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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Disaster - Asian Carp

Yesterday, a fisherman caught a live Asian carp fish beyond the last barrier in Chicago before Lake Michigan. As anyone could have predicted, the failure to separate the Mississippi system from the Great Lakes is resulting in yet another invasive species catastrophe. I don't think it is too late, even now, but Obama and Illinois do not want to upset Chicago's transportation and logistics sector and dockworkers. This Supreme Court, so willing to take extreme positions like opening the floodgates to corporate bribery of politicians or essentially banning Free Speech if it involves guiding questionable groups back to the mainstream, has been reluctant to approve even a temporary closure of the Chicago locks. It is as pitiful an example of cowardly leadership as I can think of - another slow moving train wreck in action in Michigan, but no one has the will to overcome the inertia.

Now, Obama, the Supreme Court, and Chicago/Illinois may be ready to sacrifice the Great Lakes for a few shipping jobs, but I, and most Michiganians, are not. Still, if they do nothing on their end, our lawmakers appear impotent to do anything...jurisdiction is jurisdiction after all. I think I may have a solution, however. It may be radical, will doubtless be the subject of lawsuits, but it is necessary, and we can do it in cooperation with the Canadians and other Great Lakes States who are on our side.

Here it is: Any ship going to or from Chicago, between the Great Lakes and Mississippi systems, must cross water controlled by either Michigan or its allies or dock in the territory of Michigan and its allies. Ships must either cross choke points at Mackinaw, Detroit, Port Huron, Sault Ste. Marie, or Buffalo or dock in Michigan, Wisconsin, or Indiana. I propose we ban any ship that has passed through Chicago's contaminated waters from passing the choke points controlled by Michigan's allies. I suppose an outright ban may be able to stand on environmental grounds (e.g., the ships may be contaminated with Asian Carp eggs - 10 year study needed to evaluate, and in the meantime there is a ban). Any ship caught in Michigan's waters from Chicago could be seized and destroyed. If an outright ban would be overturned, perhaps a $1 bn per ship penalty for ships coming from Chicago could be enacted. These are drastic measures to be sure, but I think they would quickly end the current Mississippi-Great Lakes ship traffic through Chicago as we know it - shippers would just find alternate routes (or simply offload from Mississippi boats, put on trucks, then put on Great Lakes boats in Chicago). With the paradigm shifted, Chicago would have no reason to keep the systems connected, and hopefully, they would act to permanently separate the systems.

What do you think? If you have a better solution, please share it!

Here are a couple of articles talking about this tragedy:
http://detnews.com/article/20100624/METRO/6240415/1409/Michigan-lawmakers-renew-war-on-Asian-carp
http://www.freep.com/article/20100624/NEWS06/6240387/1322/Carp-found-past-barriers-but-locks-will-stay-open

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happenings: Mackinaw Policy Conference, USSF, and Fireworks!

Some important conversations are happening these days. The Detroit Regional Chamber recently concluded its annual Mackinaw Policy Conference. The fate of a second bridge in Detroit was a central topic, but I hope some other tangible leadership comes out of that. Crain's had a good recap, if anyone wants to review the takeaways.

More notably, the US Social Forum will be coming to Detroit next week. It has been described as something similar to the World Economic Forum, but for more...egalitarian and progressive people. Certainly, there promises to be quite a few interesting sessions, though of course, there are also some questionable and odd ones. There is also an entire programmatic stream dedicated to Detroit. I would encourage everyone who has some time to pick some sessions and try to participate and learn something. Visit the site for more info: http://www.ussf2010.org/

Here is why they chose to have this big event in Detroit:

"To win nationally, we must win in places like Detroit. The Midwest site of
the USSF marks a fierce resistance movement for social, racial, gender, and
 economic justice. Detroit has the highest unemployment of any major city in the 
country—23.2% (March 2009)—with nearly one in four Detroiters unable to find
 work. Michigan has had the highest number of unemployed people in all 50 states
for nearly four years. Thousands of living wage jobs have been permanently lost
 in the automotive industry and related sectors. Some think that it will take at least until 2025 for Michigan to recover from the economic collapse and social
dislocation.
What is happening in Detroit and in Michigan is happening all
across the United States. Detroit is a harbinger for what we must do in our communities!
 As grassroots activists and organizers, we work to address the indignities 
against working families and low-income people, and protect our human right to the basic necessities of life. In Detroit, we can make change happen!
The US Social Forum provides this space—drawing participants from
 different regions, ethnicities, sectors and ages across the U.S. and its 
colonies. Community-based organizations, Indigenous nations, immigrants, 
independent workers organizations, unions, unemployed, youth, children, elders,
queers, differently-abled, international allies, academics, and advocacy organizations will be able to come together in Detroit for dialogues, reflection and to define future strategies."

It seems like the USSF believes, as I do (though perhaps in a different way), that Detroit is ground zero for changing the world for the better. There is still hope, but it will be difficult.

On a more lighthearted note, it is that time of year where many people come to the city for the International Fireworks. The Free Press has prepared a guide if you are going to the city next Monday night (June 21st): http://www.freep.com/article/20100618/FEATURES01/100618029/1318/Detroit-River-fireworks-guide - tips to avoid the typical traffic/parking hassles, basically. Of course, if you don't want to go downtown (I went last year, and it was quite nice), a number of alternatives will be available over the upcoming weeks: http://www.freep.com/article/20100618/NEWS06/100618030/1318/