TALKIN’ BASEBALL

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

“Talkin’ Baseball”
Terry Cashman, 1981

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

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

The Dumbshine State

Solar panels being installed on house in Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

No zipline

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

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

A Different Kind of Reefer Madness

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

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

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

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

Compartmentalization

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

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

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

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PRACTICED ADVOCACY JOURNALISM

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

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

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

PSA bars

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

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

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

Crane Point Points Fingers

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

Not exactly.

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

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

Bezoar Bezoar

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

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

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

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

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

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Kim Pederson

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

Dinosaurs at the Post Office

Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

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

The Frisbee King Throws to the Future

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

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

Our horizon narrows with age.

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

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

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

I Am Playing Badminton In My Soul

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

Powerful Governments–Compel Obedience–Punish Dissent…

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

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

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

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

The Battle of the Bulge

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

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

PROPOSED NOISE LAW HAS FLAWS

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

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

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

Tourists: We Want Their Dollars Without Providing Services

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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

Pancake Penance

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(Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, 1559, US-PD)
Nary a flapjack in sight.

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

The Frisbee King Returns To High School

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

Mano a Mano: Yard Waste Redux

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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.

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Blue Paper

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.

Welber

Damn right I do.

Blue Paper

So, Mr. Welber, do you think pigs will fly in Monroe County?

Welber

Wha?? Continue reading

CLIMATE CHANGE: IS THE SKY FALLING?

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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

Marathon Diary: Sliding into Chaos

Front loader at Sombrero

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

Notes on the Truman Waterfront Plan

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At the February 24, 2014 HARC meeting, I mentioned several concerns regarding the approval of the Truman Waterfront Major Development Plan:

  1. Continued discussion of Building 103 as a “Restaurant.”
  2. Planned walkways should reserve paving to incorporate “Cowpath” concept.
  3. 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

I’M GOING TO SUE YOU FOR LIBEL!

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

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

THE FRISBEE KING SERIES PART I: Life is a Frisbee, Thrown

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

A Brief History of Truman Annex / Part II

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State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/90697 (1965/66)

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

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF TRUMAN ANNEX

PART II

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

Marketed Fear & Distortion Conceal Ineptitude…

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

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TRUMAN ANNEX

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State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/90697 (1965/66)

PART I

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

March 5, 2014…SPECIAL REPORT to the BLUE PAPER

pandas redux

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

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

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

Bitch Bitch Bitch

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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

What’s Cody Romano Up To These Days?

Cody headshot BEST

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!!]

Inevitable Harm

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.

PROPAGANDA

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

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

Got a Second?

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.

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 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

4,563 Miles on a Fixed Gear Bicycle…

Southern Most Point

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

Character-Courage-And-Betrayal…

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468px-Crispus_AttucksIn 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

“Injustice anywhere—Is a threat to justice everywhere…” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wisteria Scales of Justice

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

Give Me a Head with Hair

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.

Yeah, Go Ahead. Make Some Remark, Hockey Puck. I Dare You. (Don Rickles Publicity Photo, 1973, US-PD)

Yeah, Go Ahead. Make Some Remark, Hockey Puck. I Dare You.
(Don Rickles Publicity Photo, 1973, US-PD)

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

Group Raises Another Obstacle to Zip Line

Issue 50 ziplineMarathon 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

THE “POWER” OF THE PRESS

media

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

BIRD MATING DAY

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.

Antique_Valentine_1909_01

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

CITY FINALLY SETTLES LONG-RUNNING LAWSUITS

jim young

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

Mother Earth Sustaining Wounds—Shall Her Cry Be Heard…

Earth Shot From Apollo 17

Earth Shot From Apollo 17

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

Yard Waste Plan Inflames Opposition

Issue 49 welber

Contravening a report by a hired consultant, Monroe County seems to be pushing ahead with a plan to burn yard waste in the Lower Keys. Even by skewing the information provided to consulting firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., that firm recommends composting yard waste over three other alternatives including incineration.

It’s an important issue because the decision that county commissioners will make has a direct impact on whether the county can reach its goal of a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. In addition the proposal has been developed without any direct involvement by the county’s Climate Change Advisory Committee or any formal approval by that group. And finally, the no-bid process that gives a contract to Rudy Krause Construction for two years raises serious questions. Continue reading

The Band Plays On

musica band plays onI can’t seem to shake the haunting images of two famous classical orchestras. They aren’t famous for who they were, they are famous for where they played. One played on the deck of the Titanic as the unsinkable ship sank. The other, even more nightmarish musical venue I had in mind was the Nazi concentration camps. One of the first camps formed, as soon as Hitler gained power, was Theresienstadt or Terezín, as it was called by non-Germans. Classical, along with original works composed in the camp were played to give the illusion of civility and normalcy in an environment of satanical horror. Terezín was the first camp to utilize professional musician prisoners, a policy all the camps eventually adopted. Many in Terezín would die by disease, malnutrition and outright murder, but they would die with music in their ears. Terezín, for some, was only a temporary stop over on their way to the death camps of Treblinka or Auschwitz, where the bands played on. Continue reading

Spiraling Towards The Abyss vs Pax Romana

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Rome wasn’t built, nor destroyed, in a day. Over time there was a break down in the culture, consciousness and structure that made them viable. Their empire fell apart, never to regain its greatness.

The forces that destroyed the Roman Empire are alive and well in the United States. It’s reflected in the cultural decadence that has taken hold of our society; manifesting itself as the new normative standard by which our acceptability and competency are determined.

