Green Drinks and Aquaponics

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Every month around the world in various cities, people interested in ecological and environmental issues get together informally to talk and learn about different topics over cocktails.

These groups meet everywhere from Albania to Vietnam and everywhere in between, INCLUDING right here in Key West.

Dr. Bill Irwin, photo courtesy FKCC

Dr. Bill Irwin, photo courtesy FKCC

“Green Drinks Key West” meets monthly at Muse, the upstairs bar at Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill and Brewery at 301 Whitehead Street, and this past week we were treated to a presentation by Dr Bill Irwin of KFCC on AQUAPONICS.

We have long been interested in aquaponics and possibly even implementing a system on a larger plot of land – but where to begin?!  We never liked Chemistry in college, and even biology was not our thing, so we worried this might be a very complicated endeavor.

Dr. Bill made it all so simple – and you can build this all yourself as he did in his back yard!  Our layman’s description as to HOW TO follows: Continue reading

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: the Boulevard Post-DeMoya

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State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/99707 McDonald, Dale M, 1966-67.

The main joy from the completion of our 850 Days of Hell is like the wonderful feeling when you stop beating your head against the wall. We now mostly have back what we had before, which is a relief after suffering pointless deprivation for so long.

The main improvement we can see is the drainage. I asked how they did it, and it was simple math. You see how they elevated the road in the former underwater areas, leaving sloping asphalt down to several businesses. I asked what went wrong on the recent work on South Roosevelt, where the repaving left larger lakes in front of La Brisa and east. They said DeMoya had not done the work that far down, but was engaged to do a future project on that stretch, so we can hope for some improvement. Continue reading

Clueless Ambivalence…

August 28, 2014 Editor:

What is happening in Ferguson, MO is just the most recent symptom of the cancer of America’s soul. We are long past the delusion of “the Greatest-Country-In-The-World” and rapidly descending to violent third world status. After reading Naja and Arnaud Girard’s piece, Friday, August 22, in The Blue Paper on KWPD’s brutal and dehumanizing treatment of the people it is charged to serve and protect right here in our little city, I have no choice but to protest. As an American citizen it is my civic duty to protest. As a human being I am compelled to protest.

Of any city or town in the US, Key West is in the envious position to be a living, shining example of our One Human Family credo and show the rest of the country how it’s done. Key West is a unique blend of international culture, multi-generational locals with ties to Cuba and the Bahamas, a creative and vibrant gay community and US military history and an on-going military presence. We are a microcosm of the US in a beautiful tropical setting. It is a tragedy our leadership doesn’t have the political will or the imagination to celebrate and promote our diversity, but instead plods along shrugging its shoulders in clueless ambivalence as our police behave in such brutal fashion.

I’m getting worn out repeating the standard excuse for police brutality, “The majority of cops are great people, it’s just a few bad apples misbehaving, etc, etc, etc…” I’m sorry, but that isn’t working for me anymore. In truth, the “blue wall of silence” screams culpability. The archaic tradition of looking the other way and protecting psychopaths in uniform needs to end. Now. This goes for the tacit approval of the same by the city commissioners, the mayor, the city manager and the Chief of Police, Donnie Lee.

Please, let us be the city to emulate. We are so close, but until we cull those few bad apples we will be no better than those killer cops in Ferguson and St Louis.

Alex Symington

Key West

An Extremely Modest Proposal

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Don’t Have a Cow, Herc!
(Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus, CC0)

So imagine you’re a fire-breathing giant, son of the Roman god of fire Vulcan. You live in a cave on a hill that eventually becomes part of Rome. You hang out, eat human flesh, and nail human heads to the doors of your hillside abode (caves have doors?). Then you see some nice fat cattle grazing below and decide to drag eight of them into your subterranean crib. They were right there for the taking after all and the people you like to snack on have somehow figured out it’s in their better interest to vacate the neighborhood. So no big deal, right? Wrong. Continue reading

It’s The Law, Man

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Wasting police time; wasting taxpayer dollars

There aren’t many issues that Americans agree on in this era of divisive politics. The country has been fractured by innumerable partisan confrontations from foreign wars to immigration to birth control. And yet a clear majority of people in the United States do consistently agree on one issue: legalization of marijuana.

Not medical marijuana either. Smoking dope, man.

When the White House created its website Change.Org it asked the public to vote on the “Top 10 Ideas for Change in America.” The result? The call to “legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana” placed #1 in the 2010 Change.org online vote. Continue reading

FOLLOWUP 2: THE BLUE WALL OF SILENCE

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Last week, I again wrote about the Blue Wall of Silence, the unwritten “commandment” in law enforcement that cops don’t rat on cops– no matter how illegal or near-illegal a police officer’s conduct may be. I pointed out that this rule is almost absolute, not only because of peer pressure, but also because, typically, whistle-blowers are not protected by police management. In fact, the law enforcement careers of police officers who are too honest– officers who refuse to play the Blue Wall game– are often destroyed.

The classic example of this truth here in Key West is the case of former police officer Tom Neary. Neary was suspended in October 2007 and finally fired in June 2008, charged with conduct unbecoming a police officer. The official list of allegations against Neary gave the term “trumped up” a whole new meaning. But make no mistake here: The real reason that Neary’s law enforcement career was destroyed is that he threatened to go public with information about a bogus investigation ordered by then-Police Chief Bill Mauldin with the objective of ending the political career of City Commissioner Mark Rossi. Continue reading

Libertarian Party of the Florida Keys Endorses No Candidates for August’s Elections

Ahead of August 26th’s local elections for many non-partisan offices in Key West and Monroe County, Libertarian Party of the Florida Keys Chairman Mike Kane released the following statement:

After much discussion and review, the Libertarian Party of the Florida Keys has decided not to endorse any candidates for Augusts’ elections. It was a consensus among all members that no candidate took the Libertarian approach to solving today’s societal woes: reducing the size and scope of government.

Rather than addressing important Libertarian issues, such as ending the failed war on drugs, reducing property and sales taxes, marriage equality until government is out of marriage licensing altogether, advocating for jury nullification, and the eventual privatizing of schools, most candidates are incredibly vague with their campaign slogans such as “increasing transparency in government”, “restoring trust in city hall”, and “setting high standards”. Continue reading

Grinder Pumps, Will They Mean the End of Key Deer?

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Commisioner George Neugent states that a pressure sewage system, with grinder pumps, is the optimum sewage collection system for Big Pine Key.  He says grinder pumps require less excavation and have a smaller footprint.  While these may or may not be immediate benefits of a pressure sewage system, we need to consider the impact of alternative systems, long term environmental issues and the unintended consequences of this political decision.  You may or may not agree with my hypothesis, but it needs serious analysis, debate and input from independent professionals before long term, permanent and potentially disastrous decisions are made. Continue reading

It’s Hot! It’s Exciting!! Nobody’s heard of it!!!

Hot Hot Hot

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What is it? GreenKeys! Yes, exclamation point. That’s how terrific it is. Terrific!

So what is GreenKeys!? It’s hard to say precisely. It seems to partially be an outreach effort by the expensive consultant hired by the county whose task it is to design how the Keys will implement its climate action plan and update sea level rise modeling (SLR).

Problem is, GreenKeys! didn’t do a particularly effective job at reaching out. It appears that only 23 or, to be generous, 27 people in the entire county responded to a survey distributed via Constant Contact. But the consultant only sent it to 89 people. Continue reading

FOLLOWUP: BLUE WALL OF SILENCE

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If you are a regular reader of Key West The Newspaper (The Blue Paper), I hope you read John Donnelly’s thoughtful commentary on the “Blue Wall of Silence,” published here two weeks ago. If you missed it, click on “back issues” on this website’s home page and call up the August 8 issue and scroll down to “Police Investigating Police Will Not Expose Criminal Cops– nor Protect Citizens.” Donnelly quotes police officers (anonymously, of course) explaining their “rationale” for failing to speak out or downright lying about other officers who may have broken the rules (at best) or who have maybe even committed a crime (at worst). Continue reading

Kessler and Jones, Yes; Neugent, No

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Rick BoettgerIt’s political season, and I’m limiting my picks to the three I feel most strongly and knowledgeable about. I understand the financial accounting in the School District for their board race, the law for Mark Jones’ re-election, and George Neugent’s numerous ethical flaws.

Stu Kessler is probably the most expert candidate for his position we have had run for anything in the 18 years I have been in Key West. His qualifications are both general and specific. He has degrees in law, accounting, and business, and a long background of not only being on a school board, but of being so respected he was their president for 11 years.

Locally, he has been on our district’s Audit and Finance Committee, and is currently their chair. Stu is one of the two AFC members who actually used their position to audit the district’s finances. He has had in particular a good effect on correcting the errors in the HOB project. Continue reading

Justice System In Default–As Bad Cops Continue To Maul & Execute Innocent Men…..

canstockphoto18562148Walking or driving while Black or Homeless can be a grave offense. Perhaps a serious crime, capable of   causing the offender to be summarily executed on the spot.

United States Marine and Black Insurance Executive Arthur McDuffie was killed  by 12 Miami police officers because he ran a stop sign on his motorcycle, causing the police to pursue him. He stopped his motorcycle, raised his hands in the air and said: “I give up”, as sworn to by 3 police officers. Continue reading

Trial By Ambush And Other Hometown PAC Mayoral Candidate Forum Quirks

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First out of the chute in the mayoral candidates part of Hometown PAC’s August 4 forum, US 1 Radio News Coordinator Bill Becker said he called the Alabama Bar Association and they said they had no record of Sloan Bashinsky ever having practiced law in Alabama. You can watch and hear that and my answer by opening Hometown’s link, starting a little after the 1 hour and 10 minutes mark.

The next day, I called the Alabama Bar and got the same news from Cathy Sue McCurry – 334-269-1515 (phone). Continue reading

PRIMARY ELECTIONS IN KEY WEST: Three Different Ballots

canstockphoto18778006I need to start this column with a lecture. If you want to consider yourself a good citizen, you should be registered to vote and you should vote in every election. If you are a non-voter and this statement offends you, so be it. Voting is important because elections have consequences. And this is especially true in Key West and the Keys where elections are often won or lost by just a few votes. Our state lawmakers have made it so easy to vote, as well as to register to vote, that there is almost no reasonable excuse not to vote. A few years ago, the State Legislature introduced Early Voting, which makes it possible to vote during a two-week period (including Saturdays!) before the official election day. In addition, you can avoid going to the polls altogether by using an absentee ballot. Early Voting is already underway for the Primary Election scheduled for August 26. The date of the General Election this year is November 4. Continue reading

Neugent Breaks Oath

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On June 14th this year George Neugent wrote his notarized signature on an “OATH. I the person whose name appears at the beginning of this form, do depose on oath or affirmation and say that the information disclosed on this form . . . is true, accurate, and complete.” It is his Form 6, “Full and Public Disclosure of Financial Interest.” All declared candidates for office must file it. It is a public record, created for all the world to read and judge.

