I’ll say this for Paul Ryan, his little community-theater Hamlet act turned out to be pretty smart. He waited until Donald Trump was having one of his worst weeks, as the “complete scam artist” story seemed to be taking hold, then unleashed the least-surprisng endorsement of all time, which will lead to breathless headlines about how Trump is “unifying the party.”
It was a sharp two-man game of 3-card monte, with Ryan shuffling at the table and Trump luring in the marks, designed to sucker the dimmest coneys in the media. Ryan got to pretend he was smart and thoughtful, and Trump got to pretend there were a few different sides of the Republican Party for him to win over. It looks like dominoes are falling, but this was all preordained.
Lesson learned, apparently. Image from The Guardian.
Our last post talked about how we’ve been cheating on lead tests in much of the city, and it is the poor who suffer the most, which has startling implications for Chicago’s violent criminality. But water has always been a political tool.
As outlined in Royko’s Boss, still required reading for anyone interested in how cities work, or just in great writing, in the hot summer of 1966, firemen started turning off hydrants in poor black neighborhoods on the south and west sides, while letting children play in them in white areas. This led to rioting, and old man Daley reacted, as he did, with programs that missed the point entirely. He started bussing in giant moving pools to all the poor areas. As Royko said:
Now there was a program, and Daley liked it. Give them water. He had a whole lake right outside the door. Even before the riots ended a few days later, City Hall had embarked on a crusade to make Chicago’s blacks the wettest in the country.
This was a perfect encapsulation of the problem: quick fixes which ignore the systemic injustice, as if shutting off the fire hydrants was the first provocation, and not the last straw.
I think we’ll see the same thing here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chicago does an orgy of quick spending to give every family a filter. It’s ignoring of the underclass until the problem becomes untenable, and then offering quick-hit solutions and hoping it’ll go away. Like lead leeching from antique pipes, though, it never actually does.
Where the water comes from. Image from Wikimedia Commons
If you’re unaccustomed to the view of Lake Michigan from Chicago, you’ll be surprised to notice several strange objects about a mile out into the lake. Depending on the weather and the light, they’ll look like large ships, before you realize that they aren’t moving, and anyway, seem to be made of stone. As your eyes focus on them, they look like houses, and the romantic among us imagine that they are old lighthouses, steering ships in through stormy western winds. Of course, there aren’t lights on them. What they are, you’ll have explained by a local, the glint of the trivia revealer in his eye, are the pumping stations, where the water that quenches a city is pulled from the vast and ancient lake and brought into the modern metropolis.
If asked why they are so far out, the local, still glinting, will explain that of course, when they were built, the river was still dumping pollutants into the lake, and just the dirty flotsam of millions made the shore and its near environs unsafe. Better to pull from, if not the open blue water where land is no longer visible and directions suddenly and terrifyingly seem to have no meaning, then close enough. This water rumbled through long pipes under water and land, through thousands of miles of pipe north and south, and into our homes.
And as an explosive Guardian report revealed, it’s been poisoned, and those in charge of testing it dodged their responsibility to let people know.
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