Anger, violence and other forms of hostility are reflected in many art forms. Murderous spectacles are routinely produced and presented to our society as entertainment. Continue reading

Spiritualized Curriculum–Promotes Cures, Solutions And Positiveness

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“In the vault of the mind lies all the chains of bondage, as well as the keys to freedom”

–Paramahansa Yogananda.

Unwilling to teach truth and wisdom, we’ve been ‘dumbed down’ to a point of dependency upon our overseers to manufacture the reality they’ve engineered for us.

“We’re not a wisdom society–we’re a knowledge society; knowledge becomes outdated very quickly, and therefore old people become obsolete” –Ram Dass.

Unable to benefit from the experiences and insight accrued through the ages, the hidden truths understood by our predecessors have become obscured. Their study into the nature of creation and the cosmos, are filled with perspectives that provide answers to the dilemmas of existence. Acceptance of this wisdom radically alters the way we’ve been taught to view the phenomenon of consciousness.

Flying by the seat of our pants, the blind have continued to lead the blind into conditioned boxes of disquietude. Lacking the knowhow, with few alternatives available, these instructors teach us to languish over life and assign fault to people, places and things for our suffering. This conditioned reaction perpetuates cycles of anger, violence and malcontent.   Continue reading

Deja Vu

Deja vu for web

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

– George Santayana

The city of Marathon is suffering from mass amnesia.

In a totally expected and even foretold move, the city council appointed Mike Puto, known by many as Mr. Marathon, as interim city manager at a salary of $ 10,000 a month. His term will last three months.

The news was greeted by many as the right thing to do. Comments on the Keynoter page announcing the appointment were all positive. Local Realtor Bruce Schmitt, a harsh critic of outgoing city manager Roger Hernstadt  about whom he vented in many emails to the city council and others and who is Puto’s cousin, commented:

No one will ever accuse Mike Puto of self-interest or of putting himself above the best interests of the people of Marathon. We all need to come together and support Mike as we move forward to heal these wounds. Mr. Marathon is the right choice at a time when we need him the most!”

What wounds Schmitt is referring to are not clear. Continue reading

Marathon Council Pulls Plug On Zip-Line…Probably

No zipline

Reacting to a strong letter from U.S. Fish and Wildlife and another from a Florida based ADA advocate, the Marathon city council moved at its January 28 meeting to “step back” from its support of establishing a zip-line attraction at Crane Point Hammock. That support came in the form of a grant application from the city to the Department of Economic Opportunity for $ 727,000.

The five councilors voted unanimously, as Mayor Dick Ramsay put it, “that this council take a backseat until such time as we hear an update on at least a couple of these issues, one of which is obviously what we’ve been talking about—this letter from the advisory committee and secondly, and it keeps bugging me, the ADA.”

Ramsay is primarily referring to a very strong communication from Cindy Fury of the Fish and Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of Interior. Citing potential fatalities of the state-listed threatened White-crowned Pigeon because of likely collisions with zip-line wires or other structures, elimination of a vanishing hardwood hammock in the Keys, and woefully inadequate documentation, Cindy Fury of the agency, noted that potential prosecution could be in the offing if there is a “direct or indirect take (killing or injury).” Continue reading

WHY COPS WANT TO BE COPS

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

If you are a longtime reader of Key West The Newspaper, you know that, over the years, we published a number of stories about police officers. Although we have certainly published lots of favorable stories about police officers and the police department, most of the stories were about officers who beat the hell out of somebody for no good reason, officers who tried to enforce laws that don’t exist or officers who got caught lying on their police reports. Let’s face it. When police officers break the law, it’s news.

Many think our police reporting has helped make a difference in Key West. Our editorial support is one reason there is a Citizen Review Board (CRB) here, an independent city agency that reviews complaints against police officers. Before the CRB, citizen complaints often just disappeared into a black hole at the police department. We also made new free speech law in Florida. Citizens who file complaints against police officers are no longer prohibited from speaking to the press about their complaints during active investigations.

Because we didn’t beat around the bush when reporting corruption and incompetence in the police department, some readers told us that we were “picking on” the department. Not at all. We were just reporting the truth. For example, several years ago, our critics said we were unfairly picking on Officer Michael Beerbower when we reported that, more than once, he punched handcuffed suspects in the face and, sometimes, after he had punched them a couple of times, he also pepper-sprayed them in the face. But everything we wrote about Beerbower was true– and subsequently, he lost his job and was prosecuted by the state attorney’s office. Continue reading

NEW LEAF

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Note: Unfortunately my attempted mountaintop retreat from the world was a bust and I was forced to cut it short. Who I thought was a Yogi Zen master turned out to be a delusional manic depressive failed hedge fund manager that had lost his mind when some bubble or other burst leaving him penniless or was he a time share pitch man? I never did figure it out…So I came back home and decided to see a shrink instead. 

New Leaf

I have been given strict instructions by my therapist, Dr. Heisenberg, that I am no longer allowed to research and chronicle any negative local, national or global issues. I was told, if I must write about something, it should be on light and happy topics that lift the spirit, no matter how Pollyannaishly delusional I think they are. I am paying this guy $ 250 an hour so I am heeding his advice. Then let us tackle some soft friendly issues together, shall we? The sun did come up and as Annie tells us, it will come up tomorrow. That is comforting to a guy like me. Here I have been focusing on the likelihood of it rising one day only to illuminate a barren Mars-like landscape that was once our blue and green planet due to our blind love affair with fossil fuel and pathological consumption of natural resources. Oops, sorry. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is my new mantra. Continue reading

How I Became an Instant Millionaire


A friend did me a significant favor. When I asked what the cost would be, he said “A million dollars.”

I  promptly  whipped-out  my  checkbook  and   wrote  him a  check,   on-the-spot,     for      $ 1,000,000.00.

