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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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 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
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
It 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
County 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
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 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
“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
We want to welcome back environmentalist Michael Welber for another in-depth interview.
More like survivalist.
Oh? And why is that?
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.
What is it this time? Did they buy another restaurant? Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“I’m talkin’ baseball
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”
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.
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
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
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.
“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
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 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
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.
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.”
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
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?
Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings
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
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
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
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.)
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
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
Anyone who has ever lived in the northern part of the country knows how alluring the blue skies and sandy beaches of the Keys can be during the winter, especially a winter as brutal as the one that the Midwest and Northeast have just experienced. Visitors come here primarily for the warmth and not for seafood festivals or dolphin attractions.
One thing that surprises visitors who doze in a cold bed dreaming of floating on an inflatable raft on aquamarine water is how few public beaches there are in the Keys. Ironically, as dreary as Marathon can be, the city does have one of the nicer beaches in the island chain. Sombrero Beach, located right in the middle of town, has a long stretch of sand, relatively new covered pavilions, a children’s park, a pretty cement walkway, and very badly maintained bathrooms.
It’s a mystery why city government, which takes many opportunities to attract visitor dollars, can be so neglectful of one of the area’s primary attractions: Marathon’s sandy beach. Recently Marathon’s council voted to sink $ 5.43 million dollars or $ 180,000 a year over thirty years into repairing a decrepit bridge that people perceive as a big tourist attraction. And a loud and extended complaint rose from local throats when the TDC District Advisory Council (DAC III) initially voted to divert a big chunk of money from the Marathon Seafood Festival. That event pours thousands of dollars into the chamber of commerce’s coffers and DAC III voted to give TDC cash toward promoting Fantasy Fest. The latter doesn’t need the TDC money either. Both are well established events. Continue reading
I missed Pancake Day on Tuesday [March 4th]. I missed it because I didn’t know it was synonymous with Shrove Tuesday, the last day for many to party down before they begin six weeks of self-denial (Lent) on Ash Wednesday (which is probably what the inside of your mouth feels like, ash that is, after going wild the night before). Missing Pancake Day is a sad admission from someone who has received pancake griddles for birthday presents on more than one occasion (beginning with one from my grandfather when I was twelve or so), someone who loves to try out crazy recipes like pancakes made with granola and smothered in whiskey bacon maple syrup. But miss it I did.
Shrove Tuesday equals Pancake Day because Continue reading
Some people have a blast at their high-school reunions, while others refuse to attend. I like ‘em.
At my 50th this weekend in Pittsburgh, we looked older. Some of us looked old. Several now use canes. I heard a lot of talk about cancer and hearts, along with the usual wear-and-tear stories about knees and backs.
Whatever sexual, semi-sexual or pseudo-sexual vibes might have been slinking around at earlier gatherings were not in evidence this time. Or maybe my vibesight is not as good as it once was.
More than one person observed that we looked like our grandparents.
One, however, didn’t. One stood out. Continue reading
In the following interview, Blue Paper columnist Michael Welber interviews former environmental activist Michael Welber. This Welber launched the city of Marathon Green Team in 2007, was a member of what was then called Monroe County’s Green Initiative Task Force, and has written extensively about environmental issues. He wrote recently (http://thebluepaper.com/article/debate-about-yard-waste-incineration-flares-up/) about the county’s plans to burn yard waste instead of shipping it to Broward or composting it here.
We’re delighted to have you with us today, Mr. Welber, so we can keep up with the yard waste issue. You certainly have what they call environmental bona fides.
Damn right I do.
So, Mr. Welber, do you think pigs will fly in Monroe County?
Wha?? Continue reading
Last week, the United States Senate held an all-nighter to call attention to the threat of climate change. You don’t have to convince me that the climate is changing. I watch the National Geographic and Discovery channels a lot and I have learned that climate change is natural. It’s been going on for millions of years. In fact, starting back about two million years ago, the climate of the Earth repeatedly shifted back and forth between very cold periods to very warm periods. During the cold periods, glaciers covered much of the world. And during the warm periods (global warming), much of the ice melted, presumably submerging much of the low-lying land around the world. There weren’t any civilizations back then, but if there had been, it is possible that, during one of the warm periods, a reporter in Chicago may have written, “Scientists are predicting that the climate is changing and that Chicago will be completely destroyed by a glacier within the next century. Congress is continuing to debate the passage of laws to try to prevent the climate from changing. But the good news is that the scientists are also predicting that we’ll get five great lakes out of this.” Continue reading
Exhibit A: Democracy takes a back seat in the Middle Keys
The Marathon City Council, after some promises about making careful considerations, wasted no time in appointing former councilman John Bartus to the seat recently and abruptly vacated by Ginger Snead. Snead, to the shock of many, had suddenly resigned citing “rumors.” It’s never been clear what that meant.