Neugent’s is rife with errors. One would think anyone running for a position commanding a billion dollar budget would be able to fill out simple financial forms, a form designed to describe himself to the world. What he discloses is, I believe, “true,” but makes no attempt to be “accurate and complete.” Continue reading

Standing Up For ‘Stand Up For Animals’

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Note: The following article, published on December 3, 2010, was the first in a series of articles about Stand Up For Animals [SUFA] [the group that once handled animal control services for the Middle Keys] written by Rick Boettger for the original Key West The Newspaper [The Blue Paper].  As it turns out Rick’s article was amazingly prescient — and effective. As Rick included in his formal complaint to the State’s Ethics Commission, just four days after publication, SHARK [the newly formed group that eventually became the replacement contractor] dropped its leader Gwen Hatoff and the two friends of George Neugent who had given him false dirt on SUFA from their board. [The Monroe County Commission voted last month to end the four-year-old lawsuit with SUFA, offering the nonprofit $ 45,000 to settle the case. SUFA accepted.] 

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Rick BoettgerOriginally printed on December 3, 2010 in Dennis Reeves Coopers’ Key West The Newspaper:

Have you read the heart-warming story about the two cold-weather dogs, Chachi and  Eva, who were suffering from our heat in the Keys, and were shipped from our local shelter to an affiliated shelter in Michigan? The happy ending is that they were adopted out within two weeks of their arrival, and now are both healthy and happy on northern farms.

Unfortunately, you probably read only about the costs of sending them up north, in the context of a critical “audit” of that local shelter, Stand Up For Animals (SUFA).  This highly successful and much-lauded organization has been destroyed by Monroe County’s Clerk Danny Kolhage.  He, illegally in my considered opinion, trumped up false charges to freeze their bank account, containing a quarter million dollars of SUFA’s independently saved donations and grant moneys.  This forced SUFA to close, because they could not pay their bills and employees. Continue reading

Moving Out of the Comfort Zone

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It’s Way Past Time to Mix Things Up.
(Mr. Nobody, Freeport [No. 005], Michael Lin, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)

I came across a word recently and stuck it in a draft post to save for a later blog. I’ve just returned to it now. I can’t remember where I saw it but it still seems worthy of a post. The word is “homophily.” It translates to “love of the same” or “the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others.” Although the word encompasses homosexuality of course, it’s the much broader scope of it that I find interesting.

In a 2006 New York Times article, author Aaron Retica notes that sociologists coined the term “homophily” in the 1950s. “The term didn’t catch on,” he writes, “but the concept is now enjoying a renaissance, in part because it has been repeatedly invoked to explain the American electorate’s apparent polarization into equally self-regarding camps.” Retica mentions a 2001 study titled “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks.” In it, the authors sum up the nature and the harm of this tendency in their abstract: Continue reading

ZOMBIE SWIMMING POOLS…

CaptainLyndaHeadSelfieThere is a crisis in Florida right now and it has nothing to do with politics, immigration, fires or sink-holes. It’s “zombie swimming pools.”

According to an article in “Florida Today” as quoted in the “Huffington Post” Florida leads the nation in  “naked real estate” from foreclosed homes and those where the owners have ‘walked away,’ still owning the property. “Thousands upon thousands” of these properties have swimming pools and, “the sheer number of mosquitoes breeding in these pools is daunting.”

Although the article mentioned trying to combat the larvae with mosquito eating fish, which died, and pesticides, which were marginally effective, it never did mention the use of larvicides, a tool that our own mosquito control uses rather effectively. Continue reading

THE WAR TO END ALL WARS STARTED 100 YEARS AGO

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The fact that various wars, large and small, continue to rage around the world suggests that, sometimes, it’s really easy to start a war. Maybe too easy. Perhaps the classic example of too-easy might be World War I– which started almost exactly 100 years ago. The Great War, the War to End All Wars, started in June 1914, with the assassination of the archduke of Austria-Hungary. Historians did not start calling it World War I until the start of World War II, when it appeared that we were going to have to start numbering our wars. Today, the assassination of a government official of a minor nation might not even be a major news story, much less start a war. But that event triggered a chain of events that would result in the deaths of millions of soldiers and civilians in Europe, as well as thousands of Americans after the US became involved in the war. Continue reading

Police Investigating Police — Will Not Expose Criminal Cops — Nor — Protect Citizens …

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All members of law-enforcement that I’ve spoken with, upon questioning, were willing to address the continuing abuses that are systemic within their agencies, resultant from “cops investigating other cops”.

I challenged them on the extent to which “The Blue Wall of Silence” actually applies. Are there any limits on the types of misconduct covered under this ‘code’?

I mentioned several hateful and savage crimes, and asked if the offending police officer would be shielded from their barbaric conduct by their silence. After obfuscating a clear response and upon being pressed for an answer, they all said Continue reading

THE BLUE PAPER AND BILL O’REILLY

Dennis Reeves Cooper with Bill O'Reilly in 2001

Dennis Reeves Cooper with Bill O’Reilly in 2001

Since I have been writing a weekly column for the new Blue Paper online, the editors have periodically accompanied my column with a photo of me appearing with Bill O’Reilly on his show on the Fox News Channel. A number of readers have asked me when and why I was invited to appear on the O’Reilly Factor– the highest rated cable news program. Longtime readers know the story, but new readers may not. So here it is again. Longtime readers please pardon– but we have a lot of new readers.

When I ran Key West The Newspaper, I often pushed the envelope when it came to controversy– as the new editors still do. Back in 2001, one of our prime targets was an out-of-control police department. Needless to say, this pissed off then-Police Chief Buz Dillon. And on June 22 of that year, he used an obscure state law to have me arrested and jailed for writing about an on-going internal investigation. Now while I was confident that those charges would never stand up, the immediate fact was that I was facing criminal charges and that I was going to have to find the money to hire a lawyer and defend myself in court. Beyond that, I was concerned about my reputation and the reputation of my newspaper. Rightly or wrongly, many people assume that anybody arrested and charged is probably guilty. Continue reading

Today’s World

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There is so much darkness in my mind,

one never knows what one will find.

There is so much trouble in our life,

we live in a world so much strife.

*

Senseless wars for money to be made,

all at the expense of the lower pay grade.

Chemical weapons and IED’s,

soldiers returning with “soul disease” Continue reading

Fouling Our Nest Part II: Let Us Spray

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Workers digging trench for sewer line in front of the author’s house stand in chest-high salt water.

Workers digging trench for sewer line in front of the author’s house stand in chest-high salt water.

Anyone who has lived in the Keys for any length of time knows that the ground we live on is very porous. Made up of either coral or limestone rock, the surface of these islands resembles flat colanders, allowing everything that falls on it to eventually pass directly through the ground to the salt water below, a mere few feet.

When the contractors dug trenches for the sewers in Marathon, those cavities immediately filled with salt water that rose and fell with the tide. As a result, anything that is sprayed or poured onto the thin skin that separates us from the ocean below finds its way into that ocean.

So, for example, herbicides that anyone sprays throughout the Keys would not only kill weeds and other plants but also would eventually become part of the ecosystems in our oceans.

Who sprays in the Keys?

Continue reading

Electing Devious & Inept Bumblers–Destabilizes The World–As Children Die & Humanity Suffers…

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Individual excellence and personal achievement does not require the endorsement or approval of others. It rises up deep within an individual and manifests itself in their ideas and behavior; stimulating, attracting and motivating others to live exceptional lives.

Authentic leadership is a quality that cannot be purchased nor  acquired at a college or university. It cannot be learned from a book nor bestowed upon an unworthy candidate. Its characteristics are not  clearly delineated nor readily defined. However, most of us are keenly aware when we are in the presence of an extraordinary individual. Their  tangential energy has been changing the course of human events since the inception of ‘Man’. Continue reading

GUEST COLUMN: Mosquito Control in the Florida Keys

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CaptainLyndaHeadSelfieI would be remiss as a candidate for the mosquito control board if I did not address the potential threat of the fresh water mosquito borne Chikungunya virus which has made its way to Florida. The Florida Health Dept. has reported that the two South Florida residents who had contracted the virus in-State, have recovered, and that there was “no broad risk” to the health of the general public. There have been no reported deaths from the illness despite the thousands who have contracted it in the Caribbean.

My understanding of this illness is that it is somewhat like Dengue but attacks the joints with inflammation and may be more painful but of shorter duration, recovery being about one week but possibly more. Once a person has Chikungunya they become immune to having it again.

Monroe County residents certainly remember Dengue and West Nile and several of my friends are affected with Malaria, gotten elsewhere, all illnesses from the fresh water mosquito.  I am making this distinction from the salt marsh mosquito because Key West, as an urban island, has a predominance of the fresh water type and mosquito control may at some point be spraying pesticides (adulticides) in addition to stepping up their use of larvicides to combat this new and potential threat from Chikungunya. Continue reading

Does Climate Make A Difference?

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Over the past weekend, I binge-watched a TV drama series on Netflix. The story took place in Seattle. It was not about Seattle; it was about a murder mystery. But the outdoor scenes showed the city of Seattle and its climate. Now, I have never been to Seattle but I have always heard that it is cloudy and rainy there almost all the time. And sure enough, the TV presentation showed that. With few exceptions, it was raining or black-cloudy in every outdoor scene. I feel sure that it was not the intent of the producers to present the city in an unfavorable way and, as part of the plot, the actors were not particularly preoccupied with the weather. That is just the way it was. They were almost always walking or running or driving in the rain. Jeez, I kept thinking, how could anybody live in a place like that?! Indeed, when I Googled Seattle and weather, I learned that it does indeed rain a lot there and that the sun rarely shines– and that many residents suffer from depression and that there is a high suicide rate. Go figure. Continue reading

Rose Garden Betrayal…Odious Symbolism…

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Since commenting on an article published in ‘The Blue Paper’ by Dennis Reeves Cooper entitled: “The Prisoner Exchange: He Did What?!” on June 8, 2014;  I’ve closely monitored events surrounding the issues I addressed. I was determined to modify or correct my statements if necessary. As the Bowe Bergdahl saga unfolds, it appears the accuracy of my remarks have remained ‘spot on’.

