Some Good News About Asian Carp…For Now (Or: Why Trump’s Budget Ruins Everything)

In this 2012 photo, an Asian carp, jolted by an electric current from a research boat, jumps from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill., during a study on the fish’s population.

So, the Great Lakes actually got some good news this week, when it turned out that the canal leading up to Lake Michigan was free of Asian Carp. There had been a two-week monitoring of the area following the discovery of a carp in the Calumet River.

This is good news because if the Asian Carp get into the lake, they’ll be able to get into all the Great Lakes. They have no natural predators around here, and are expected to be able to out-compete local species for food and resources. They could potentially change the entire ecosystem of the lake, ruining commerical fishing (there isn’t much of a market for them right now), and having huge repercussions both environmentally and economically.

If you aren’t familiar, these are big suckers that jump out of the water when they hear a baot, and can do serious damage to boats and people. They fly around and can break your nose. They hurt when they hit you.

They were brought to America for fish farms, but then during a flood escaped into a river, and have worked their way up. Parts of the Illinois, for example, are completely choked with these monsters. Check this out.

It’s super unpleasant. Even if you don’t care about the ecological ramifications of them dominating the Great Lakes (and you should, what’s wrong with you?) just imagine the havoc it will wreak on boating, on the lakes and their tributaries. It’s a nightmare.

That’s why the US has spent a lot of money to keep them out of the Great Lakes, especially on the the Cal-Sag Channel, and the Calumet River. and the Sanitary and Ship Canal, where there is an electronic fence south of the city. And everyone agrees that’s a good thing. Who could be against it?

Oh, for the love of god

The alarming discovery of an 8-pound, 28-inch adult silver carp comes as President Donald Trump is proposing a federal budget that would gut funding for efforts to block Asian carp and other invasive species from the world’s largest body of fresh surface water.

The Trump administration also has refused to release a government study on new proposals to prevent carp from moving upstream from the Illinois River, where the fish already have wreaked havoc on the ecosystem.

Seriously, what the hell? How is it possible to be on the wrong side of everything? How is it possible to be on the wrong side of this? If you had asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t have even imagined there could be a wrong side. I didn’t think there was a pro-Asian-carp-in-the-Lakes contingency.  Especially not from someone so concerned about keeping America safe from foreigners!

But then, they manage to be on the wrong side of everything, especially when it comes to the Great Lakes. They are trying to gut the Great Lakes Research Initiative, even though it will hurt their white working class base the most.  They even manage to be against making sure ballast holds don’t bring any more invasive species, which is almost impressive. You think they spend their whole days on operatic evil like ending health care or suppressing the vote, but nope: they take time to block common-sense ballast measures.

There’s been some talk about closing the Sanitarity and Ship  Canal. As most of you know, these were built in order to use lake water to wash the filth of the city down the Des Plaines and Illinois toward the Mississippi, and on to St. Louis, which: haha, screw St. Louis. The great shipping and sanitation channels changed the flow of the water, an audacious move, and the biggest diversion in Great Lakes history (which now could be a casus belli). 

But it did more than that. It erased the divide between the Mississippi Basin and the Great Lakes Basin, which means that invasive species in Arkansas can make their way up the vast river system into the greatest body of freshwater in the world. That’s why some people are advocating closing them down.

It’s an equally audacious plan, to be sure, and I doubt it will ever happen. But that’s the kind of big thinking that is needed to prevent a catastrophe. And that is what makes it equally catastrophic that we are being led by the smallest thinkers in the world, a whole party of petty, short-sighted, gleefully-destructive fools who inevitably take the most destructive possible course on every issue.

Protecting the Great Lakes smacks of environmentalism, and so they won’t do it. It’s pure nihilism. May they all be forced to paddleboard through a swarm of madly agitated carp.

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In Privatizing Prison Nurses, Bruce Rauner Shows Depth of GOP Ideology

 

Image result for old prison

“Why should the lucky ducks who work here get all the breaks?” -Bruce Rauner

 

 

Sometimes, it’s the big and obvious stories (like, say, delegating your son-in-law to handle Iraq, because “the kid had a globe as a child”) that reveal the whole ballgame. Sometimes it is obvious. But most of the time, the real roots of an ideology are hidden at the margins, small-seeming and usually state-level decisions that are page 8 stuff, legislative battles in sleepy capital cities. That’s where decisions that impact people’s lives are made, and far from the spotlight, that’s where the worst of Republican “governance” flails its tentacles.

That’s the case in Illinois, where Bruce Rauner is sort-of-unwittingly showing exactly what “no government” looks like. To sum up broadly, in case you haven’t been paying attention: Rauner wants to turn Illinois in Walker’s Wisconsin by starving the government, imposing austerity, and cutting off any social programs so that the rich can have tax cuts. It’s sheer Ryanism; it looks like Trump’s budget. The Dems, led by boss Mike Madigan, haven’t wanted to let him do this, for reasons both noble and political. Namely, Rauner wants to destroy unions, which is a huge Democratic base of power in Illinois, one of the few states that still has strong public and private sector unions.