While Bartus had served on the council and even been mayor, his last run at office didn’t work out so well. He came in fourth, trailing Mike Cinque, Rich Keating, and Don Vasil in 2009. In other words, the council appointed someone who the voters had soundly rejected in an actual election. Bartus had been president of the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce and was nominated to the council and promoted by Councilman Chris Bull, also closely connected with the chamber. The rest of the council went along rather meekly.
In another setback for democracy in the Middle Keys, the committee assigned the task of reviewing Marathon’s charter has recommended that elections be scheduled for March instead of November. The voters had approved by a 58 percent margin moving the elections to November from March but now the charter review committee recommends the city revert to its original schedule. Continue reading
At the February 24, 2014 HARC meeting, I mentioned several concerns regarding the approval of the Truman Waterfront Major Development Plan:
- Continued discussion of Building 103 as a “Restaurant.”
- Planned walkways should reserve paving to incorporate “Cowpath” concept.
- Plan does not accommodate Outer Mole transportation solutions.
1. I am not sure where the idea originated that Building 103 will be a Design-Build restaurant, but it seems to have taken on a life of its own, to the point that the City Planner now mentions it as a given. The notion that the park needs a revenue source to pay for itself is hogwash. Bayview Park doesn’t pay for itself, Smathers Beach doesn’t pay for itself and the Clayton Sterling Baseball Complex certainly doesn’t pay for itself. Continue reading
For the past several weeks, I have been writing about the press: The power of the press or the lack thereof, and freedom of the press and challenges to that freedom. Some journalists feel that libel laws represent a challenge to freedom of the press. I do not agree with that. The purpose of the libel laws on the books is to try to protect the reputations of those who journalists write about. But there are also laws on the books that protect journalists from prosecution for alleged libel– including the First Amendment of the US Constitution that states that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press . . .” In addition, there have been several Supreme Court decisions that protect journalists from libel lawsuits.
When I taught journalism at the college level, I told my students that only careless reporters get successfully sued for libel. Journalists who know and understand the libel laws almost never get sued. The fact is that the vast majority of libel lawsuits is the result of factual errors or inexact language. Another fact that may surprise you is that, during the 18 years (1994- 2012) that I published and edited Key West The Newspaper (The Blue Paper), we were Continue reading
Youtube Video Credit: William Austin
Humans are the only species I can think of that show appreciation for the achievement of others. It can be expressed as a private word of praise, public acknowledgement, round of applause or people chanting your name.
Some children these days, though not all, are brought up in a cocoon of positive reinforcement. They are praised for participating. Effort does get more reward, and genuine achievement earns genuine commendation. But most children are not good at everything despite pro forma reinforcement. Speaking truth to children is increasingly avoided, even frowned on.
Sports stratify kids, ranking those who are good from those who aren’t. When kids pick up sides, they follow the pecking order from top to bottom that they all know. Judgment is not cushioned. The best are always picked first; the worst always last. The kid who can’t catch plays right field where he develops an interest in geology from kicking pebbles out of boredom. Continue reading
In the February 28 issue of The Blue Paper the editors/publishers asked if Bahama Village is being dispossessed of its 6.6 acres at Truman Waterfront. The answer to that question is clearly “YES”! I first took notice of plans for the Waterfront in 2005. We, my wife and I, had just returned to the Conch Republic after a two-year absence. We lived at the corner of Truman Avenue and Thomas Street and the City Commission was taking up the question of traffic flow into and out of the nascent development that was to be built on the 33 acres that was given to the City by the Navy three years before.
What follows is my attempt to chronicle much that happened between 2002 and now. I will show when and how the City undertook to gain control over the 6.6 acres that were always supposed to be a significant part of the development and that were to benefit Bahama Village and its inhabitants economically and socially.
It’s not a pretty story. There is still time to rectify the mistakes that were made, but the City is on a path to steamroll the original plans into oblivion.