Some have critiqued my interpretation of events as being lackluster and juvenile. They suggest that I’m unable to appreciate the grander scheme of our involvement in conflicts around the world. Although I challenge that notion, I respect their divergent perspectives and remain open to new ideas. Continue reading

CLIMATE CHANGE: How Do You Sell Florida Keys Real Estate That May Soon Be Underwater?

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Back in the summer of 2009, there was a big meeting up in Marathon about climate change and its implications for the Florida Keys. Officials of the Nature Conservancy and others, quoting reports from international panels of scientists, predicted that by 2100, the Keys will have lost about 59,000 acres of real estate valued at $ 11 billion to rising sea levels. And that, they said, was the best case scenario. The worst case scenario would be that sea level could rise by more than 28 inches, submerging 154,000 acres valued at $ 43 billion.

The spin, in case you haven’t heard, is that the climate is warming and that the polar ice cap is melting, which is causing sea levels to rise. Indeed, sea level here in the Keys has already risen by 9 inches over the last 100 years, according to an Associated Press article published in July of last year– that rise reportedly documented by a tidal gauge operating in the Keys since before the Civil War. Also, perhaps coincidentally, tidal flooding here, once a periodic inconvenience, has become almost routine. Just ask the owners of businesses on the northern end of Duval Street. But having said that, it is also important to report that a large number or scientists and weather experts believe that the Keys-going-underwater scenario is being overstated. Continue reading

Invalid Investigation–Derides & Mocks The Death Of An Innocent Man…

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An innocent man was killed while in the custody of the Key West Police Department. This disabled 61 year-old met his fate at the hands of police officers, as he laid down on the ground before them. This defenseless and helpless citizen  appeared compliant to all commands that were directed at him.

An onslaught of aggression was executed upon Mr. Eimers. He was face down in a prone position, with his arms extended above his head. He did not pose a threat to anyone. Continue reading

Peter Pan

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I have a personal policy of avoiding main stream corporate news outlets like I avoid The Weather Channel. I don’t need to know about hurricane Gertrude from the minute it forms off the coast of Africa. It might be weeks before it crosses the Atlantic and actually becomes a problem. When it gets close, IF it gets close, then I will hear about it at Five Brothers over café con leche. That way I avoid those weeks of needless anxiety and nail biting. The same goes for watching, listening and/or reading corporate sponsored propaganda, aka the news. Continue reading

GUEST COLUMN: Grinder Pumps For Dummies – Or Why I Don’t Want To Be A Loser

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If you live in the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System area, you need to read the “Dummies Guide To Grinder Pumps”.  If you are a “loser” as our County Commisioner has called all who are getting grinder pumps, you should read it very slowly.

DESCRIPTION OF A GRINDER PUMP

Dummy Version – The greatest invention since ice cream.  To quote our Mayor, “when you flush it goes away”, what else can you ask for?

Real Version – A system in which sewage flows from gravity into a heavy duty plastic tank.  The tank is about 180 gallons just over one day of waste for a typical family.  It has a one horsepower motor that turns grinder blades similar to a garbage disposal in your sink.  A progressive cavity pump then forces the sewage into a 1 1/4” pipe which leads to master stations or the treatment plant on Cudjoe Key. Continue reading

Fouling Our Nest Part 1: Mosquito Control and the Ecology of the Keys

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Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.32.57 PM I woke up this afternoon

I saw both cars were gone

I felt so low down deep inside

I threw my drink across the lawn

 – Martin Mull, Shaker Heights Blues

I read in the Keynoter that the president of the gated and very wealthy Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo pleaded for an aerial spraying before last Friday because of an invasion of salt marsh mosquitoes.

“Most of our nearly 2,000 or so members and guests will have had their Fourth of July ruined,” Ocean Reef President Paul Astbury wrote to Mosquito Control.

Tragic.
Continue reading

We All Want A Good System and Good Water Quality, As Promised…

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Some may try painting Dump The Pumps, Inc as being “against sewers”; that the group is simply trying to be disruptive and aims to bring all sewer construction to a stop.

Wrong!  We all want a good system and good water quality, as promised when we passed the one cent infrastructure sales tax.

Anyone that has attended the various meetings, followed the chatter, asked questions, donated money, signed the petitions knows that the fight is simple.  A substandard sewer system, mandated by politicians rather than engineers, putting grinder pumps in our yards, threatening our nearshore waters, is the fight.  Do not forget the original system, designed by engineers, was a gravity system.  It was not until the politicians got involved that we saw sewer money diverted to pet projects and a cheapened system thrust upon us. Continue reading

Some Things Your High School History Teacher May Not Have Told You About The Fourth Of July

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Make no mistake about it. The Declaration of Independence is one of the most significant documents in the history of the world. It introduced the idea that government derives its power from the governed–the people– not the other way around. What a concept. Nothing like that had ever been done before. We all studied the Declaration of Independence in our high school history classes. But some teachers may not have pointed out the level of abject courage that was required on the part of the men who signed it. Keep in mind that, in putting their names on that document, these guys were dissing the King of England. By signing the Declaration of Independence, they were, in essence, signing their death warrants. They and their families could have lost everything. But they had simply had enough of British domination, taxation without representatio, and existing at the pleasure of an arrogant king an ocean away.  Continue reading

Murder-for-hire Perpetrator Gets Maximum Allowable Sentence

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Pistol“I am the victim. My life has changed dramatically.”

So said an emotional Bruce Schmitt at a court session for the man who tried to have him killed.

At the session, a clearly frustrated U.S. federal judge, Jose E. Martinez, imposed the maximum allowable ten-year sentence on admitted murder-for-hire perpetrator Dennis Zecca in a sentencing hearing at the Federal Court Building in Key West on Wednesday. Zecca has been convicted of hiring someone – who turned out to be an FBI informant – to kill Schmitt, a Marathon realtor, for reasons still unknown.

Martinez wondered aloud what everyone else familiar with the case has been wondering since late 2012: why. Continue reading

Капитализм (Capitalism)

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Somewhere Karl Marx is shaking his shaggy head and smiling. When a bastion of the capitalist right, Time Magazine, publishes an article validating ANYTHING Karl Marx said can Armageddon be far behind? I am most definitely not an economist. Show me a budget report or some financial spread sheet and my eyes glaze over in stupor, but lately I have been reading with some fascination many unflattering reports on the sacred free market. The imaginary capitalist guiding hand of self-regulation and its sister, the imaginary self-leveling playing field are, all of a sudden, being called into question. What is going on?! Continue reading

Let ‘em fry!

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Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test, [the poor] fail, and for this they are despised.

– George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933

Apparently it never rains in the Keys. And the hot sun doesn’t beat down mercilessly.

That must be the thinking of the local gendarmerie and town fathers in Marathon. While moving a commuter bus stop from a site in front of a local liquor store and bar might make sense, designing a new stop with no benches and no cover certainly doesn’t. But that’s what is going to happen in the Middle Keys as a result of a June 24 city council decision.

The bus stop in question serves two round-trip routes. One provides transportation to Key West while the other does the same between the Keys and Florida City. The people who use the latter are primarily service workers who travel two hours to slightly better paying low-end jobs at places such as Kmart, Winn-Dixie and Publix. Continue reading

Reef Relief Urges Keys-Wide Wastewater Reuse Plan / Adamant That Laws Be Obeyed During Planning, Permitting, and Construction

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Reef Relief continues our work of using the best available science to educate the public and policymakers to achieve conservation, protection, and restoration of coral reef ecosystems.

The most critical issue facing all of us today is water quality. We fight to combat pollution in our oceans and negative effects of climate change, but without clean water, all of our work with regard to restoration and conservation are only delaying the loss of our coral reef ecosystems.

This is why Reef Relief, along with many other local, state, federal and private entities, have worked so hard toward creating a Keys-wide sewer system. We should all be proud of the work we have accomplished in this matter. Reef Relief would like to thank everyone involved in the implementation of the Keys-wide sewer system. It is imperative that our inefficient septic tanks are no longer allowed to leach human waste into our near shore waters. We would also like to thank all homeowners for cooperating with this process, as we are well aware of the financial burden. Continue reading

LAST STAND CALLS FOR DEEP INJECTION WELL AT CUDJOE WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT

 

Last stand logo cropped

Last Stand announced on Wednesday that it is strongly opposed to disposal of treated sewage into shallow wells at the as yet unfinished Cudjoe Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant.

In letters to DEP, FKAA and each Monroe County Commissioner, the Keyswide environmental group cited state regulations, insufficient treatment and danger to sealife as reasons why the plant should be required to pump its waste 2,500-3,000 feet below the surface into the Boulder Zone.

“DEP requires sewage plants that have the potential to treat one million gallons a day to use deep well disposal,” said Naja Girard, president of Last Stand, a watch-dog group which has operated in the Keys for over 25 years.  “Deep wells receive the partially treated waste water and retain it below solid barriers, while shallow wells allow the fresh water to rise to the surface and move into the nearshore waters,” she added. Continue reading

Conditioned Minds–Attract Duplicitous Ideologies… Continued

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As an inner city high school student in an economics’ class, we were required to pick ten stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange, which we believed showed signs of growth and profitability. Our assignment was to trade these stocks as we saw fit, keeping the class abreast of our progress throughout  the year. The goal was to see who could accrue the most profit from their initial investment. With guidance and direction from our teacher, along with my summer job experience on Wall Street, I secured the highest profits ever recorded by any student taking that class. As I remember, one of the stocks I really liked back then was Disney. As an adult investor,  Telefones de Mexico has served me well.

I’ve had opportunities to acquire all the affluence and abundance that this world could offer. These riches were mine. I just had to work within a group, which was conducting the same business being performed by our government. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: Sustainable [R]evolution [North Atlantic Books]

Sustainable Revolution coverReading Juliana Birnbaum and Louis Fox’s new book is both exhilarating and depressing. Exhilarating because the volume describes in varying detail more than 62 ecovillages, urban farms, and communities from all over the world working toward sustainability.

But the paperback is also a downer because it highlights what can be accomplished but isn’t in almost all cities and towns. Here in the Keys for instance, a place that is more than suitable for cutting-edge efforts to reduce human impact upon deteriorating habitats and our climate, nothing of the sort has been contemplated let alone implemented. Continue reading

DO YOU THINK WE MIGHT HAVE A HOUSING CRISIS?

