Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lake Water

This story is about American Great Lakes geopolitics. Last few years. The geopolitical priorities between Detroit, Michigan and Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan. The Chicago White House that bought and sold Detroit GM, securing Great Lakes capital markets. Tamir Rice in Cleveland. The Flint water that corroded car parts and lead poisoned folks. The 2015 and 2016 Chicago shooting spree.

Markers signify cities with high density of homicide. Details.

The political economies of Great Lakes cities are historically linked. Today, international treaties with Canada govern water rights and obligations. Chicago started as an outpost of the United States Army: Fort Dearborn in 1803. (Today, Dearborn Michigan of metro Detroit is the headquarters of Ford Motor Company.) Fort Dearborn became Town of Chicago August 12, 1833, incorporated with 350 people that got busy. By1848, they completed the Illinois-Michigan Canallinking the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River - the north-south Heartland superhighway of northern commercial supremacy through central USA. Lincoln was legally and politically active in 1850s Chicago. He later prosecuted the North-South war between the states 1861-1865. 

In 1898, Chicago became the second American city to reach a population of 1.6 million. General Motors - which would dominate 20th Century internal combustion - founded itself in Flint, Michigan in 1908. About a hundred years later, The Chicago White House put billions into "saving" it. (GM, not Flint.) USA taxpayers "lost" billions. 

Per senior Obama aide David Axelrod, the Chicago White House "quietly urged" Bush's $25B loans for Michigan's troubled automative assets (Detroit News, Feb 2015); the Chicago White House added $57B once in office. Ultimately, GM yielded the largest ever IPO November 2010 (CNN). The feds sold the last of their GM shares December 2013. 

I wonder who knew what when in October 2014, when GM switched-off Flint water because it was corroding manufactured automotive parts. Local CBS Flint affiliate carried GM's contemporaneous statement: 
"Everything we do is focused on our customers. Our decision to switch water sources is about making sure the equipment and the parts we machine in that equipment are at the highest quality levels for our customers who drive our vehicles," GM said in a statement.
This is just the latest complaint about city's water since it began using the Flint River as it's source in April. Since then there have been dozens of complaints from residents about the taste and smell.
Contributing cause? "Chloride" aka road salt :
“There’s been a tremendous increase in the use of salt across the northern US and essentially globally as well. We’re building more roads and we’re salting more,” she says. “What happens when you put salt on the ground – it dissolves and goes into the surface water and eventually that gets channeled into Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes.”
Chloride reports appeared in DC papers October 2014 (Washington Times). That's impressive media reach in the national capital. A capital controlled by a two-term Chicago White House that recently owned GM. It's tragically "small, small world-ish" that clearing snow for bailed-out Michigan vehicles corroded Michigan pipes that damaged the manufacturer of Michigan motors. And poisoned Michigan people. Geographically speaking, that's a reasonably tight ecological, economic feedback loop. 

More broadly, at the continental level, across North America, the conclusions don't dilute:
“Automobiles are responsible for a majority of lead pollution in North America, or approximately 16 pounds of lead per vehicle over its lifetime” said Jeff Gearhart, report author and Clean Car Campaign Research Director for the Ecology Center. (source , source)
Lead paint in pre-1980 homes is one source of lead exposure, nationally (Brown University). On that score, Detroit significantly over-indexes to lead paint exposure (source). 

So far in 2016, Michigan approved $28 million to deal with the acute Flint case of poisoned water and people (CNN). Obama added $80 million (Detroit News). Across Lake Michigan, in Chicago, the first-term Obama Administration slashed spending for lead clean-up. That whilst Chicago Tribune found poor black kids under 5 years old exposed to lead at ~600% the city average. #ResignRahm dodged questions. (Chicago Tribune)

Back in the present, Obama visited Detroit January 21, 2016 - sat in a GM Chevy Volt EV - and skipped Flint. (Chicago unknown.)

In Detroit, on 1/20/2016, the day of the President's visit, 44,790 of 46,325 public schools students stayed home because of mass, coordinated teacher protests. Protests of health conditions in the classroom (source).  

The deep structural problems in the Great Lakes are shifted - like a shell game. No one is accountable. The financial crisis was a financial crisis because the banks were too big to fail. The same logic appears to justify the GM and Ford bailouts. The firms were so big that despite because of despite their objectively failed management, it was "too expensive" (politically?) to allow new firms to startup, develop new roots, and grow organically. Instead: Inject "chemical fertilizer". Inject "growth hormone". Prop up "the patient".

There is something of an American poisoning problem across demographic groups. Case, Deaton documented middle aged whites (NY Times); NYT found similar among whites 25-34 (Jan 2016).

If you're a privileged white man, you blow up your bank and defraud buyers, get bailed out. If you run your company into the ground, get bailed out. If you poison Michigan people, you get bailed out. If you torture people, you get a presidential portrait. Too big to jail. There is zero progress on this root problem. Zero. The symptoms will persist. Everyone will pretend that they are different. They are the same. The millions of things done on the surface change the cosmetics of the bandage. But the fatal bleeding is internal and untreated. Something's in the water?

The automakers and banks remain systemic risks (Michael Lewis, January 2016). They aren't only still "too big to fail", they are BIGGER. They are riskier now than before. When they blow up again - and imperil everyone - we will be baffled. How could this happen? 

Infographic shows Chicago shooting through Jan 23 2016 (source

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