Robert Kelly, Key West
A BRIEF HISTORY OF TRUMAN ANNEX
Following a 1995 U.S. Department of Defense decision to shut down and dispose of fifty acres of waterfront property that was once known as the Naval Operating Base in Key West, Continue reading
The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) is a dismal testament to the failure of our school system to provide a world-class education for our children.
Taxpayers are being fleeced and our students are being deprived of their opportunity to compete on the world stage.
The FCAT, which evaluates a teacher’s ability to successfully impart knowledge and academic skills to their students, has been co-opted by a bureaucracy that refuses to deliver on its promise to America. The FCAT has been politicized and attacked by individuals unwilling to terminate incompetent teachers and negligent principals.
This measurement evaluates the absolute minimal skills and competencies that a student should have become proficient with, upon the completion of a particular grade cycle. Continue reading
The United States Navy came to Key West in 1823. At the time, Key West was a remote outpost in Florida, at first a Territory of the United States established in 1822, and in 1845 admitted as the 27th state of the U.S.
During the period from 1823 until the beginning of the United States Civil War in 1860, the Navy maintained a continuous presence in Key West, pursuing marauding pirates and maintaining control over shipping lanes between ports on the Atlantic seaboard and in the Gulf of Mexico. Although Florida seceded from the United States and joined the Confederate States of America for the duration of the war, the Union government continued to control ports and sea lanes. Continue reading
People were not the only ones that were evicted when the Simonton Street Trailer Park was sold to developers….living in close harmony for generations with the park occupants was a colony of Pandas. In this photo from my archives that I shot for Solares Hill Newspaper in 1987, you can see two adults in the foreground (one up a tree) and several babies frolicking in the background.
They lived happily on the Bamboo stands that were scattered through the park, and the little ones would often lie down with cranky Park babies until they fell asleep.
But here is the Park today… Continue reading
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been writing about topics related to mass communication– because that’s a topic I know about. I told you about the Theory of Agenda Setting, which holds that, while the press is not very effective in convincing people about what to think; it can be quite effective in telling people what to think about. And I told you about propaganda– including that fact that the word dates back centuries to the Catholic Church’s efforts to propagate the faith. This week, I want to remind you that, while the freedom of the press is protected by the First Amendment, there are still government officials at every level trying to dilute that freedom.
“Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press . . .” That’s the quote from the First Amendment. The Founders gave the press such extraordinary protection because they saw the press as not only a government watchdog, but also as a catalyst for the discussion and debate of ideas. Aggressive press coverage of government activities is at the core of American democracy. Although the concept of “no law” seems pretty definitive, there are some in the government, federal as well as local, who are always looking for ways to weaken the press’ watchdog role. Continue reading
Periodically I ask myself why I write these essays. Perhaps it’s because by the exercise of writing I might accidently stumble across some action that could modify or even correct some wrong somewhere. Sort of like when John Kerry made that flippant off-hand remark about how the only way the U.S. wasn’t going to invade Syria was if Syria agreed to get rid of their chemical weapons. Kerry thinking, no way that would happen and we could get on with the business of war as usual, but no… Kerry had accidentally stumbled across a peaceful alternative to invasion of a sovereign nation and inadvertently talked our empire out of yet another war. I guess we could call this accidental diplomacy. Continue reading
Cody Romano was one of the presenters at “frank,” an annual gathering in Gainesville for social change communicators and public relations specialists. Cody, who went to Gerald Adams Elementary School and graduated from UF, is a developer for Mobiquity, a mobile software company in Boston. He works with various clients such as Biogen developing apps for patients with neurological disorders, and Hasbro, creating video games that kill exploding aliens and adding technology to their game “Life.” Romano spoke about his side project, “Geopackages,” an app that promotes social change through location-based storytelling. Cody is the son of Womankind executive director Kim Romano.
Check out Cody’s website http://codyromano.com/ [Kudos to Cody .... and Gerald Adams Elementary!!]
Today’s headlines are full of stories highlighting the fallout of masterful con men. This epidemic comes in a myriad of degrees and forms and each of them is sure to leave a wake of destruction in the lives of those who cross paths with such dangerous men.
Good Morning Florida Keys’ Jenna Stauffer and co-producer Paul Hardt have spent the past couple of months working on a documentary entitled Inevitable Harm. It’s a powerful story that is based on the utter destruction a con artist can cause and even when initially perceived to be his accomplice, the strength one woman has to overcome it.