Affordable Housing Crises

942765_444707312315462_900435827_nIt is becoming very alarming how few rental properties there are, and how high priced they are. Landlords are becoming very unreliable, houses are going into foreclosure in high amounts. I know my landlord defaulted on 10 in the last two months. I know of at least 3-4 more that friends live in houses facing foreclosure. Now banks own a ton of properties. Then banks sell them to people, and those people tend to turn them into vacation rentals. Florida Keys have a housing CRISIS on their hands. What is going to happen when more Key West residents move out for lack of housing? Or way to expensive housing? People can barely live down here unless they have many roommates. I’m a mother, so I really can’t have roommates. Who can really afford to live here without roomates? People who own their house, military workers, those in low income housing where the state pays their bills and rent, people on vacation, and people who really don’t need to work. Key west needs people to work, not moving out because they can’t afford the first, last, and security totaling $ 6,000 -$ 10,000 just to move in and rent a place. At least most tourist destinations have worker housing that is truly affordable. Without workers, you have no tourist destination … Also speaking of tourist destinations, I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice, the economy is not the same as it was in 2005-2007. The money is slowing down quite a bit. Tourists are spending a lot more for rooms in hotels, and vacation houses like Truman Annex and such. They’re  staying and relaxing in their hotels more, spending less money on Duval St. and other fun activities. People are starting to take their vacations to other cheaper places. I hear it all the time. Last year’s Fantasy Fest had to be the worst ever. Just like Bike Week and this year’s St. Patrick’s Day. Key west is not getting what it used to in tourism. So if our wages are not as good as they used to be, and rent is getting higher, what is next? Exactly, people are leaving… What is Key West going to do?? Huge Crisis. I have put this on Facebook and have had a huge amount of responses.

Do you think Monica hit a chord?  Well, she sure did.  Have a look at the flood of Facebook responses (get comfy): Continue reading

A POTPOURRI OF UNSOLICITED OPINION AND COMMENT

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Here is a compilation of opinions and comments that either do not lend themselves to complete columns or which are left over from some of my previously-published columns. Some are tongue-in-cheek and some are reasonably serious. I will leave it up to you to tell the difference.

IRS SCANDAL. For months and months, congressional investigators have been trying the get the IRS to release emails of several high-level IRS employees to see if they were involved in an orchestrated effort to gag political speech of conservative groups before the last presidential election. Finally, in recent days, IRS officials, have reported, with straight faces, that thousands of the requested emails have simply been “lost.” Geez! The dog-ate-my-homework scam didn’t even work in the third grade. Continue reading

Conditioned Minds–Attract Duplicitous Ideologies…

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You can purchase a T-Shirt with this design at: http://www.neatoshop.com/product/Money-is-the-Root-of-All-Evil

Since man’s inception, the drive for wealth and power has been intrinsically woven into the species.

Many of the world’s movers and shakers are possessed with an inflamed primordial drive, requiring expression via “whatever means necessary”.  The weak and feeble are often recruited to serve as mouthpieces for those ‘calling the shots’.

Some government policy makers care little of the strategies and tactics employed to realize their power and monetary objectives. Wars, famines, ethnic cleansings and genocides have been honed into the crafts of their trade. Continue reading

Recovery

Recovery

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I just finished reading an enlightening article on “Reparations” in the June 2014 issue of, The Atlantic. The piece was titled “The Case For Reparations” written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic. Reparations, in this context, is referring to amends for past treatment of African slaves and their descendants. The reaction to the word reparations has a predictable knee-jerk effect on most Americans of European descent. “Who is going to pay and who is going to be paid and how much are WE expected to come up with”, are the usual defensive and dismissive questions.

This article attempts to address those questions, but is more focused on the necessity for an open rational dialogue on the subject. As the copy on the cover of the magazine states in bold print: “250 years of slavery. 90 years of Jim Crow. 60 years of separate but equal. 35 years of state-sanctioned redlining. Until we reckon with the compounding moral debts of our ancestors, America will never be whole.” Recovery begins with an admission that there is a problem. Continue reading

SAVING THE WORLD: Where Do We Draw The Line?

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canstockphoto14913127

Should Americans continue to try to save the world? If so, it seems pretty obvious that we can’t save it all. And if that is true, how do we pick and choose? Where do we draw the line? And the big question: Is the life of one American soldier worth the lives of the entire population of any Stone Age country? In the wake of the apparent meltdown of government military forces in Iraq, these questions seem appropriate and timely. Since we invaded that country in 2003 to save the people from an evil regime (and to search for non-existent weapons of mass destruction), more than 4000 American soldiers have been killed and thousands more injured, many with pieces of their bodies blown off. The financial investment so far has been estimated at more than $ 1 trillion. Continue reading

Water Water Neverywhere

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Miss Me Yet?
(Image CC-by-NC-3.0, GFDL-1.2)

You don’t often see an online headline like “Thirsty West: Why Californians Will Soon Be Drinking Their Own Pee.” Okay, you probably would never have seen it had Slate not explored the topic a couple of day’s ago. The article focuses on the California drought and how the state is attempting to cope with it. In San Diego, for example, which gets almost all of its water from snow melt and the much-contended-for Colorado River, they are now building a $1 billion dollar desal plant. If and when finished, it will supply just seven percent of the area’s water needs. That seems ridiculous, opines author Eric Holthaus. He goes on to note that recycling wastewater is a much more efficient way of increasing available potable water. Continue reading

Disposable People

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canstockphoto19604766

Apropos of last week’s heartbreaking article in The Blue Paper by Naja and Arnaud Girard on the personal stories of three local homeless, two families and one single person, I came across a story making its way around the web. It’s the miraculous human-interest/feel-good story of Rashema Melson, an eighteen year old homeless young African-American woman who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and valedictorian of her class at Anacostia High School in Washington DC. Ms. Melson will be attending Georgetown University in the fall with a full scholarship. She accomplished this miracle in spite of living in a homeless shelter with her mother and siblings for the last two years after a tumultuous existence of moving from place to place previous to landing in the shelter. She is an attractive and poised young woman and will no doubt go on to greatness and I salute her.

Continue reading

More Bull from Marathon City Council

Lego Lighthouse

 Lego Lighthouse

The Marathon City Council on Tuesday agreed to spend as much as $ 9,250 to investigate the true cost associated with moving a historic Fresnel lighthouse lens back to Marathon.

Florida Keys Keynoter

This is not a joke. Well, not an actual meant-to-be-funny-joke anyway. It might be Vice Mayor Chris Bull’s idea of a joke, but it’s hard to imagine that most of the taxpayers in Marathon would get the punch line.

That’s $ 9,250 in taxpayer’s money. That’s $ 9,250 that could have been spent on making the new city hall more energy efficient. Or the city itself. It might even pay for making a replica of the lens out Legos.

A little background. Sombrero Reef lies about eight miles off Marathon’s shores and is a much sought after spot for divers and snorkelers. The lighthouse on the reef was put in service in 1858, automated in 1960, and is still in operation. The upper platform, 40 feet above the water, held staff quarters but now the light is automated. The original lens, what’s known as a first order Fresnel lens, is on display in the Key West Lighthouse Museum. Continue reading

Global Warming Is a Hoax, Wall Street Hedge Fund Managers Have Souls and Jenny McCarthy Is a Scientist

Jenny M

There is a fascinating trend in seemingly well educated liberal America that has common roots in less educated conservative America. That trend is mistrust and denial of science. The folks that feel faith based solutions are the answer to just about any problem facing our society have an unlikely ally in the upper middle class suburban crowd. Many of the latter have, in spite of overwhelming scientific data to the contrary, decided that vaccination against measles, mumps, rubella and polio is the cause of afflictions such as Autism and Attention Deficit Disorder. Thanks to the likes of the pulchritudinous (love that word) Jenny McCarthy and Michele “Jesus Wrote the Constitution” Bachmann, the anti-science, anti-vaccination crowd have a national voice. Add the interweb and it’s an ignorance fest extraordinaire. Continue reading

HURRICANE SEASON: BOGUS FORECASTS AND PREPARING FOR THE “AFTER”

Hurricane

Hurricane

Last week marked the beginning of the 2014 Hurricane Season and this year, the so-called hurricane experts are predicting a fewer than average number of storms. Of course, they are just guessing. But they have been humiliated over the past couple of years by predicting busy hurricane seasons only to see almost nothing happen. Two of the most famous “experts” are those two guys from Colorado State University– Phil Klotzbach and William Gray. They are famous because, every year, editors across the country pick up and publish the press releases that Klotzbach and Gray send out– without a thought of whether or not their forecasts are anywhere close to accurate. For example, their press release is usually included in the hurricane guides the non-weekly papers here publish every year. But the truth is that those annual forecasts are almost never accurate and absolutely never specific. They predict number of hurricanes– but they don’t even pretend that they know when or where the storms might hit or how powerful they might be. Continue reading

Ambush Poetry: Conduct Unbecoming

Sloan and balloons

Sunday before last, I wondered off and on during the day if a new poem would come to me for the Key West Poetry Guild’s first Sunday meeting in the upstairs room of Blue Heaven Restaurant in Bahama Village?

As the day passed, nothing seemed to come, and around 5 p.m. I pedaled my bicycle to Jack Flats on Duval Street to watch the end of that week’s professional golf tournament, which was played at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial County Club in Ohio. En route to Jack Flats, “conduct unbecoming” came to me, and I felt that might be the poem’s theme, if not also its title. I had my writing notebook with me, just in case. Continue reading

Betrayed!

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pipes

At any other time, it would probably have slipped quietly past us all.  But timing and circumstances were such that members and sympathizers of the grassroots organization Dump the Pumps, Inc. (DTPI) were on high alert, watching for still more sneaky and generally dishonorable Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) activity.

For years, FKAA had residents of the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System (CRWS) region believing the agency’s project to connect their homes to a centralized sewage treatment plant would consist primarily of a gravity fed system with only a minor amount of outliers, out of necessity and due to their remote location, slated to be connected via less reliable low-pressure grinder pump [LPS] systems. Continue reading

The Case for a Sortition Chapeau

Leadership Lottery
Ratblurt issue 66

The odds probably weren’t any better back then.
(1758 Massachusetts lottery ticket to fund the French and Indian War, US-PD)

As I was checking my losing (as usual) MassLottery tickets this morning, I wondered where it all began, the lottery revenue to fund government projects idea, that is. China, it seems, is the answer to this question. There are keno slips from the Han Dynasty dated between 205 and 187 BC. The revenues were supposedly used to finance the Great Wall of China among other projects. Queen Elizabeth I employed lotteries to raise money for the “reparation of the havens and strength of the Realme, and towardes such other publique good workes.” So lotto goings-on haven’t changed much since those days. Continue reading

THE PRISONER EXCHANGE: He Did What?!