He laughed, walking away with the check saying he was going to have it framed and put on his wall so he could tell people he was a millionaire.

A week later, the Head Teller from my bank called me.  The conversation went a little something like this…

Teller: “Mr. Fraser, we have a check drawn on your account for one-million-dollars.  We’ve checked the signature and it seems to match yours.”

I started laughing, realizing my friend had joked my joke, by depositing the check I’d written him.

Me: “Yes… the signature matches because I did indeed sign that check.”

Teller:  “Mr. Fraser, do you have any idea what your current checking account balance is?” Continue reading

Amateurish Governance—Distasteful And Dangerous…

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An analysis of the government’s ineffectiveness when it comes to protecting its citizens from terrorist attacks, provides us with a record of gross misconduct, incompetence and inefficiency.

Intelligence gathering failures by the government are voluminous. Misuse and abuse by the political appointees heading up these bureaucracies are alarming.

Since the Islamic militants declared war on the United States, there have been 70 separate and successful terrorist attacks launched upon Americans, while living within the United States. These radicalized Muslims have killed 3,101 innocent men, women and children. They seriously wounded 2,283.

Those numbers do not include Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan’s murderous rampage at Ft. Hood, where 13 soldiers were killed and 32 wounded. This incident was deemed as an act of workplace violence rather than an act of terrorism. Continue reading

INCOME EQUALITY: FIGURING IT OUT

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President Obama says that he wants to make income inequality– the growing gap between the richest and poorest Americans– the defining issue during 2014. He points with alarm to the fact that distribution of economic gain is increasingly favoring a small percentage of the population– those who are already well off. Duh! Why would anyone find that surprising, much less somehow illogical? But to Obama, it is simply unfair for a corporate CEO to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, while a high school dropout working at a fast food restaurant makes minimum wage. And in the president’s mind, that can be fixed by simply taking money from those in our society who have figured out how to be successful and giving it to those who haven’t figured it out– in essence, redistribution of wealth.

The fact is, however– except maybe in Sherwood Forest– taking from the rich and giving to the poor is not going to have much impact on the problem of income inequality. Continue reading

Feds Lambaste Zip-Line Plan at Crane Point

zip line

The city of Marathon might be having second thoughts about partnering with the Crane Point Nature Center to construct a zip-line attraction in the Hammock. The U.S. government in the form of a letter from the Fish and Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of Interior delivered a staggering blow to the project in a 12-page letter sent to the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

The letter didn’t mince words.

“We strongly recommend that the zip line project not be approved and/or constructed within Crane Point Hammock due to: potential adverse impacts to the White-crowned pigeon and their habitat… ; lack of detailed information on the pigeon within Crane Point Hammock; lack of information on the extent of how this project could affect the White-crowned pigeon breeding population and habitat in Florida and the species rangewide; and the proximity , size, and quality of this important foraging habitat to the most productive pigeon nesting sites within the Keys.”

Even Marathon planning director George Garrett, who has approved the plans for the project, described the letter as “very damning.” Continue reading

Saving the Grimal Grove

Big Pine Key native Travis Livengood recalls sneaking in to Old Man Grimal’s yard as a kid to shimmy up his mango trees and snag a few delectable fruits for himself and his friends.

“One day he caught me, and made me work in the yard to earn the mangoes,” Livengood recalled one afternoon recently as his daughters peered around the freshly cleared property while harp music lulled in the background. “He was a mean old man!”

Livengood was among the dozens of Lower Keys and Key West residents who dropped by one recent sunny Sunday afternoon to enjoy some music, food and tour the property that held handfuls of mischievous childhood memories.

Since 2011, Marathon resident Patrick Garvey and a handful of hopeful cohorts from up and down the East Coast have endeavored to save the former crown jewel of tropical fruit cultivation in the Keys.

“It is a lost piece of paradise and deserves to be brought back to life,” said Garvey, the Executive Director of the Growing Hope Initiative.

After a bit of research, Garvey and his Growing Hope Initiative sought means to save the precious piece of property from future real estate development and revitalize the dream that died with inventor Adolf Grimal at his passing in 1997.

But funding for the purchase of 1.76 acres wasn’t the only obstacle the group had to overcome. Continue reading

A LOOK BACK ON STORIES IN THE NEWS 2006- 2008– WISTERIA ISLAND AND MORE

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

A couple of weeks ago, we looked back on some of the stories of the year during 2000- 2005. This week, let’s re-look at a few more recent stories, starting with 2006.

During 2006, beleaguered City Manager Julio Avael was still trying desperately to hold on to the job he had held since 1996. Even before the city elections in 2005, he knew he was in trouble when several of the city commission candidates were promising to dump him if elected. His response to this was classic Avael. Just a few weeks before the election, he tried to slip a contract extension onto the commission agenda. The plan was that his cronies on the lame-duck commission would quietly approve the contract extension before any of those pesky anti-Avael candidates could take office. But when the press picked up on this story, the plot imploded. We have told you before and we’ll tell you again– we don’t make this stuff up.

Avael was right to be concerned. After the election, the mayor and commissioners actually discussed firing Avael on the spot, but opted instead to give him a one-year “transitional” contract to give themselves adequate time to search for and hire a new city manager. Humiliated, Avael announced that he had planned to retire anyway. But that wasn’t the case at all. To Avael, the transitional extension just gave him another year to try to convince at least four members of the commission to give him a multi-year contract. Part of that plan was to try to curry favor with the newly-elected members of the commission. For example, he openly fixed a job for a longtime buddy of new City Commissioner Danny Kolhage. And, suddenly, Kolhage became one of Avael’s defenders on the commission. Continue reading

First Minister Invokes Jesus at Marathon City Council Session

 podium

Nondenominational: Lacking a denomination; not specific to a particular religion or sect.