To find out more and to support the making of Inevitable Harm, the documentary click here.
The expert guest featured in the documentary is Sandra L. Brown from The Institute of Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education. She will be in Key West for filming in April and during her visit, the team will be hosting a community lecture entitled “How to Spot a Dangerous Man,” as well as an agency training for professionals which will highlight the hallmark disorders and dynamics in relationships of impending inevitable harm. As Sandra says, pathology has always existed and it always will therefore, the most any of us can to is educate.
Last week, I wrote about the alleged power of the press and told you that it may not be as powerful as you may have thought. A well-established academic theory known as “Agenda Setting” holds that mass communication is not very effective in persuading people concerning what to THINK; but it can be quite effective in persuading people concerning what to THINK ABOUT. In the years before I founded Key West The Newspaper (The Blue Paper) here in 1994, I earned an advanced degree in mass communication and spent a number of years in advertising and public relations in New York City and Philadelphia, as well as down here in Florida. I also taught these topics, as well as journalism and marketing, at the college level. So I was exposed to the “academics” of mass communication.
Many critics dismiss advertising and public relations simply as “spin”– efforts to manipulate a hapless population. In essence, PROPAGANDA. But if we can accept the Theory of Agenda Setting, we have to accept the fact that, in most cases, even the best efforts of advertising and public relations professionals can persuade only a percentage of their audiences to even THINK ABOUT the ideas they are attempting to communicate. But that is no small deal– because, if the message being communicated is truthful and attention-grabbing, a percentage of the audience will not only think about it, they will accept and act on it. Continue reading
Shit pumps and yard waste
where do we dump?
Coral reef, dying reef,
let’s have bigger ships, oh good grief!
Outer Mole, Outer Mole,
it’s throwing money down a hole.
Noisy churches, loud bars,
loud bikes and motor cars. Continue reading
We’ve all heard it a million times: “This will just take a second.” Or “I’ll call you back in a second.” Or “give me a second, will you?” Usually we answer “yeah, sure” without thinking about it and then, depending on how truthful the second taker is being, start a slow burn process as that second turns into a minute or five minutes or, like, forEVer.
This Is How Long a Second Is
(Approximately one flash per second; US-PD)
But how many of us ever take a second, literally, to think about how long a second is exactly. To find out, we have to break the second down into units, just as we break a minute into sixty seconds and an hour into sixty minutes. (Hmm, now I’m also wondering why we don’t, just to be consistent, have 60 hours in a day and 60 days in a month and 60 months in a year?) But which unit? We have milliseconds, microseconds, nanoseconds, picoseconds, all the way down to the yoctosecond. Continue reading
In 1770, Crispus Attucks, a black man, became the first casualty of the American Revolution when he was shot and killed by the British in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Mr. Attucks sensed that his hope and dreams to one day live as a free man, might best be realized with the revolutionaries he died with on that day. This ‘patriot’ embodied the courage, spirit and determination that birthed our nation.
“My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country”, “Give me liberty or give me death”, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue”, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”; are quotes that have defined us throughout our history. Continue reading
I asked myself one day, “How can I, a coach from Colorado Springs with so many inspirational athletes and coaches, make a difference in thousands if not millions of people’s lives?” December 30th, I set out to fulfill a few goals for what is to be an outstanding year in using my life to shape others. The following represents a short synopsis of my bike ride across the Southern United States during one of the worst winters in decades.
End of December finally arrived, but my journey was only beginning. I packed up my bike, affectionately named Hidalgo, and headed to San Diego, CA where I planned to start my quest. I wrote out a list of goals I wanted to accomplish on this short adventure: Continue reading
The wheels of justice grind slowly for a reason. Rushing to judgment often brings about a self-fulfilled and inaccurate outcome. Bias and prejudice, along with a predetermined perspective of guilt and innocence, have wrongfully sentenced many individuals to death.
Conditioned and inflamed ‘mind sets’ frequently give way under the weight of emotional appeal. I’m profoundly disturbed and saddened by the events surrounding Mr. Eimers’ death.
