, in which he posits, in typically long-winded fashion, that the resentments of “incels” are all the fault of the “Hefnerian” culture and feminists. His reasoning, such as it is, seems to be that by departing from “monogamy and chastity,” they set up a situation in which every loser expects to get it on with Margot Robbie and naturally reacts to his disappointment by renting a truck and plowing it into crowds. So it’s all the fault of liberals.

    This is the same tired song that wingnuts have been singing for decades. “[Blank] has made the culture more permissive, which naturally removes the constraints against killing [blank].”

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  26. Dorothy said on May 2, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    If you get anymore please tell me what account it seems to be coming from, Mary. And thanks.

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  27. Joe Kobiela said on May 2, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Reading the Chicago Tribune, seems the Ronfather has some competition for re-election, Vallas seems to be pretty sharp, heck its Chicago maybe I can vote in the next election. Any thoughts from our Chicago friends?
    Pilot Joe

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  28. Bitter Scribe said on May 2, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    No one has ever been as sharp as Vallas thinks he is. He’s a former Chicago schools superintendent and a self-adoring schmuck with one of the few egos in town that can rival Rahm Emanuel’s. Reporters tell stories about how they would get phone calls from him berating them about something they’d written, put the phone down to go to the bathroom, and come back to find him still ranting, never knowing they’d been gone.

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  29. alex said on May 2, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    Sure Joe. Go vote in Chicago with all the dead people, then come back and tell us how you did it.

    Douchehat’s running too far afield in his intellectualizing. If he’d use his noggin he’d know that the Supreme Court taking Jeebus out of the public schools is why ugly guys don’t get laid. Why, when girls diddled themselves with crucifixes back in the day they married the first guy that asked. Blame the Supreme Court, not Hugh Hefner, who merely figured out how to commodify getting off just like the good Christians have done with education and medicine.

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  30. Joe Kobiela said on May 2, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Try again Alex,
    It was in jest.
    So bitter, who would make the better Mayor of those 2?
    Pilot Joe

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  31. Bitter Scribe said on May 2, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    Joe: Oh who the hell knows. Chicago has problems that I don’t think Plato’s philosopher-king could fix.

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  32. Jakash said on May 3, 2018 at 1:11 am

    Late to the party, but I’ll add my appreciation for this informative, concise post, Nancy. Either through lack of interest or laziness or both, while I’ve been aware of the headlines about Flint, I’ve never bothered to read very much about it. This is an excellent summation, indeed.

    As for Chicago, the Tribune had a big front page article a few weeks ago about lead in the water here. Uh, it’s not a very encouraging report and fits well with the succinct conclusion that “American infrastructure is fucked.”

    It seems that, while Rahm *is* spending a fortune tearing up streets and replacing water mains, many of the service lines to homes should really be replaced, as well, but doing that at the same time is evidently out of the question.

    “the newspaper’s analysis of the more recent testing kit results revealed that lead-contaminated water was found in at least one home in all 77 Chicago community areas.”

    “Alarming amounts of the toxic metal turned up in water samples collected throughout the city, the newspaper’s analysis found, largely because Chicago required the use of lead service lines between street mains and homes until Congress banned the practice in 1986.”

    “Yet as Mayor Rahm Emanuel borrows hundreds of millions of dollars to overhaul the city’s public water system, Chicago is keeping lead service lines in the ground.”

    “Under the city’s plumbing code — the same ordinance that for nearly a century mandated the use of lead pipes to convey water to single-family homes and small apartment buildings — individual property owners are responsible for maintaining service lines. The mayor’s office has said it is up to homeowners, not the city, to decide if it is worth replacing the lead pipes at their own expense.”

    “As a result, critics say, the city is leaving scores of Chicagoans at risk and failing to seize an opportunity to fix more than one problem when crews dig up streets to replace aging water mains.”

    “It turns out the process of hooking new cast-iron mains to aging lead pipes can dramatically increase the chances otherwise-clean water is contaminated by the time it reaches a home, in particular if water has been stagnating in service lines for several hours.”

    “Not only can street work shake loose the protective coating that lines lead pipes — city construction crews sometimes make the problem worse by splicing a length of copper pipe between the iron water main and lead service line, a practice Tribune reporters and photographers have seen firsthand. Studies have found the combination of metals can trigger an electrochemical reaction that corrodes the inside of lead pipes.”

    You’d think that providing *safe water* to citizens would be a bare minimum governmental responsibility that everybody could agree about. Maybe not. Apologies for the length of this comment.