Prisoner Exchange

Longtime readers know that, of all the adventures I have had in my life, I rank my three years of military service at near the top, especially my time as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne. That time changed my life. I was discharged back into the real world, still young, but way more mature and responsible than before the Army. My brief time in the service does not make me a military expert, but I do have my opinions. Case in point: The prisoner exchange this week that resulted in Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release from captivity as the only American prisoner of war in Afghanistan.

I remember what I thought when I heard the national news about Bergdahl’s capture back in 2009. How could that happen? What could the situation have been that would have given the enemy an opportunity to capture an American soldier? Well, subsequent news reports provided that answer– Bergdahl was a deserter! He simply left his post and walked off of his base. But regardless, our military has a tradition that we do not leave soldiers on the battlefield. So, during the five years that Bergdahl was in captivity, his fellow soldiers continued to look for him with the goal of freeing him from captivity. And six of them died in that effort. Continue reading

Outshining the Monkeys

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We’re the Ones with the Smaller Brains, Remember?
(Bonobo, Cincinnati Zoo, 2005, Photo by Kabir Bakie, CC Some Rights Reserved)

A while back someone on Facebook posted a link to the Cracked article by David Wong titled “What Is the Monkeysphere?” Wong informs us that, given the size of their brains, monkeys can recognize and interact sociably with about 50 other monkeys and that, not surprisingly, is the normal size for their troupes. Any animal not in the group is outside the “monkeysphere” of those particular animals and thus can be ignored or abused with equanimity by all the “in crowd” monkeys.

Human beings have a little bit larger brain so our “monkeysphere” expands to about 150 people (which seems like way too many to me since I often can’t remember who the bleary-eyed person in the mirror is every day). Still, this is a limitation, one that “allows” us, Wong observes, to do things that harm other people, often unthinkingly, because they are outside of our monkeysphere. On the “front page” of The Washington Post web site on May 6th was a story titled “3 Shot Near Ballou High in the Southeast.” Do most people even notice or care? No, the two 17-year-olds and the one 20-year-old are outside our monkeysphere. Continue reading

GUEST COLUMN: Commissioner George Neugent / My Justification for Supporting Contract Extension

NeugentsmallCounty staff was dealing with a total of six contracts in the solid waste negotiations. Most of which expired at different times. Three objectives to be achieved which was by direction from the board 1. get all contracts to expire at same time, 2. maintain annual assessment to residents, 3. maintain present level of service. * a side note to remember, while negotiations were on-going the recycle contract automatically renewed for five years – now, another contract out of sync.

Another important issue to note, there were (28) twenty eight months left on the “haul out” contract with Waste Management (Oct 2016). This meant without a contract extension all eighteen months of negotiations would be for naught. Extension negotiation direction was given to staff by the Board of County Commission, supported transparently by vote by FOUR commissioners – Kolhage, Rice, Murphy and Neugent. County Administrator Gastesi then directed Rhonda Haag to head-up the effort, our Sustainability Coordinator. Continue reading

‘It Started With a Drill’

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I learned early on what little is accomplished waiting for someone to do something for you, or even to help you. Consider this one of the gleaming pros to not having your parents around, and I do stress one. Now that I’m a mother myself, I can’t imagine my children grocery shopping for the family or taking taxis by themselves when they were nine years old. Not only did I do these things, but I also created my own income because my mother’s money never seemed to make it down to me.

This lifestyle brought forth my signature feistiness which kept me afloat throughout my youth. Even heavy decisions, such as taking a Greyhound bus from Florida to Indiana to attend college, weren’t an issue for me. Although my best childhood friend and I planned on attending the same school, she decided that she wanted to move to Florida at the last minute. I still went because, like her, I needed a change. Continue reading

THE VA HOSPITAL SCANDAL

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canstockphoto8698787

The developing scandal at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospitals makes another strong statement about the sustainability of government-run health care. The problem here–the scandal– is not the quality of health care provided to our vets at the VA hospitals; the problem is access. And the problem of access is the result of sheer government incompetence. Here is a summary of the situation.

For the men and women who commit to serve our country in the military services, one of the commitments our government makes to them in return is to provide health care for life. This commitment is especially critical for veterans of this country’s various wars. That is one hell of a commitment– a commitment that requires professional and creative management to achieve. The problem is that, apparently, professional and creative management seem to be foreign concepts in government.

Recently, we have been hearing a lot about veterans having to wait months to get care at some VA Hospitals. By law, veterans should be able to see a doctor within 30 days after making an appointment. But at some hospitals, veterans have been forced to wait months for care– and some have died while waiting. This alone is scandalous enough. But to hide the fact that these hospitals have not been meeting the 30-day standard required by law, hospital staff has been falsifying appointment records. Now we are moving out of the realm of simple incompetence into the realm of criminal activity. Continue reading

Welber on Welber: Special Interest Trumps Climate Action

welber interviews welber

welber interviews welber

“I’m very proud of that,” Monroe County Commissioner George Neugent said after looking through the climate assessment last week. “I’m very proud to be part of an initiation in a region that contains millions of people.”

– Neugent commenting on praise for four-county compact that produced the Southeast Regional Action Plan

Blue Paper

We want to welcome back environmentalist Michael Welber for another in-depth interview.

Welber

More like survivalist.

Blue Paper

Oh? And why is that?

Welber

You’ve probably been snoozing this month, which would actually be a good thing given the continuing inexplicable actions of some of our fine county commissioners.

Blue Paper

What is it this time? Did they buy another restaurant? Continue reading

More Open Debate On Free Roaming Cats In Refuge Areas

Free Roaming Cat

Dear John,

Here are my responses to your latest letter. I think there are several issues here we can agree on and find ways to insure that those issues are adequately addressed. I share your concern that all animals, both wild and domestic, be treated humanely. But I reiterate the need for all responsible pet owners to keep their pets, particularly cats, indoors.

John Donnelly wrote on May 24, 2014 at 6:58 am

(1) Michael, thank you for your well-thought out submission. I consider you a dedicated and respected friend. As you know, just because you make statements in your article, it does not make them true or accurate.

I believe my statements to be accurate, and supported both by my own personal experience, and reports from other responsible observers. I invite anyone with evidence to the contrary to present it. I will gladly change any statement to make it more accurate, but I believe what I have presented is supported by the facts.

(2) The government is overreaching in its cat trapping practices. Cat hunters were caught, by several individuals, placing their cages on private property, with the intent to snare family pets that lived there.

“Overreaching” is a vague and undefined term. Particularly when you haven’t spelled out what the Continue reading

Coffee Shops

Coffee Plantation

Why are some coffee shops so successful? Yes, good coffee makes a difference, but there is another element that is often overlooked – they provide an atmosphere that is conducive to reading and comfortable conversation. This concept is particularly notable in Europe where coffee shops are sprinkled throughout cities and villages.

Italy is a notable exception where the coffee “bars” are set up to deliver the quick caffeine pop to be inhaled on one’s way to and from somewhere. In fact, since this ritual is accomplished while standing, there is little emphasis on comfort – the kind that is needed if one were to settle in for an hour or two.

In the USA, much of the success of various franchises is due to their ability to lure people in with comfy chairs and clever allotment of space which is friendly to casual discourse, and other stores, especially independent shops, have followed suit in even comfier fashion. Quite simply, this atmosphere can be an important catalyst for productive thought, friendship and, on occasion, mental therapy. Continue reading

First Amendment Blues

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You may or may not have heard of the trial of Cecily McMillan in the New York City courts. She was arrested for assaulting a police officer and after a skewed trial that suppressed video of her treatment by the police and suppressed evidence of the “assaulted” officer’s history of violence, was found guilty on May fifth. She and several hundred Occupy Wall Street protesters were at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan enjoying St. Patrick’s Day 2012, voicing their first amendment right to peacefully express discontent with Corporate and Wall Street’s ownership of the country.  The NYPD descended on the park and arrested seventy people, including McMillan. When a plain clothes police officer grabbed McMillan from behind grasping her right breast she instinctively elbowed him in the face, not knowing who was grabbing her. She was then taken down and beaten by several police officers. She lost consciousness and went into seizure. Her next sensation was the feel of rubber tread on her face from the floor of the city bus commandeered by the NYPD to transport the arrested, then an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth, finally regaining full consciousness in a hospital where she was handcuffed to a bed. Continue reading

About The “Cat Indoors” Program And Trapping Free-Roaming Cats in Refuge Areas

Key Largo Woodrat, photo USFWS

Key Largo Woodrat, photo USFWS

Regarding “Cats Indoors” program and trapping free-roaming cats in the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park:

There have been several highly emotional expressions of concern from Key Largo resident John Donnelly recently published about the cat-trapping program in the protected areas of North Key Largo. The whole discussion has gone on for months, and has generally been a waste of time for all concerned.  Mr. Donnelly’s criticisms, at their heart, boil down to undeserved ad hominem attacks on Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge manager Jeremy Dixon, who is a dedicated public servant, doing his job in a careful, diplomatic and measured way, better than did his predecessor, who was also highly regarded.

For the record, Mr. Donnelly is a personal friend and a valued member of our organization, as is the manager of the USFWS Crocodile Refuge, but Mr. Donnelly is misinformed on this issue and his claims of government overreaching are incorrect. The Florida Keys IWLA chapter recently directly considered his concerns at a chapter meeting, and there was no support for his position. Continue reading

SUPREME COURT RULES THAT SOME FLOATING HOMES MAY NO LONGER BE REGULATED BY FEDERAL ADMIRALTY LAW

Photo: City of Key West Garrison Bight Marina Facebook Page

Photo: City of Key West Garrison Bight Marina Facebook Page

If you still think that you can’t beat city hall, consider Fane Lozman’s story. It started with a dispute over dockage fees for Lozman’s floating home and ended up in the US Supreme Court– and the results of that case may have ramifications for many houseboat owners in Key West.

In 2006, Lozman’s floating home was docked at a city-owned marina in Riviera Beach. Following a dispute over fees, a county court ruling– citing federal admiralty law– resulted in Lozman being evicted from the marina and the seizure and the ultimate destruction of his home. Lozman sued, claiming that federal admiralty law did not apply because his home was not a “vessel.” We can imagine the Riviera Beach City Attorney laughing his backside off when he heard, not only that this was the defense that Lozman was offering– but, also, that Lozman was going to be representing himself in court! Continue reading

No Truth To Name Change Rumors In Middle Keys

Tropical Furniture
Tropical Furniture

Tropical Furniture Gallery used its $ 1000 beautification money from the Chamber to erect a flagpole

Rumors raced around the Middle Keys this week that Marathon was changing the city’s name to The Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce City, Inc. A Blue Paper investigation revealed that, evidence to the contrary, the city would remain as Marathon despite heavy influence by the Chamber.