At the end of the first invocation delivered to the Marathon city council since passing the resolution to do so, the minister, Pastor Nick Vaughn of the Marathon Church of God, concluded by saying, “We ask this in Jesus’ name.”

That is exactly what those who were concerned about public prayer thought might happen and that includes one of the members of the city council.

The council specifically voted to have a nondenominational prayer at the beginning of each session. Apparently Pastor Vaughn didn’t get the memo. In addition, the prayer occurred after the pledge of allegiance, the first item on the agenda.

When the council established the invocation, the plan was to have the prayer before the meeting actually started, i.e., before the pledge. That way, those who wish to pray could stand for the prayer and remain standing for the pledge. At the January 14 meeting those who had been standing for the pledge were forced to sit down if they didn’t want to participate in a public prayer. Some may have been embarrassed to do so. Continue reading

Government Is A Weapon Of Mass Destruction…..

top secret

“The practices of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny.”–Alexander Hamilton.

The following is based on information that was anonymously presented to me, by an unknown author. I’ve researched and studied the data, putting it together for the purposes of this column. Some sections of this article duplicate segments from the aforementioned information.

Since the events of 9/11/2001, our government has insisted that our safety requires that they have ever greater authority over us. To keep us safe, they need to know every detail of our financial, personal and private lives. We can never be safe until our bank, tax, telephone, internet, credit card, and medical records are fully available to the authorities.

NSA has been spying on every American citizen, in every way possible. The NSA director is being investigated for perjury, regarding his testimony before the House of Representatives. It appears that there are similarities between Obama’s ‘kill list’, Bush’s ‘drone strikes’ and the undertakings of the NSA. Continue reading

OUR Truman Waterfront Park. What happened?

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TRUMAN WATERFRONT ADVISORY BOARD meeting TUESDAY 1/21 5:30PM

If you have followed the park planning process as I have for the past 10 years or more, you understand what a convoluted mess our “park” has become.  Lack of progress has not been any one’s particular fault.  I, in part, attribute the lack of progress to special interests.  “Special” people insisting they get their way.  “Special” people who wanted much needed senior housing to be at the waterfront park and NOWHERE other than the waterfront park.   There were also “special” people wanting a marina.   And there was the 6.6 acres originally set aside for the BCCLT.  Each of those special projects has been shot down over the years – for various reasons.

At the most recent City Commission meeting there were two agenda items relating to our yet to be realized park – both items were postponed:

Item #16 was for Approval of a $347,924 parking lot for 46 cars and 14 scooters ostensibly to “serve the Bahama Village neighborhood and the future Truman Waterfront park.  More on that item later.  (The vote on that item was postponed at the request of the Navy.)

Item #24  WAVING the FORMAL BID PROCEDURES  for critical path components in order to facilitate development of Phase 1A of the Truman Waterfront  was also postponed.

As much as I hate to say this thirteen years later, those postponements are a good thing. Continue reading

Indoctrinating Children—Disables And Confuses Them…

John Donnelly

John Donnelly

As a young child I was wisely instructed that: “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never hurt you”. As this empowering information was reaffirmed by my teachers, I cultivated a tenacious resolve that shielded me against the unkind things that would inevitably be said to me throughout my life.

Frequently frolicking outdoors, I discovered that my playmates had received a similar instruction. However, there were times when we departed from our parents’ admonitions and directed indecent comments towards one another. Upon recognizing this infraction, with feigned pity and disgust, we took great pride in robustly scolding the unfortunate playmate who had violated the parental directive that we all had received.

Gleefully, we would persuasively recite in cadence the aforementioned refrain: “sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never hurt you”. Didn’t these wretched simpletons know that they had no power to harm us with their words? Without exception, the ‘name callers’ would abruptly cease their taunts and insults.

As children we were aware that the verbalization’s of another did not have the power to hurt. This liberating reassurance freed and protected us from the unkind utterances that can be expected from kids and misguided adults. It formed an indispensable foundation, which prompted us to think, dream, explore and express ourselves in a manner that was independent of the opinion of others.

In stark contrast to that emancipating wisdom, we have a school district that teaches our children: “Words Can Hurt”. A large banner prominently displayed at the entrance to an elementary and middle school greets our students every day with this frightening and debilitating notion. Instructional programs within the school district celebrate and reinforce this dishonest and injurious proposition.   Continue reading

Friendly Debate

Alex Symington

Alex Symington

This might be my last contribution for a while. I’m going on a retreat, a literal and figurative dropping out. Don Quixote, I’m not. I enjoy posting my thoughts and some are well received, others, not so much. What I gather from research about government, politics, extreme climate, economy, corporate finance/banking, etc. mostly turns my stomach and I simply cannot continue looking at the big picture of our proverbial hand basket to hell, state of the state without experiencing spiritual and psychic damage. As my wife points out frequently, I am a delicate flower.

I am convinced that the majority of people in this country as well as the global community naturally want what is best for their families and their communities at large. The devil is in the details and that is where we lose sight of our commonalities and get intentionally side-tracked by those in power that want and must stay in power. An example of this loss of sight of our common interests was demonstrated by a reader’s response to my last essay on the marketing of America. My take is the current Pathocracy that is our governance is most assuredly a well financed corporatist right, in the literal sense of corporatism. Conversely the reader is convinced it is leftist caused, muttering something about collectivism, but not disagreeing with my description of the deterioration of our Republic, just the perpetrators of said deterioration. So I would conclude we are essentially on the same side in the sense we are both very unhappy with the current paradigm. Continue reading

Chaos is a Friend of Mine

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I should like to speak about the mess.