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  33. Dexter said on May 3, 2018 at 3:23 am

    I don’t follow Ohio politics much at all, but today I heard Dennis Kucinich is running for Ohio Governor next week. I honestly don’t think I have heard his name spoken since he ran for US President in 2008.

    Anyone who has watched the Netflix mini-series about Flint, Michigan knows water quality is just one of the problems there. The show features Flint cops and their tumultuous careers.
    Back in the mid-1980s we took a family vacation in Michigan, looping the entire Lower Peninsula with an excursion to select spots in the U.P. We rode a boat to Beaver Island , off Charlevoix 32 miles out into Lake Michigan. People there were allowed free reign , law-wise. Folks kept old cars there and drove them unlicensed, they drove golf carts willy-nilly; it was pretty loosely governed. It seems Flint is like that. One episode showed a few drivers stopped for violations such as driving the wrong way on a one-way, just dumb-as-hell shit like that, and none of the drivers were licensed. The cop said “there’s no way I’m writing a ticket here…”. It gave the impression nobody gives a fuck in Flint, but other episodes showed folks fiercely prideful of their community. Every place I have ever lived or was stationed in the army had drawbacks, but Flint is really the pits, worse than most.

    Anyone see the phone-photo the US military veteran posted of the exam room he had been ushered into? Wraps in the trashcan, overflowing, and a big wash-tub-like pan in a sink, all caked with that shit they mix up to make a cast for an arm or leg. He had a fit and started a shit-storm for that particular center of the V.A. I guess stuff like that happens, but after blowhard Trump promised better care for old vets, the V.A. has taken backwards steps again. I may have posted here about the push-out of doctor visits from 6 months to a minimum of 12 months, the forced retirements of workers and replacement by kiosks…the trimming of benefits again. It’s definitely progressive and my personal example is that since I have a service-connected disability I am entitled to travel pay for scheduled labs and scheduled doctor visits, including eye exams. A month ago my travel reimbursement was halved when I was called in for lab work. Later, I was called in for a complete blood work-up from the lab, and I applied for my travel pay and got a goddam nasty letter saying I was not eligible for any travel pay whatsoever. I called, no return call. It’s obvious everything is being scaled back , visits to a doctor, travel pay, humans to deal with now replaced by kiosk-tablets to deal with. Under Obama and his V.A. head Bob McDonald the V.A. was improving quickly. McDonald took over from Shineski three months before I finally joined the system when my retiree insurance basically evaporated. I was amazed at the courteous efficiency, top to bottom. Now with Trump in charge, trying to give the job to his drunken WH doctor, it seems from this vet’s viewpoint the V.A. is rescinding into some other branch of confusing inequities.

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  34. Deborah said on May 3, 2018 at 7:52 am

    I’m at the airport reading all the scuttlebutt about Guiliani’s reveal. I went to bed early last night so I missed it. What I’m the world are they thinking? Seems to me that Avenatti is way more savvy than Trump’s lawyers. I listened to an Axelrod podcast interviewing Avenatti a couple of days ago. The guy is really smart when it comes to trial law. He graduated first in his class at George Washington University law school, so he’s no slouch.

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  35. David C. said on May 3, 2018 at 8:18 am

    tRump values loyalty over competence. A competent lawyer would take his phone away from him and tell him to STFU. But tRump is like all stupid people in that he doesn’t know he’s stupid. He’s in a special, wealthy, over-indulged, subset of stupid people who think they’re the smartest people in any room they’re in. He’s never going to get good lawyers because he’ll never listen to them and probably never pay them either. Avenatti has him in a vise. It’ just a matter of how many more turns he has to apply.

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  36. Deborah said on May 3, 2018 at 8:56 am

    The kind of lawyers that Trump is used to are ruthless thugs like Roy Cohn, who intimidate and squeeze people, then they settle out of court etc etc. trump doesn’t know how to be a law abiding citizen. Avenatti has said that he doesn’t think Trump will complete his term, I hope he’s right but then we’d have to endure a President My Pants.

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  37. Peter said on May 3, 2018 at 9:35 am

    Yeah Deborah, and with God’s blessing, Saint Joe Arpaio as his VP.

    I don’t know what pisses me more about this whole farce – the sheer volume and magnitude of criminal activity (I think Nixon and Harding combined wouldn’t top it), the unbelievable stupidity, or the brazenness of it all.

    On another subject, Joe, my predicting powers are still in a 2016 slump, but I don’t see any problems with Rahm getting a third term. All of his opponents are crazier and lazier than him (e.g. Dorothy Brown). I think politicians have come to the conclusion that being mayor of Chicago is a political dead end and they can’t dole out favors like they used to.