Nor would Marathon now be called Schmittville or Ramsayburg. Both rumors have been adamantly denied by sources close to the city council. And any change of the city’s name to Bull, well you know…is definitely, as the media loves to say, a non-starter. Continue reading

The Good–The Bad–The Ugly…

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I am not one to compliment the government and staff of Monroe County. However, if I’m to be fair, I must acknowledge my involvement with them, as it relates to their extraordinary handling of an issue that had the potential to break and injure a family.

The incredible willingness of the county staff to relentlessly confront a difficulty that was harming some residents, exhibited their dogged determination to ease the suffering of these taxpayers.

The brilliance and magnificence displayed by County Administrator Roman Gastesi and his incredible staff, represents a dedication and commitment to serve, which is not often found in government. Continue reading

OM

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I thought I might take a break this week from chronicling the latest abominations of our pathocratic paradigm and talk about a positive personal experience instead. The abominations will be there when we return.

This past week has been revelatory for me on a couple of levels. This revelation began when I attended a talk by Kadampa Buddhist meditation teacher, Anika Trancik, titled “Seeing Kindness” at the Yoga Sanctuary here in Key West. Anika is a student of Buddhist monk, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, and she read from one of his books, “Eight Steps to Happiness”. FYI, Kelsang Gyatso means “Oceans of Good Fortune” and Geshe is an academic title meaning “virtuous friend”, both given to him upon his ordination as a novice monk at age eight. Anika explained the first step of the eight steps in Kelsang Gyatso’s book was the need to see kindness in others. This sounded rather simplistic at first, but Kelsang Gyatso’s interpretation of kindness in this context doesn’t mean “niceness” as in someone being pleasant or generous, but rather the opposite. He advocates being happy when someone is rude or argumentative because we “benefit” from this “kindness” by learning patience and in turn wisdom; happiness, if you will. Continue reading

Bobbi, (an eulogy)

I drank to me when we first got together.
I drank to us when we got engaged.
I drank to us when we got married.
I drank to us when you told me you were pregnant.
I drank to us when Kirsten was born.
I drank to us when you told me you were pregnant.
I drank to us when Kate was born.
I drank with myself when we separated.
I drank to us when we divorced.
I had a drink when you remarried, revealing the truth.
I drank a lot when you took away my daughters.
I drink to you, and me now, as you have died today.
I drink to celebrate living the wonderful life I do.
To Life.

Sacred Cows and Hypocrisy at City Hall

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When Key West city commissioners voted to override staff recommendations and choose a higher bid for trash pickup, people in the audience were stunned. But no one was more stunned than Jody Smith Williams.

Smith Williams played a central role in getting the city to hire Kessler Consulting. Their job was to study how trash in Key West was picked up and then recommend improvements. The key alteration was switching from two trash pickups per week to one. That approach was part of what came to be known as the 1-1-1 plan with one trash pickup, one recycling pickup and one for yard waste. What shocked her most was the return to two trash pickups per week.

For over seven years, she advocated for developing a resource recovery system based on expert consultation that would help Key West do something better with its resources than hauling all the trash all the way to Broward County and burning 93 percent of it in the waste-to-energy incinerator there. Continue reading

Injuring Innocent Felines

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through its Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Key Largo, has instituted an aggressive domestic cat trapping policy. Cat hunters are baiting traps and snaring these creatures.

FWS staff were directed to “cooperatively interact” with  “affected parties” prior to launching their cat trapping agenda. Furthermore, all decisions reached between FWS and the “affected parties”, must collaboratively reflect the “humane handling and treatment” of these animals.

These directives aren’t being followed. FWS is cherry-picking data provided by bureaucrats dependent upon them for employment, to justify their inhumane conduct. FWS recruits support from organizations that benefit from agreeing with them. Continue reading

City Council Debates Color of Deck Chairs On Titanic

Titanic sinking

Members of the Marathon city council recently debated whether there would be a cultural center or banquet hall in the planned $ 5 million (plus or minus) city hall. The new building will replace the current trailers that house city functions. And then, on Tuesday, Councilman Chris Bull moved that the city bring the old lens from Sombrero lighthouse “back to Marathon” and put it in the city hall, a very expensive proposal that will involve redesigning the lobby area and installing a humidity controlled room.

In all their discussions, the focus has been about money though Bull seems to have forgotten that.

“We’re building this one time and it’s for 50 years,” Vice Mayor Bull said.

Fifty years? What will the Keys be like in even 30 years? Continue reading

LITERATURE OF A LOW ORDER

Sam

Sam was 23 years old in 1860– but he still didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He had apprenticed as a printer, but he yearned for adventure.

Sam

Sam

He had briefly considered heading off to South America where he thought he could make some money collecting coca leaves. But before he got too serious about that, he landed a job as an apprentice riverboat pilot.

Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Orion, had been working in Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign in Missouri and, after the election, Lincoln had arranged a political appointment for Orion in the office of the Territorial Governor of Nevada. Sam saw that as a perfect opportunity to experience “The West,” and he cut a deal with his brother to become his paid assistant. So, in July 1861, off they went to Carson City– 19 days by stagecoach from St. Joseph, Missouri. That trip was probably a major adventure all by itself. Continue reading

Marathon Council Suffers From Short-term Memory Loss

kick can

kick can

Anyone who has spent any time watching the Marathon city council in action will end up citing the now well over-used cliché, kicking the can down the road. While deferring action when it comes to pig ownership or dog parks or invocations may not matter all that much, the council’s lack of movement on selecting a new city manager does. It leaves the city rudderless.

On January 18, the council voted to select an interim city manager for a term of three months while the group searched for a replacement for Roger Hernstadt, who had just resigned. At their next meeting, without much public deliberation, the council installed Mr. Marathon, Mike Puto, as that temporary person. Now, nearly 120 days later, the council has done the minimum to move the process along. Continue reading

Denial Is Not a River In Egypt

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Have we seen enough Cliven Bundy coverage yet? How about Basketball’s Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling?  I am going to go out on a limb and assume everyone but the comatose know Cliven and Donald by now. I find it extremely ironic that, as these two old white guys reveal to the world their archaic putrid festering racism, one voluntarily and the other involuntarily, our Supreme Court [SCOTUS] has been busy neutering the seminal civil rights accomplishments of the sixties. Last year, declaring racism dead in this country, the SCOTUS killed section 4 of the voting rights act of 1965  that was implemented to keep certain states with a rich history of race hate from imposing any discriminatory or otherwise restrictive voting laws such as literacy tests or today’s photo I.D. requirements that discriminate against the poor and racial minorities. Continue reading

MOTHER’S DAY

Mother

One of the pleasures of being retired and just writing a weekly column for the new Blue Paper online is being able to sometimes write about subjects that are personal. I rarely did that when I was editor. My page one commentaries were almost always about politics, the police and other “journalism as a contact sport” topics. My column this week is certainly not one of those controversial, hard-hitting topics. In fact, it’s sort of mushy. Not my usual style at all.

My mother’s name was Hazel– one of those wonderful old-fashioned names like Martha, Emma and Pearl. Hazel was born and raised in Wewoka, Oklahoma. Her father– my grandfather– was the station master for the Rock Island Line in Wewoka. Talk about a small town! When Oklahoma became a state in 1907 (only about 10 years before my mother was born), the population of Wewoka was only about 800. Originally located in Indian Territory, Wewoka was, at one time, the national capital of the Seminole Nation. Oil was discovered near Wewoka in 1923.

Hazel Hutchison was the prettiest girl at Wewoka High School. And like many small town girls, she wanted out. Continue reading

Should Judges be Elected Or Appointed?

Justice Not Blind

In Florida, appeals judges and state Supreme Court judges are appointed by the governor from lists provided by a nominating committee. Circuit and County Court Judges are elected by the people. All you need to run for judge is a law degree. Some say that a judge is simply an attorney who has gotten a promotion– or, in some cases, a demotion if you consider income. But if you have ever appeared before a judge at any level, you know how powerful these people are. Thus the continuing debate over whether judges should be appointed by the governor or elected by the people. The question is timely since the seats of three of the four Circuit Court Judges here are up for grabs in the upcoming elections– Judges Mark Jones, Tegan Slaton and Luis Garcia.

Jones and Slaton have announced challengers. So far, Garcia does not, but candidates have until May 2 to qualify. Circuit Court Judge David Audlin is not up for reelection this year– but he has just announced that he is stepping down from the bench May 9 with four years left on his term. He has not said why. According to Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin, Audlin’s replacement will be selected by the governor, since his resignation date is too late for candidates to qualify for the July 26 primary election. None of the four County Court Judges here are up for reelection. Both District and County Judges serve six-year terms. Continue reading

GUEST COMMENTARY: Obese Children Grow To Be Obese Adults

Obese children grow to be obese adults. According to recent studies this is a serious concern.  In fact, the Florida State Surgeon General last year, launched an initiative targeting this issue.  Through the Healthiest Weight initiative, the Department of Health is partnering with community groups and other partners including early education providers to implement programs that focus on:

  • Increasing the initiation, duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding.
  • Promoting improved nutrition and physical activity in early care and education.
  • Encouraging improved nutrition in schools.
  • Increasing the physical activity for students during the school day and after school programs.
  • Increasing access to high-quality, affordable foods in communities.
  • Increasing physical activity by improving the built environment in communities.
  • Promoting health professional awareness and counseling of patient body mass index

Children who are overweight or obese at two to five years old are five times more likely to become obese adults.  Many factors contribute to childhood obesity.  To solve this problem, we must first identify it.  Lack of physical exercise, snack time all the time, etc.  The increasing popularity of fast foods is a problem.  Water consumption as a basic need rather than merely an alternative to sugar-sweetened drinks is another. Continue reading

IS THE USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE A PATTERN WITHIN THE KWPD?

Alleged use of excessive force by Key West cops has been the talk of the island since retired General Motors worker Charles Eimers, 61, died after a rough arrest last Thanksgiving Day on South Beach. But its not like this is the first time that “excessive force” and other police wrong-doing has been the topic of conversation here. For example, I went back and flipped through the headlines of just one year of back issues of Key West The Newspaper (the Blue Paper). Here are just a few of the stories we covered back in 2002.