My life’s experience has required me to directly address several incidents where police conduct brought about the death of innocent men. In the last incident, the state, with malice and forethought, decided to execute a man they knew to be innocent. Over time they were systematically beaten back, so as to settle for three life sentences without parole. Continued pressure brought a dismissal of all charges and his release. Continue reading
Back when I used to go to high school reunions, one of the main reasons for attending was the jealous looks and remarks I would get from former male classmates (former classmates who are male, that is, not former males who are classmates). I received these envious glances because these guys were mostly sans hair while I was the opposite. I was reminded of this yesterday while watching American Hustle. This forgettable film (so much for all the hype) opens with an unforgettable scene: Christian Bale’s character Irving affixing his rug and then arranging his comb-over on top of it. If anyone or anything in the movie should get an Oscar, I vote for the comb-over.
Writing this makes me wonder where this incredibly vain/gauche/desperate habit originated. (I know. Who am I to talk before taking a walk in their shoes, right? But what the heck.) In doing my normal “research” I did not find much on the history. (As far as I can tell, the Roman emperor Constantine may have been the one to start this madness.) Still, along the way I stumbled on some interesting comb-over flotsam and jetsam. First, individuals with comb-overs in Japan are called “bar code men” because the striations in the hair strands resemble the scanner bar codes on retail consumer products. Continue reading
Marathon and the Florida Keys Land and Sea Trust, the operator of Crane Point Nature Center are being taken to court over the issue of the height of some of the hulking towers that would be part of the zip-line course at the site.
The dispute centers around a height variance granted by Marathon planning director George Garrett. The current height limit in Marathon is 37 feet; three or four towers (the final number is not clear) are designed to be 46.25 feet. A group of four activists appealed the height variance to the planning commission, which upheld Garrett’s decision on a 4-1 vote in July 2013. Continue reading
Everybody has their own opinions about the “media.” Some say that the media is too powerful and often unfair. Others recognize the important role the media plays in our democracy. Keep in mind that journalism is the only business specifically protected by no less than the First Amendment of the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . .” The founders saw the “power of the press” as a that of a government watchdog, as well as a catalyst for discussion of public issues.
I have always been fascinated by the mass communication media. In fact, I was fascinated enough to pursue college degrees in the field, including a doctorate in mass communication. Before I founded Key West The Newspaper (KWTN) in 1994, I spent more than 20 years working in virtually every facet of mass communication– advertising, public relations, writing and teaching. Do you want me to tell you how powerful the press really is, according to the academic literature? I’ll do that at the end of this column. You might be surprised. Continue reading
Today, of course, is Valentine’s Day, that special day of the year when many people celebrate their romantic relationships and school kids across this country and probably many others exchange Valentine’s Day cards in a sort of popularity contest where whoever gets the most cards wins. (I never did, which I’m sure has scarred me for life in countless Freudian ways.)
Valentines used to be handmade and handwritten (I know some people who still do this) but have been massed produced like the one below as greeting cards since the 19th century.
It’s likely that not many know or think of the fact that the celebration of February 14 began with a totally opposite sentiment. This day started as the Feast of Saint Valentine, a commemoration of a martyr who died on this date some time in the third century. (Is it just me or is it odd that they seem to know the day on which he was killed but not the year?) Continue reading
Jim Young is head of the city’s Code Enforcement operation– or Code Compliance, as they like to call it. By most accounts, Young is fair but firm in enforcing the city codes. But do you remember when then-City Manager Julio Avael fired Young back in 2006? You see, Young got caught treating all code violators the same — even if they were friends with or related to members of the City Commission; or even if they had powerful and well-connected lawyers.
After Young had red-tagged a project owned by the son of then-City Commissioner Harry Bethel, Bethel stood up at a City Commission meeting and compared Young’s code enforcement operation to the Nazi gestapo. When Young, an ex-cop, employed sophisticated undercover sting techniques to catch prominent local realtors systematically violating the city’s transient rental laws, their friends on the City Commission demanded that such “unfair” practices be discontinued. When Young uncovered serious building violations at the Galleon Resort, Michael Halpern — the Galleon’s powerful and well-connected lawyer– called for Young to be fired. Avael complied. Continue reading
Lighted cigarette butts, beer bottles, cans, fast food debris and fecal ridden diapers tossed from vehicles traveling along US1 has significantly increased since the construction of the new Jewfish Creek Bridge in Key Largo.
Combined with the present epidemic of noise pollution, along with the exhaust and engine contaminates discharged from every make and model of land and watercraft; what was once paradise, is slipping away from us.
Each day that these toxins are discharged into the fabric of our fragile aquatic ecosystem, our planet is less able to sustain itself. Continue reading