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  38. David C. said on May 3, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Adrienne, AKA “The Blonde” at Lance Mannion’s blog is having brain surgery today. Keep them in your thoughts.

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  39. Bitter Scribe said on May 3, 2018 at 10:31 am

    Dexter: What a surprise. Trump slathers on the demagoguery about how the VA was going to hell under Obama, then turns around and slashes its budget so he can give rich people another tax cut. And he tries to install an utter incompetent to head it. When is his base going to wise up?

    My mother worked for almost 20 years at a VA hospital. Whenever I went to visit her at work, I thought it was the most depressing place on Earth. An uncle who stayed there for long-term care ended up trying to kill himself. (To be fair, this uncle had mental issues, but staying in that hospital sure didn’t help.)

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  40. Suzanne said on May 3, 2018 at 11:06 am

    …and the Dow is down 332 points and it isn’t even noon. The NASDAQ is down nearly 100.
    So much winning!

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  41. Connie said on May 3, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    The best thing about having subscribedd to the Washington Post is that I get the Post Most email every day. Great small collection of the key articles.

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  42. Jolene said on May 3, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    If Trump weren’t an idiot who wants to undo everything Obama did, he’d have kept McDonald in place as VA Secretary, as at least some veterans’ organizations advised him to do. He had been the CEO of Procter & Gamble, so had the experience of developing and implementing the policies and systems needed to run a large-scale, distributed organization, and had been there long enough to understand the specific issues and problems of the VA. For instance, I know that he devoted a lot of attention to recruiting, which is a big problem. The medical professionals the VA needs to attract are people who have choices, as they are in demand all across the country.

    RAND is one of our best public policy research organizations; its investigators have been analyzing the quality of healthcare in the U.S. for decades. Their latest research shows pretty positive results for the VA compared to other healthcare organizations, with some notable variation across sites.

    One of the most frustrating things about our current horrible circumstances is the unwillingness of the ignorant, corrupt people running government agencies to pay attention to data such as this.

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  43. Deborah said on May 3, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Sending good vibes to Adrianne from New Mexico.

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  44. Sherri said on May 3, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Southern Baptists seem about to make it abundantly clear, as if they haven’t before, that theirs is a church for white men. They can tell themselves that their complementarian theology is biblical, but their actions say they don’t think women are fully human.

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  45. Suzanne said on May 3, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    It’s not just the SBC. A friend of mine told me about a Lutheran pastor she knew who routinely, when women came to him for abusive marriage issues, that while he wouldn’t tell them not to leave their husband he would repeatedly caution them that divorce was against God’s will, so they needed to draw their own conclusions.

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  46. Suzanne said on May 3, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Amish midwives and a dead baby.

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  47. Deggjr said on May 3, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    Joe @27, from a suburban perspective with some ties to Chicago, Vallas is a very capable administrator and problem solver. He did a very good work with Chicago Public Schools.

    Possibly my most bitter political disappointment is when Rod Blagojevich somehow beat Paul Vallas in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. IIRC I went to bed and Vallas was winning, then woke up and Blagojevich had won. Downstate Democrats put Blagojevich over the top.

    How was that even possible?

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  48. Suzanne said on May 3, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Blagojevich had better hair, Deggjr.

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  49. Bitter Scribe said on May 3, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Deggjr: Not only did Blago have better hair, he had a better political strategy. He made a conscious effort to appeal to Downstaters, while Vallas blew them off, figuring he had enough of the city and suburbs to coast to a win. Once again, his monumental self-satisfaction led to his downfall.

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  50. Dexter said on May 3, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Jolene, correct. McDonald’s policies were attracting competent doctors. Now, doctors are leaving and according to the doctor I have been assigned to the past 3 1/2 years, there is no plan to replace any of them, period. This is why all patients are being converted to much longer wait-times between allowed visits.

    Back in the summer of 1973 I worked night shift and watched hours and hours of Watergate proceedings, watching all the pipe-smoking Senators questioning people, hours and hours of it. A year later it was all worth it when the helicopter lifted off the lawn with Nixon aboard. This time, I am not that dedicated. I can’t stand to watch this stuff for more than 20 minute increments. I can’t stand Trump and I appreciate the efforts to bring him down and out of power, but I want it to happen faster. The most encouraging thing I saw & heard today was that perhaps Cohen isn’t quite as loyal as Trump may believe he is. There’s talk Trump ordered the pay-out/payoff to Clifford/Daniels, and that , occuring when it did, is a clear violation of campaign law. I absorb enough from the evening national newscast and from the constant drone of my wife’s dedicated msnbc watching to sort of keep up. I am really sick of Trump and these fucking shenanigans.
    Carla Lee update: She is driving her car a little now and today went to her church study & luncheon. She has cleared many hurdles and is even getting sassy again…her old self is returning.