First of all, it may come as a surprise to you that then-State Attorney Mark Kohl was in the midst of a sweeping investigation of the KWPD. Four officers had been arrested or forced to resign and another officer was trying to cut a probation deal to avoid charges. During a street brawl in front of Sloppy Joe’s in July 2000, witnesses said that several tourists were allegedly beaten up by police officers, but none of the cops on the scene could remember anything about any brawl. So Kohl, fed up with “blue amnesia,” charged a number of officers with knowingly falsifying arrest affidavits. Lying on official police documents. Sound familiar? Continue reading

Flabbergasted, Again.

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My last essay was on the topic of “compartmentalization” and this week we have a shining example of the necessity for it. The American Enterprise Institute “scholar”, Charles Murray, education adviser to Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott spoke at the University of Texas last week telling his audience that there is no “evidence” proving that any woman has ever been a “significant original thinker”. He went on to condescend that it isn’t the poor woman’s fault; they are just burdened with a smaller sized brain then males! He added, “When you compare the size of a man’s brain with that of a woman, there is no comparison.” (awkward statement on two levels) “It’s not that I have anything against women. They’re nice enough, but it’s just a physical fact that their brains have not developed to the same degree as men’s brains have developed.” “They’re nice enough…”?! What?!

When I first read this I thought it had to be farce, no one could possibly say these things in a public venue, especially an institution of higher learning. I dug a little deeper and to my amazement Mr. Murray had indeed made this statement and more.

Check out this gem, “I’m not a doctor, but it (brain inferiority) may have something to do with their need to develop breasts. The human body can’t do everything.” What?! Continue reading

Dearth Day: How Even Environmentalists Are Accepting The Inevitable

Dearth Day: How even environmentalists are accepting the inevitable  When sorrow draws near, The gardens of the soul will lie desolate, Wilting; joy and song will die. Dark is life, dark is death.  Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) -- Gustav Mahler  It was Earth Day this week.   Companies peddling environmentally sound products flooded in-boxes with promos for Earth Day sales. And environmental organizations did the same, extending eager hands for donations.   I don’t think the activists who launched Earth Day, fresh off vigorous demonstrations against the Viet Nam war, would be too enamored of the event’s activities in the Keys. There was a native plant day in the Upper Keys. A 5K run/walk in Key West a couple of weeks ago marked the event. And so did a fair at Bahia Honda, also two weeks ago.  What there wouldn’t have been is a massive demonstration to demand reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent right now. Today.   A history of buzzwords  Back when Earth Day began the watchword was ecology.   As awareness about global warming became more widespread, sloganeering used the word green instead of ecology. Even Marathon had a Green Team. But, as most things go, corporate America co-opted “green” and applied that label to just about everything that wasn’t blatantly poisonous.   Seeing that, the emphasis shifted from green to sustainability. Recognizing the change, Key West appointed a sustainability coordinator. Monroe County has done the same with its sustainability program manager. Trouble is, in an area that imports just about everything – food, power, gasoline, and water – it’s nigh on impossible to be sustainable. And even when there is an opportunity to dial up sustainability by returning yard waste materials to the earth via mulching and composting, the county tilts toward shipping it out.   But don’t fear. We have a new buzz word: adaptation.   Now that the country, the state, the cities, and the county have done virtually nothing to head off climate change and the subsequent sea level rise and now that scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have determined that a 2 centigrade rise in global temperatures is a given, the state and the county say we must think about adapting to a new reality.   That means sea level rise. According to this map [EMBED LINK] http://ssrf.climatecentral.org/#location=FL_State_12&state=Florida&level=5&category=Population&geo=County&pt=p&target=&p=S&stLoc=FL_State_12&folder=Population 100 percent of the populace of the Keys will be vulnerable to a 5-foot surge or sea level rise.   For Monroe County and all other coastal regions, adaptation means planning now for the damage that sea level rise will cause in low lying areas. What will adaptation mean here in the Florida Keys? Raising the highways, hardening utilities, building dikes and levees, improving waste water systems and even changing our minds about letting all those people with what were formerly known as illegal downstairs enclosures keep their properties intact. The Keys will have to build up.   Where is the money going to come from for all this? The county can’t even extract money from the state to build a sewer system that was mandated nearly 40 years ago. Newer sewer systems, if the Keys are going to adapt, will need to be constructed to ensure they won’t be damaged by encroaching sea water.   In other words, adaptation means nothing. Nothing at all. The current Climate Change Advisory Committee will be reviewing a document put out by the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) that is full of words such as “optional” and “may” and even “holistic planning,” whatever that is. The plan is to study the threat of sea level rise and develop best practices and conduct pilot studies. The first pilot will be in Ft. Lauderdale, a community rewarded by the state for taking some action on the consequences of climate change right now.   In the words of the Adaptation Action Areas plan that DEO issued,   “The City of Ft. Lauderdale, in cooperation with Broward County, will serve as a pilot to test the adaptation options. The results of this process will be compiled into a guidance document to assist Florida communities that choose to address Adaptation Action Areas in their local comprehensive plan.”  And,   “The main difference between the supplemental project and the DEO’s 5-year initiative is that the pilots under the 5-year strategy will represent an average community in Florida and will take a holistic approach to adaptation planning. The pilot under this application will be an advanced community on the forefront of adaptation planning in the state, ready to take on highly targeted tasks related to how adaptation action areas will be addressed in the local comprehensive plan.”  That average community is not Monroe County even though the Keys are the most threatened area in all of Florida. The county’s inaction results in Broward being chosen. The options that the state develops will be tested through a pilot project that will ultimately result in a proposed amendment to the local comprehensive plan that addresses sea level rise adaptation. Given how long it takes to change the county’s comprehensive plan, with committees meeting and public input provided and more committees meeting with more public announcements and forums before actually delivering anything to the Board of County Commissioners, it would seem wise to start looking at property in Tennessee now.   Too little, too late  How long? According to the Citizen in Tuesday’s paper,   “Since 2009, the county has been working with the private planning firm Keith and Schnars to update and rewrite its comprehensive land-use plan. County officials expect to complete the process by the end of the year.  The comp plan establishes the overarching policies for development in the county. It takes into account climate change and sea-level rise, the total carrying capacity of the Keys, protection of endangered species, and safe evacuation of the Keys prior to a hurricane.”  So it has taken 5 years to complete changes in the current comp plan. Given that DEO will conduct its pilot for five years and then provide Monroe with what has been learned it appears, it could be ten years before the county undertakes any meaningful work toward this new buzzword, adaptation.   Maybe the Keys should wait for the next environmental fad: climate refugees.    This also means that people can now forget reducing their greenhouse gas impact. Not many bothered anyway. Get out your kayak and tie it to your house. Build a dock on your currently dry lot. Think about pontoons and a propeller for your car. Start building a dike around your house.   Better yet, move. Like to the mountains of Tennessee.

The 6-foot surge from Hurricane Wilma under the author’s house in 2005

When sorrow draws near,

The gardens of the soul will lie desolate,

Wilting; joy and song will die.

Dark is life, dark is death.

 

Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth)

– Gustav Mahler

It was Earth Day this week.

Companies peddling environmentally sound products flooded in-boxes with promos for Earth Day sales. And environmental organizations did the same, extending eager hands for donations.

I don’t think the activists who launched Earth Day, fresh off vigorous demonstrations against the Viet Nam war, would be too enamored of the event’s activities in the Keys. There was a native plant day in the Upper Keys. A 5K run/walk in Key West a couple of weeks ago marked the event. And so did a fair at Bahia Honda, also two weeks ago. Continue reading

TALKIN’ BASEBALL

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“I’m talkin’ baseball
Kluzewski, Campanella
The Man and Bobby Feller
The Scooter, the Barber, and the Newk
They knew ‘em all from Boston to Dubuque
Especially Willie, Mickey and the Duke”

“Talkin’ Baseball”
Terry Cashman, 1981

Major league baseball opened a new season a few weeks ago and opening day always takes my memory back to when I was a kid growing up in Oklahoma– when baseball was my life. I was the catcher on my neighborhood team and, on the weekends and all summer, all we did is play baseball. Most of us were 12 years old or thereabouts. I don’t recall that there was any announced schedule or even a regular location.

All I remember is that we played baseball every day that we didn’t have to go to school and, sometimes, we played into the evening until we couldn’t see the ball anymore. Sometimes we played as part of a youth league, but mostly not. When we were part of a league, we got a little coaching and maybe some matching t-shirts. And we didn’t have to supply our own equipment. But mostly we played “independent,” challenging other neighborhood teams. A problem with that was finding a place to play.

The Dumbshine State

Solar panels being installed on house in Marathon

A rally last week in Tallahassee was staged to encourage solar energy development in Florida. Fortunately it became political because otherwise the mainstream media might not have covered it. Organizers used the event to accuse Gov. Rick Scott of blocking solar energy initiatives in the state at the behest of the big power companies.

Because Scott’s election-year rival, former Gov. Charlie Crist, attended the rally, the media paid some attention.

What should have made bigger news is how the state has placed its legislative thumb firmly on the development of renewable power. Florida has the third-largest potential for rooftop solar generation in the nation but ranks 18th in solar installations.

KEYS, which delivers power west of the Seven Mile Bridge, illustrates what is typical for the rest of the state. Look at information provided by KEYS spokesperson Lynne Tejeda about the sources of the utilities power. Continue reading

What Part of “No” Does Crane Point Not Get?

No zipline

Last week’s announcement that the Crane Point Nature Center would back away from a $ 727,000 federal grant via the city of Marathon and also give up a height variance allowing towers higher than what Marathon normally allows had opponents of the proposed zip-line attraction cheering.

Lost in the celebration, however, was Crane Point board member Norval Smith’s announcement that the board would pursue building a zip line on their own. The initial more limited plan includes eight towers, three zip lines and sky walks. It’s difficult to fathom the depth of the organization’s obtuseness and inability to look reality in the face. Continue reading

A Different Kind of Reefer Madness

Last night I caught the “420″ episode of Family Guy in which the debonair and back from the dead dog Brian goes on a campaign to legalize marijuana in his town of Quahog. Brian isn’t having much success getting people’s attention until baby Stewie informs the dog that he’s going about it all wrong. Rather than deliver rational arguments, he needs to provide a sound-byte spectacle. The two of them then stage a hilarious production number called “Bag o’ Weed” that convinces everyone in town that pot is a necessary part of their life.

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“Anything That Threatens My Bottom Line Must Be Evil!”