The general messes we make–the piles of christmas paper exploding across the living room floor, the pens and pencils strewn across the bedspread, the wood chips and the remnants from underneath the couch–the record, the dust bunnies, the bones, in this case, that are used to keep rhythm. The realm of our emotional train wrecks, derailments and unexpected track switches, the hot messes of our psychological underpinnings, our curious and delectable romantic disasters.

I think that’s what we do, here, is make messes. Create piles of things in one place and move them to another, pick up sticks in our yard and throw them in the woods, move piles of dirt from point a to point b to dig basements and transform the broken hulls of boats into flower pots, leave pools of sweat on the gym equipment, paint stains on our fingertips, imprints of banjos on our inner arms, callouses, wine stains, ashes where our cigarettes had burned. Perhaps the glory and the salvation lie in that mess, somewhere, as scattered and misplaced as the rest of it.

We’d like to think that our lives make some degree of sense–that we’re tapped into something that will lead us forward with invisible reins, the bit in our mouth chiding but not disagreeable. I’m going to venture to guess that none of that is true. Consider the reins eviscerated, the leather corroded by age, use and weather, the horse is lame in his back foot and nobody ever taught me how to ride a horse so what the hell am I doing up here, anyway? What have you got  when the horse dies, when the baby is born, when your heart is broken and your mascara runs down your face in black, blurry lines, by god, you’ve got a glorious mess! Destruction and creation are as bound together as black and white, the mess is unavoidable, beautiful, marvelous…messy.

Here’s a story. Continue reading

A SMALL PIECE OF THE EIMERS CASE: LYING COPS

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Naja and Arnaud Girard are doing more than a good job in reporting the still-developing story about the rough arrest on South Beach on Thanksgiving Day that lead to the death of 61-year-old Charles Eimers. But if you have been a reader of my writing in Key West The Newspaper (the Blue Paper) over the years, you may not be surprised that I have my own comments (and suspicions). While a number of questions remain to be answered by investigation– like did the cops literally smother the man to death by forcefully holding his face into the sand until he died?– we already know one unquestioned fact about the case: The cops knowingly lied when they initially tried to explain to the public why the arrest turned rough.

While the fact that the cops initially lied will probably not have any affect on the findings of the official investigation concerning how Eimers died, it is a really big deal as far as law enforcement in Key West is concerned. Cops are not supposed to lie. In fact, lying on official police documents (like arrest affidavits) IS A CRIME! But as I have documented over the past two decades, they do it all the time and they have been doing it for years. If you have been following the Eimers story, you probably already know about the lie I’m talking about. But if not, let me document it: Continue reading

Marathon Planning Commission Decision Raises Eyebrows

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Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

                                                       - H. L. Mencken

A letter to the editor appeared in last week’s edition of the Florida Keys Keynoter that posed a question about whether the members of the city of Marathon’s planning commission know what they are doing.

Bob Guerin, who lives in a gated community near a proposed site of a new trash transfer station, wrote:

“The planning commissioners are not elected but appointed by City Council members. I can’t imagine any qualifications are required, as two of the commissioners had no idea what they were asked to do.”

Another letter writer agreed.

Eric Viehman wrote that,

“… if Mr. Guerin is correct that this planning board comprises untrained individuals who are in power to overrule professional government-trained employees, I have to ask why? It seems to me that this is clearly a City Council responsibility to determine if the city professionals have made the right decision, not appointees with no experience.”

Guerin and Viehman may be right. Continue reading

Marketing

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One of the downsides of getting old, besides aches and pains and boring young people, is witnessing little changes only an older person notices. Whatever is going on in the moment has “always” been going on in the eyes of the young. The fact is they have no point of reference and are not responsible for succumbing to the sometimes subtle and other times not so subtle insinuative political/corporate propaganda of our daily lives. The only way to avoid this toxic nonsense would be to turn off your TV and computer, stop reading all corporate media (aka. media), stop going to the movies and take yourself to some remote mountain top and become a subsistence farmer. It’s never too late.

This deliberate manipulation is evident at the movies. I love movies. I love all aspects; the writing, acting, directing and editing all fascinate me, a true communal effort and a miracle of sorts when they are successful. When I go to the movie theater I arrive early because I want a good seat, but unfortunately that requires that I sit through a twenty minute audio/visual barrage of corporate crap telling me the answer to life can be found in some colorful sugar water product that can make me “fly” or I must watch some empty headed fluff on TV as soon as I get home and/or I should feel awful because soldiers are coming home horribly damaged from places they don’t belong and that our government abandons them to the charity of people going to see a movie on a Saturday afternoon. Does anyone else remember movie shorts and cartoons before the feature? Continue reading

STORIES OF THE YEAR FROM BACK IN HISTORY

Dennis Reeves Cooper on Fox O'Reilly show

Dennis Reeves Cooper being interviewed by Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Channel in 2001. Cooper founded the Blue Paper in 1994 and was editor and publisher for 18 years before he retired in 2012.

When I was editor of Key West The Newspaper– the Blue Paper– back in the “old days,” we published a “Story of the Year” feature at the end of each year. Here’s a look back at a few years of those stories.