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  51. Deborah said on May 3, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    The wisteria blooming in Santa Fe right now are incredible, I don’t remember them ever being this stunning. The lilacs are out but they aren’t having as good a year.

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  52. Deborah said on May 3, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    LB and I watched the first episode of the first season of Handmaiden’s Tale, I bought the DVD online. She had seen the whole season already with a friend who has Hulu. I read the book within the last year, but wow, this is a good show. I had wanted to read the book for years but for some reason hadn’t until fairly recently. Very good but very depressing.

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  53. beb said on May 3, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    Jolene and Dexter. What I’ve heard regarding the VA is that the Republicans want to privatize the VA. The first step in that process is to degrade the VA’s ability to provide services. Then the GOP will decry how bad the VA has got and claim that the only answer is to put it in the hands of grifters. There are no good republicans left. It’s grifting all the way down.

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  54. Dexter said on May 4, 2018 at 2:54 am

    beb, it’s already happening. it’s called “Choice” and what is happening is that many patients are combining their V.A. visits with private doctors’ care, and my doctor said it’s confusing the hell out of patients as well as doctors. Which doctor is prescribing what? The word “contraindications” comes up…all medicines must be chartered carefully because frankly, combos of drugs can and will simply kill ya. And guess what? Some fucking doctors will bill the patient directly and expect the patient to do all the work of reimbursement.

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  55. Dorothy said on May 4, 2018 at 6:52 am

    Deborah I was just telling a friend that our lilacs are the best they’ve been since we moved here almost five years ago. Isn’t that funny?

    I ranted about this on Facebook this morning but will say it again here. Please please don’t run red lights. My co-worker was driving home yesterday and was right in front of our building when someone ran a red light and T-boned her. She was checked out at a hospital and is fine, thank goodness. And so was the other driver (who was not the owner of the car). But her car might be totaled. Frame likely bent. Too damned much distracted driving these days.

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  56. Suzanne said on May 4, 2018 at 8:21 am

    It is the Republican plan. Quit funding things, complain things don’t work (remember they can’t work without $ to run), privatize, watch while things don’t work any better, but oh well, it’s fine since someone is making money.
    Indiana has had several well known messes with privatization, but when privatization is your religious doctrine, the reality of failure of the plan does not stop the true believers from doubling down.

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  57. Icarus said on May 4, 2018 at 9:27 am

    Deborah @ 51: so you spend winters in Chicago and summers in Sante Fe? shouldn’t it be the other way around?

    Guess we won’t be meeting for lunch at Mariano’s

    Haven’t been able to watch season two of Handmaiden’s Tale yet because we (ahem) borrow our inlaws Hulu account. I think these stream services know that relatives share accounts but not the credentials themselves and they make you relog in every few months.

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  58. Icarus said on May 4, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Dorothy there are a few known redlights in my neighborhood where I’ve learned to wait an extra 2 seconds because people purposely and blatantly run them. I’m not talking a stale yellow that turned red, I’m talking it turned red before your vehicle even broke the plane of the crosswalk. They assume the stopped cars cannot accelerate that quickly not taking into account that someone is timing the light in the other direction.

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  59. Julie Robinson said on May 4, 2018 at 10:15 am

    Sharing Hulu is perfectly okay. They allow a certain number of devices for streaming and they can be in different zip codes. Hulu Live is different and can only be used in one household in one geographical location. We share our daughter’s Hulu, our son’s HBO, and they share our Netflix. We don’t have enough time to watch everything.

    The first season of Handmaid’s Tale was a lot different from the book, and season 2 is completely new material, though Atwood contributed ideas or something like that. I haven’t started watching it yet; need to wait until I’m less stressed.

    My lilacs haven’t started blooming yet. Fingers crossed they will.

    It’s scary seeing how many people are driving and on their phones. Makes me feel like I can’t drive defensively enough, and is only a matter of time before I get hit.

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  60. Connie said on May 4, 2018 at 10:23 am

    No signs of lilacs or forsythia yet, but I am about to have redbuds outside my kitchen window.

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  61. Julie Robinson said on May 4, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Forsythia is trying. Azaleas look to have a good year.
    Bleeding hearts have resurrected themselves once again, and Lily of the Valley are almost there. I do love spring.

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