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Trump’s Great Lakes Policies Are Terrible For His Rust Belt Voters

Republic Steel - Now known as Riverbend (BEFORE)

The people who this hurts aren’t latte-sipping coastal elites

There’s been no doubt that all of Donald Trump’s plans (at least the ones that aren’t designed to hurt Muslims and Mexicans) stick it especially hard to his voting base. Gutting the ACA will throw millions more into uncertainty and poverty. He’s destroying programs that reduce misery in Appalachia (while obviously not doing anything to “restore coal”, because that’s impossible).  He’s gutting Meals on Wheels, which I don’t remember being the province of smug liberals.

He’s doing this because he’s a Republican, of course, and a tremendous liar, both of which facts eluded (and in a way were hidden from) the people that voted for him. But regardless.

One area where this is especially true is in the Great Lakes, home of the Rust Belt, and the symbolic heart of Trump’s victory. On the surface, it is easy to see why. For decades, after the labor/environmental split, which was more a product of a few mistakes and deliberate divide-and-conquer strategies of management rather than an inevitable corporate outcome, “green” policies have been perceived as harmful, and even antithetical, to the white working class.

It’s a buncha eggheads at the EPA and college professors and long-hairs who are stopping us from working, with their regulations. The culture wars mixed with the regulatory battles (and are really part of the same phenomenon), to the point where anything that smacked of environmentalism was seen as un-American. That’s why Trump (like every other Republican) gets applause when he talks about destroying the EPA: he’s attacking BIG GOVERNMENT and he’s ANNOYING LIBERALS.

But the funny thing is that people who are opposed to all this green stuff in the main tend to like it when it is by their homes. That’s why Trump’s Great Lakes policies, in which he is going to gut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, have proven to be so controversial.

The GLRI is a $3 billion dollar fund started in 2010 by the noted hater of the working man, Barack Obama, to improve water quality, clean up and manage pollution, fight invasive species, and promote responsible waterfront development in the Great Lakes, especially the heavily industrialized areas.

These are Rust Belt areas in which the land was poisoned and the water destroyed. These are areas like Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Detroit, and others. But they aren’t just big blue cities: they are the innumerable small towns that have their own shuttered factories whose legacies are pollution and waste. And, even in those “blue” cities, there are the fabled white working class, whose lives are destroyed, are whose lakes are algal disasters.

The GLRI has been working not just to undo that legacy, but to bring the lakefronts back to life. One of the most remarkable things about Chicago is that, as ruthlessly and dirtily capitalistic as this city was, we never built to the lake, keeping it public and beautiful. As such, the waterfront is the heart of the city, and helps bring in millions of tourists.

Other cities can get in on that. The GLRI has not just been great for the Lakes environmentally, but it has had the effect of letting cities use their waterfronts for recreation, commercial fishing, and gatherings. Look at this image from the Niagara River (which is part of the Great Lakes system).

I mean, yeah, you can see the rot around it. But that’s the same area from the top  picture! Now it’s an area where people hang out and can have jobs. It’s a tax base. It’s a place where life can be better.

For another great example of this, look at Erie, PA. It’s a town that was dying (and in parts, still is). But the GLRI helped clean the waterfront, bringing it back to life, a process Ohio had started but couldn’t afford on its own. Now there are big hotels, and a happening downtown with good restaurants and bars and stores. That’s economic progress. That’s turnaround.

And now that’s going to be thrown away. How nuts is this? It’s so nuts that even Scott Pruitt promised to keep funding the GLRI. Trump’s budget, the dream of Republicans, is so cruel and insane that even people who truly hate environmentalism are being wrong-footed by it. It’s pure nightmarish ideology.

What’s interesting (and predictable in a cheering, if also cynical way), is that Great Lakes Republican are angry. Scott Walker, Rick Snyder, Rob Portman and others, who always talk about federal waste, think the GLRI should stay. (And remember, Scott Walker is generally fine selling off most of his state to the highest bidder.) And they’re right!

What we see here, of course, is that wasteful overreach is only wasteful overreach when it doesn’t impact you. These GOP governors and Senators know that they need the Lakes, both for drinking water and for their state’s economies. They’d be fine cutting the EPA budget for other areas. But not for the Lakes.

This, finally, is the ultimate in GOP cynicism, and I think paves a way forward for liberal environmentalism to reconnect with labor. After all, the Trump budget was made from his priorities and from those of Washington think tanks who have been wanting to destroy the EPA for decades. They’ve managed to make that seem like a good thing for the working class, but now that they have total power, the truth is known.

They think the working class should live with dead rivers and unusable lakes. They think the ground should be ruined and salted with chemicals. They think that the government has no need to help make up for the wastes of industrialization, in which the white working class gave their lives, only to be left with poverty and poison. Someone else made money off of it. Now you have to live there.

Remember, the people making these decisions don’t live in Detroit. They don’t live in Erie. They sure as shit don’t live in Buffalo. They’re rich people in think tanks who think that the poor and economically anxious should stay that way, and if cancer is the price, well, it’s your choice if you can’t afford health care. Trump, and the people making his budget, aren’t just cruel. They’re snobs.