2000. Our Story of the Year of the year 2000 was the defeat of 20-year incumbent State Attorney Kirk Zuelch at the polls. Few election-watchers thought that could happen. After two decades in the office, Zuelch was thought to be too powerful, too entrenched to get voted out of office. Zuelch was so comfortable in office that he no longer even tried to hide his use of his position to forward the objectives of his powerbroker pals. Selective enforcement of the law was routine. And it was in your face. It was said that Zuelch could even make judges quake beneath their robes. Lawyers with clients facing prosecution by Zuelch’s office often advised their clients to take just about any plea offer coming from the state attorney’s office (SAO) because “the judges do not often rule against Zuelch.”

A PERSONAL NOTE: We here at the Blue Paper were never among Kirk Zuelch’s best friends. For years, we repeatedly published stories that exposed corruption inside the SAO. Less than a year after the voters ousted Zuelch from office in 2000, Key West Police Chief Buz Dillon had me arrested for writing something he didn’t like– and the case went to the SAO for prosecution. New State Attorney Mark Kohl refused to prosecute because, he said, the law Dillon used to have me arrested was unconstitutional. He was right. A couple of years later, a panel of three federal judges did rule 3-0 that the law was, indeed, unconstitutional– and new free speech law was made in Florida. However, had Zuelch still been in office, it is unlikely that he would have made the same decision that Kohl made. In fact, it is quite likely that Zuelch would have enthusiastically gone forward with prosecution. I and my ACLU lawyers would have eventually won in court– but had Zuelch still been in office, things would have been way different for me for a couple of years as the case worked its way through the courts. Continue reading

Confronting Violence Prepares The Soul To Be Healed…

On March 30, 2001, Mr. Obama was the only Illinois senator who rose to speak out against a bill that would have protected babies who had survived a late term labor-induced abortion.

Mr. Obama explained that he voted against this bill because it determined that a nine-month-old fetus, living outside of the womb of its mother, which survived a late term labor-induced abortion, would be deemed to be a person, therefore, it would have a constitutional right to live.

Mr. Obama further explained that he could not vote for a bill that designated this late term abortion survivor as a person. For if he did, this young life would have to be safeguarded under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which would not allow the life of this unwanted baby to be terminated.

Therefore, this living child lying on the surgeon’s table, instinctively crying for help, had to be deemed a discardable fetus. Continue reading

Year-end Review: One Story Dominates All

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At this time of year, publications run their year-end reviews ad nauseum. I use that word advisedly because what news writers and editors do is regurgitate the highlights and lowlights of the previous year. They do it primarily because it’s easy; trust me. I know because when I was an editor, I did it too.

And yet the stories that are chosen may not be the most important ones for our lives and those who follow us. I have only one story I’d like to highlight: our deteriorating climate and what we are or are not doing about it. While the local media may not cover it, the story is happening much faster than scientists thought it would and it’s happening right here. Right now.

Let’s start locally. I recorded over twice as much rain in Marathon as we have received in previous years. So far we have been soaked with more than 71 inches of rain versus the “normal” of 35. On June 1, 4.48 inches fell; on June 3, 5.8 inches. June is not normally a rainy month. On July 19, we got over 5 inches of rain. Still not the “rainy” season. That led to flooding, especially in Key West, and mosquitos.

As the climate warms, the atmosphere holds more water. Consequently, we get torrential rains and, in some places, very heavy snow. Conversely, some locations are suffering terrible drought. For the first time, drought made the top five-billion dollar disaster list. According to Weather Underground, the ongoing United States’ drought, which has been in progress all year, has caused $ 2.5 billion in damage. Continue reading

FORMER CITY MANAGER JULIO AVAEL WAS JUST NOT VERY GOOD AT PICKING POLICE CHIEFS

Dennis Reeves Cooper on Fox O'Reilly show June 2001

Dennis Reeves Cooper on Fox News, ‘The O’Reilly Factor’, June 2001

In last week’s column, I looked back into history to re-report to you how former Key West Police Chief Bill Mauldin was tricked into resigning after getting caught sexually harassing his public information manager. But in researching that story, it occurred to me that the Mauldin scandal was just a part of former City Manager Julio Avael’s strange legacy when it came to the appointment of police chiefs. He just wasn’t very good at it.

In Key West, the city manager appoints the police chief. The City Charter is very specific in spelling out that the mayor and the the commissioners have no say in this. So the city manager has complete discretion to hire and fire his “boy” at his pleasure. Avael served as city manager for 12 years, from 1996 until 2008, when he was finally forced to retire from city government in disgrace. One of his first actions was to fire Police Chief Ray Peterson, one of the best police chiefs in the history of the city. Peterson’s crime? He reportedly had called in the FBI to investigate corruption in city government.

To replace Peterson, Avael promoted John Kirvin to police chief in November 1997. That appointment didn’t work out all that well. Kirvin lasted less than three months in the job. He resigned in January 1998 after somebody phoned in a death threat.

For his next appointment, Avael decided to go all out. Continue reading

NEW YEAR

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As we approach the beginning of the New Year, traditionally we reflect on the one that is about to end.  That is all well and good, but might we be better off to stop and reflect more often than once in a calendar year?  To more frequently stop and take the time to assess what we are about and why we do what we do.  I know it is much easier said than done, but daily reflective thought gives us a freedom from expectations and is a release from a poor choice or a wrong path. Rigidity has the opposite effect. Digging in our heels and refusing to admit our errors in judgment will cause us unnecessary pain and suffering.