(Words not said but probably thought by William Randolph Hearst, 1906 photo, US-PD)

That’s all good fun of course. Before he starts singing and dancing, however, Brian tries to convey the message that pot was first made illegal not because Reefer Madness would run rampant worldwide but because hemp (to which family of plants marijuana belongs) was threatening the timber and paper business of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and Hearst ran a smear campaign emphasizing the “connection” between cannabis and violent crime. This appears to be true. The DuPonts were also anti-hemp, as was Andrew Mellon. The reason the 1930s version of the 1% were so virulently opposed to pot was that hemp pulp could replace wood pulp very cheaply in the paper-making business and it also threatened the success of the DuPonts’ new synthetic nylon, which Mellon had invested heavily in. (Does all this sound familiar? The more things change…etc.) Continue reading

Compartmentalization

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The human brain is infinitely intriguing and as complex as the cosmos. The question of what makes us tick is in good company along with “what is the meaning of life?” Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Neurosurgeons are making headway (apologies) into the mysterious realm of the mind, but are far from unlocking and fully understanding that odd three pounds of gray matter floating around in our skulls. I am humbly awed at how I can simply type these letters without any real intentional exertion beyond gently willing my fingers to hit the proper key in the proper order to create each word and sentence. Miraculous, really!

Our brains cooked up writing itself 5000 years ago and before that, speech and we haven’t looked back! Those are the two main ingredients of the recipe that allowed us to develop agricultural settlements and form organized cooperative civilizations that, in turn, allowed some in that society to pursue the less physical, more intellectual avenues of governance and organized religion, leaving the hunter/gatherer life to those “less fortunate” living in regions and climes not conducive to the farming culture. This agri-society also gave rise to the warrior class to protect the food producers and said governance.

But that isn’t what I want to write about today. I want to write about another amazing talent the human brain possesses. Continue reading

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PRACTICED ADVOCACY JOURNALISM

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Benjamin Franklin has got to be a role model for anyone who makes or has made his or her living as a publisher. We all learned about Benjamin Franklin in school– the statesman, diplomat, scientist, inventor and a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But he started as a printer and a publisher.

At the age of 12, Ben became an apprentice to his brother James, a Boston printer, and learned the printing trade. Three years later, in 1721, James Franklin founded the New England Courant, the first truly independent newspaper in the colonies. Back then, logically, printers also often became publishers. They had the presses, paper and ink. But newspaper publishing was a risky business for printers. Printers had to be licensed by the British government– and printer/publishers who dared to offend the government could quickly find themselves not only de-licensed, but also jailed. And that is exactly what happened to James Franklin. Keep in mind that, before the creation of the United States of America, there was no freedom of the press. Continue reading

Rick Dostal of the 36th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Bar Stroll Presents Funding to Local Non-Profits

PSA bars

On behalf of the participating bars and bar strollers, Rick Dostal, of the 36th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Bar Stroll, presents a check for $ 5,000 to the Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys .

Accepting the check is, Lanny Skelly and Eileen Masiello (not pictured Yvonnie Ametin).

Rick Dostal also presented a $5,000 check to The Boys and Girls Club.

Crane Point Points Fingers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When the Department of Economic Opportunity, source of a $ 727,000 Community Development Block Grant to Marathon for the construction of a zip-line course at the Crane Point Nature Center, asked for justification for Crane Point’s delinquency in submitting two required and very late documents, board chair Jeff Smith wrote, “The delays are attributed to third party appellant actions regarding the Administrative Height Variance issued by the City’s Planning Director.”

Not exactly.

What Smith neglects to say is that the tardy environmental assessment was due to DEO in March 2013, and the wage decision request in June 2013. The appeal of the decision by Planning Director George Garrett to allow 46.25-foot high towers – nearly ten feet higher than Marathon allows – began in July 2013, well after Crane Point’s deadlines.

But the problems didn’t begin in 2013 or even 2014. Continue reading

Bezoar Bezoar

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Nothing in My Stomach You Would Want. Really!
(CC 3.0, Some Rights Reserved.)

Odd things happen all the time. I just read on the AP wire via Zite about a man who c-sectioned a dead porcupine to save a live baby porcupine. Okay, that’s not what really went on, and if this already isn’t weird enough, here is where it gets stranger. This happened near Lisbon, Maine. The guy in question was out looking for wild mushrooms, and saw, sadly, a porcupine get hit by a car. The man had heard somewhere somehow that there is a valuable mineral deposit that forms in the stomachs of porcupines that practitioners of Chinese medicine crave. (If this is so, then goodbye porcupines, which will soon follow elephants, rhinos, sharks, and whatever other unfortunate animals are on the list for bizarre Asian medical ingredients on the road to extinction.)

So you’ve guessed it by now. The man cut open the porcupine hoping to find this mineral. Instead, he found a baby porcupine. It wasn’t breathing but, and here’s the really good part, he cut the umbilical cord and massaged it and it came alive. He and his family now are caring for it at home and plan to give the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Good for them!

The ABC News story about this incident provides a really cute “awwww” moment with a picture of the baby. It also explains about the bezoar stone or “date” that can indeed form in animal stomachs. The stone is a tightly packed lump of undigested mineral deposits from fruits, hair, vegetables, and other things. In Chinese herbal medicine (sigh!), these stones are thought to cure everything from diabetes to cancer.

I think we need to start a movement to convince those who believe in such herbal remedies that the real secret to health lies not in various animal parts but in used chewing gum deposits. Think of the benefits this would have. Many creatures would be saved and all those unsightly gum spots on sidewalks would be scraped off and sold. If anything needs to disappear from our lives, these do. Definitely a win/win here. Who’s with me on this?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kim Pederson

Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings

Dinosaurs at the Post Office

Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

It might be a good idea not to mess with the chickens you see walking around outside the post office– or anywhere else around town for that matter. Paleontologists say that chickens are descendants of the dinosaurs, specifically the fearsome raptors. There is scientific consensus that all birds branched from a group of two-legged dinosaurs as a new category of animals about 150 million years ago. Today’s chickens share many skeletal features with dinosaurs; and fossils of some dinosaurs have been found with feathers and wing-like arms. If you saw the movie “Jurassic Park,” you know that, although raptors may have been smaller than most dinosaurs, they were certainly vicious, sharp-clawed killers. And fossils of a recently-discovered species of raptor reveal that a 500-pound, 10-feet-tall monster with a chicken-like head and feathers once existed. In fact, the scientists who discovered these fossils nicknamed this species the “chicken from hell.” Continue reading

The Frisbee King Throws to the Future

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Getting old requires adapting to changed circumstances. I dislike this as much as anyone, both the getting and the adapting.

In our late 60s, we have more time, but less money, energy and strength. Parts that were once just fine now hurt. Some need to be repaired or replaced. Some things can’t be fixed.

Our horizon narrows with age.

Retirement redefines what we do and how we see ourselves. It’s tough when it’s forced on you.

I spent a few days last week in Key West, Fla., where three high-school classmates visited a fourth who has lived in the Conch Republic for 42 years.

Key West is a community that is upscaling itself by its own sunglasses. Continue reading

I Am Playing Badminton In My Soul

issue 55 rebecca

When I was a kid, my mom and I used to play badminton in the yard. Badminton, as it turns out, is not only a terrifically fun word to spell and say, but it is also a hilarious sport, especially when you are completely lacking many things that “other” people may consider crucial to the “sport” of badminton like a net, badminton skills of any kind, and a flat surface upon which to play. We had some tennis rackets, a birdie and a portion of the yard that wasn’t quite flat, nor really very large, but that would do for what we reckoned as our Olympic version of the sport. And, if you consider peals of laughter as points, we were, like, really, really, really good at badminton. Also my friends and I were quite excellent at tennis, s’long as there weren’t any other people on any of the three courts and we could have free reign of the entire arena. Continue reading

Powerful Governments–Compel Obedience–Punish Dissent…

Cat

Deliberately administering any type of cruel and violent punishment to an animal is a serious criminal act. There is not, nor will there ever be, a law that sanctions such behavior.

Most societies and cultures that butcher animals for food, adhere to a merciful means of terminating their lives. In accordance with the ‘United States Humane Slaughter Act’: “No method of slaughtering or handling in connection with slaughtering, shall be deemed to comply with the public policy of the United States, unless it is humane”. This compassionate law applies to a food source, while many believe the actions being taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, directed at creatures who have become our pets and a part of our families, to be callous and heartless.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through its operation at the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Key Largo, has initiated an aggressive policy that has triggered an ardent cadre of cat hunters, who are truculently stalking, baiting and trapping domestic cats (felis silvestris catus).

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife news release (9/16/11), this agency has: “No National Policy” on the trapping of cats. During a formal meeting the FWS approved a policy: “to protect native wildlife from predation, disease and other impacts presented by feral and free-ranging cats”. This policy does not call for the FWS to kill cats, nor does it outlaw the practice of Trap-Neuter-Release programs. Continue reading

The Battle of the Bulge

I’m going back a bit in time here to revisit the first episode of Cosmos from a couple of weeks ago. At one point in that show, host Neil deGrasse Tyson mentioned that the earth and moon were much closer to each other when they were cutting their planetary baby teeth. Then he said something about the moon being pushed away from the earth by tidal friction and LEFT IT AT THAT! No explanation. No computer animation. Nothing. The thought must not have crossed his mind that millions of viewers out there in TV land would be left tossing and turning through sleepless nights wondering, What the heck is tidal friction? (Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. Maybe it was just me tossing and turning and maybe it was only seven minutes before I fell asleep.)

A diagram of the Earth–Moon system showing how the tidal bulge
is pushed ahead by Earth’s rotation. This offset bulge exerts a net torque
on the Moon, boosting it while slowing Earth’s rotation.
(And if you can decipher any of this for me, please do. Gnu 1.2, CC 2.5)
Here’s how Encyclopedia Britannica explains tidal friction (or tidal acceleration): Continue reading

PROPOSED NOISE LAW HAS FLAWS

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Years ago, Yankee Jack, the longtime entertainer at the Bull Bar, told me a story about why he decided to move to Key West. He said he was an entertainer on a cruise ship that pulled into Key West for the night and, of course, he took a walking tour of Duval Street. “I was standing in the middle of one of the intersections and I could hear the sound of music coming from all directions,” he said. “I knew I was home.”

It is true that Key West, like New Orleans, is famous for its music. Partying on Duval Street is one of the reasons millions of tourists come here every year. The ambiance of Duval Street is what attracted me to move here 25 years ago. Even before that, when I lived in the Bahamas for several years, I would bring my friends over to “vacation” in Key West. When I visit much larger cities, I often suggest to my hosts that we go somewhere to listen to music. I have learned, however, that live music in most towns is limited, especially in the afternoons. How sad for the people who live there.

Having said that, I certainly understand that over-loud music can be a problem for neighbors, both residential and business. Hey, I live a block from the party patio at the Bourbon Street Bar– one of the loudest venues in the city. Continue reading