The simple interjection, “oops”, should be uttered more often so to allow us that opportunity to change course without remorse. Why wait until a “New Year”? To paraphrase John Lennon’s lyrics, “Imagine there’s no judgment for changing your mind….” As new information comes to light, what made sense yesterday, may no longer make sense today.  This reminds me of the pot roast story. A daughter was watching her mother prepare a pot roast for the oven. The older woman cut off the ends of the roast before she placed it in the oven. The daughter asked, “Why did you cut the ends off?” The mother said, “Because that’s how my mother did it.” So the young woman went to ask her grandmother the same question and gran told her because that’s how her mother did it. So the young woman went to the ancient great grandmother and asked why. Great gran explained that years ago, when she and her husband were first married they had a very small oven…. Continue reading

Citizens Are Free To Arm Themselves–Servants Are Denied Such Right…

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New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof published a recent column: “Killer Speaks Blunt Truth About Gun Control”. It’s a long winded piece of drivel, substantially devoid of the credible and analytically reasoned analysis that this topic deserves.

Mr. Kristof’s rant reaches epoch proportions, as he proffers the perspectives of a convicted murderer in support of his anti-gun agenda. The expert Mr. Kristof quotes is incarcerated in a maximum security prison for killing an acquaintance during a drug quarrel.

Mr. Kristof’s distortions and convoluted reasoning stands in the face of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Madison.

The horrifying lessons of history indicate that governments are capable of committing atrocities against their people. In every case these genocides began with gun-control.

Cognizant of government’s inherent tendency to fixate on grasping more power and control, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “It’s the right and duty of the people to be armed at all times”. Laws disarming honest citizens, declare that the government is the master, not the servant, of the people. Continue reading

Serpentine Leadership Maintains Status Quo–World Counterparts Thrive

It’s unfortunate that some employed by our school district aren’t measuring up to the enormous responsibility that has been entrusted to them. It’s frightening that the fate of our nation rests in their hands.

Placing flawed, corrupted and incompetent individuals with our students is a staffing practice enjoyed by too many school systems. Cronyism and politics are formulated into determining the fate of these children.

Duplicity appears to be a valued pre-requisite when selecting a principal. A school rotten at the top discharges a toxic venom that cascades downward infecting all. I’ve read “SACS” accreditation findings that used similar language when describing a principal at one of our schools.

Ineffective leadership and instruction leads to discipline problems. Kids know you love them, when through your extraordinary effort a spectacular classroom experience is created, which challenges, excites and titillates their imaginations. Once bonded, these children will follow their teacher to hell and back. Appreciative students are cooperative allies. Continue reading

Ignorant, Education Deficient, or Just Plain Lazy?

The conversation following a posting on FaceBook; a link to an article posted on WesternJournalism.com called “In 2014, The Obama Dictatorship Will Be Complete”.

(Un-named facebook poster#1)  OH LOL ! More conspiracy horseshit huh ? The next article I expect to see is how Obama is the anti-christ…..that will be a hoot ! ….but in all seriousness, this website is called ”western journalism”…..sorry, i don’t see any ”journalism” here……how about ”western conspiracy theories” or ”chicken little the sky is falling”……..just about had it with the nonsense people. you are telling me that you read an article entitled ”in 2014 the Obama dictatorship will be complete” and not realize at the least there is a political agenda here, …..more fairly this is just TRASH, RUBBISH…….The facts are spun, things are out of context……the usual…..people, use your brains please…I promise you e will all live to see tomorrow, the next week, month, year, decade. Political scare tactics and nonsense. sorry, no offense personally (Un-Named facebook poster#2)

The following reply was posted by RLC:  (Un-named facebook poster#1), first of all, here is the definition of the word you questioned as copied from Dictionary.com:

jour·nal·ism [jur-nl-iz-uhm] Show IPA noun
1.  the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business.
2.  press1 ( def 31 ) .
3.  a course of study preparing students for careers in reporting, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines.
4.  writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition, conceived of as exemplifying topical newspaper or popular magazine writing as distinguished from scholarly writing: He calls himself a historian, but his books are mere journalism.

“Now as I read the article it seems to fit the definition of “journalism” quite well.  It is journalism, especially if you take the fourth definition.  It seems that the “news” media takes this fourth meaning to heart as what I read in the news, and see on the several news programs I view is reported, for the most part is “hurried composition” reflecting “superficial thought and research” to satisfy the “popular slant”.  Sadly, if you follow the “popular slant” of wanting something for nothing, unearned entitlement, and searching for a free ride, you will find the majority of the populous standing in line with their hand out to whatever political power seeker offers the greatest amount of free cookies and circuses.  This lazy majority is exactly the people that will give away the freedom and liberty we have enjoyed for over 200 years for a government welfare check and a seemingly free trip to the hospital.  It is just possible that someone who might attack an article with phrases like “conspiracy horseshit”, or emotionally charged statements like “Obama is the anti-christ”, might do well to partake of some thought and research before spewing unsubstantiated opinion.  Try doing a little research.  Obtain some facts before talking of spun facts, and political agenda.  Show me some reliable sources before shouting “TRASH or RUBBISH”.  In other words look up the word you intend to attack, cite your references, and stop spinning your own agenda.  Cut the strings puppet.  Get the facts then tell us how it really is.”

Now, I am not new to arguments, I have no problem voicing my opinion, and I rarely, if ever, back down from confrontation.  I am however new to higher education.  Way back in the olden times, when I attended high school, education was something “those people” tried to cram down my throat while I concentrated on social events, playing guitar, and stealing kisses from cute girls.  My memory of this education is as such; music and art were enjoyable endeavors, foreign language (German) was either fun, or torture depending on the teacher, math classes were like solving puzzles and I like solving puzzles, and English class was a complete waste of time as I learned to speak it at home, and that’s all I needed. Continue reading

GUN LOVE

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Here we go again, thirteen more victims of a deranged killer with a gun. I don’t care anymore! Why should any of us care? It seems to be a popular American past time, like football or NASCAR.  Why all the righteous and fevered outrage every single time this happens? We never do a thing about it, every single time! The only effect these mass murders seem to have is gun sales go up after these all too common events because gun “enthusiasts” are terrified the government is going to confiscate their guns. That will never ever happen. Never. 

 The NRA and the gun manufacturers lie to their followers about the threat by the U.S. government to their second amendment rights to own and bear firearms. Their only solution to gun death is more guns. Mass murder with guns is good for business. After Sandy Hook and twenty babies being literally shot into pieces, gun sales went through the roof. What a testimony to America, mom, apple pie and democracy.

I really can’t afford to care anymore. I can’t keep investing my emotional capital into this black hole of the black heart of America. It is literally making me sick. Congress, you disgust me. This self induced impotency of government is indicative of so much that has gone wrong with us. From main streaming mental patients and closing government run mental institutions to “save money” to the NRA going from a gun safety and hunting education organization to one of the largest most powerful lobbying groups for gun manufacturers to promote gun sales.

We have literally sold our souls to the devil in the form of repeatedly electing him to office. Nothing is ever going to change if we don’t. So I already don’t care about the next mass murder. I just hope it’s not you or me or our children, but it will happen again and again and again.

I wrote this back in September after the Washington DC Shipyard shooting spree where thirteen people were gunned down by yet another deranged psycho killer. Continue reading

Prayer in Marathon: Does the Public Want It?

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It’s been well publicized that the city of Marathon recently passed a resolution that calls for a non-denominational prayer at the beginning of its meetings.

The council members said they were responding, in part, to a “lot of emails” on the subject and moved forward with a vote of 4-1.

They got exactly 12 emails on the topic, two of which opposed an invocation of any sort.

The Blue Paper executed a records request from the city of Marathon asking for all emails with the words “prayer” or “religion” in them during the two-week period between when city councilor Ginger Snead first introduced the measure and when it was finally passed. It may be true that city council members get very few emails from the public but, by any measure, 12 emails in a city of 11,000 is not “a lot.” Continue reading

THE DAY THE POLICE CHIEF WAS TRICKED INTO RESIGNING

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Because I edited Key West The Newspaper (KWTN) for 18 years before retiring last year, the new editors have asked me to periodically look back at some of the more sensational and/or unusual stories we covered back in the “old days.” Today, I will re-report to you the story of how controversial Key West Police Chief Bill Mauldin was tricked into resigning.

Mauldin resigned on April Fool’s Day 2008 in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal, but he had been involved in controversy for months. He had been caught lying to the press about charges he had trumped up charges to try to fire Officer Tom Neary because he feared that Neary might be ready to go public with allegations of corruption, incompetence and favoritism inside the police department. Mauldin had also been instrumental in planning a “September Surprise” to try to discredit City Commissioner Mark Rossi just weeks before the    October 2007 city elections. Continue reading

GREEN Reactor: The GREEN MILE-stones

As we reach the end of 2013, let’s do the “milestones” thing:GREEN Reactor

  • This is my 20th new GREEN Reactor column in The Blue Paper.
  • It’s also my 70th newspaper column or article (most of which involve GREEN issues) published continuously over the last few years in papers here in Key West.
  • A few weeks ago marked a year of daily postings to my Facebook GREEN Reactor page.
  • In a few weeks it’ll be a year since I stepped away from 5 years on the board of Last Stand.
  • In a few months I’ll reach 5 years as a charter member of the City’s Sustainability Advisory Board.

There are many who expend much more GREEN energy than I do (e.g., these people) but we all do what we can to work toward improving the planet and our quality of life.  I happen to be more out-front about my activities (what with being such a blow-hard in print) but I always try to give credit to those whose efforts get less fanfare.  Continue reading

A Moment of Revery, I Beg of You

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I am weeping tears of golden syrup. Sticky and tempting, they drift slowly down my barren, dry and broken cheeks. Chiding the miserable ache in my heart, the hunger pains subsist, clawing at my now hollow interior. Where once there were biscuits, now there is darkness, where once there were free refills, now the subtle echo of the sticky tear, breaking free of my chin so languidly and falling, lone and stoic, to the tile floor, mocks the freight train of tragedy burrowing through my soul. I call out into the darkness, into the void, fists hurled toward the sky, a single dollar bill crushed in the white-knuckled confines of my clenched fingers, where, where the fuck, has the Waffle House gone? Continue reading

County Plans To Burn Yard Waste In Lower Keys

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The Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development entitled “Our Common Future” stated that humanity has the ability to make development sustainable by meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change should be made consistent with future as well as present needs.

In an effort to save the county money, the County Commission and its sustainability program manager Rhonda Haag have developed a plan to burn yard waste in the Lower Keys. Currently yard waste is trucked up to Broward County to be burned along with the rest of the trash from the Keys in Waste Management’s waste to energy plant. Continue reading

Nothing Changes—If Nothing Changes

The cultural decline and vacuum confronting our children has been filled by a plethora of entertainment whose technological emphasis is on violence. Internet games and videos have seductively taken the minds of these very young and impressionable kids to a place where some find joy, comfort and excitement when they are able to rapidly kill the characters set before them on their video screens.

Their skills are sharpened as they progress towards the upward realms of each challenge. Upon maxing out their ‘confirmed kills’ on one level, they promptly move to their next murderous challenge. These mindless scenarios are continuing to play themselves out in epidemic proportions.

The emotional, spiritual and physical decline of our children is a clear and present reality that is playing itself in our educational system. At present, our students rank behind Vietnam, Lithuania and Hungry. Continue reading

IS FORCING CITIZENS TO BUY HEALTH CARE INSURANCE THE AMERICAN WAY?

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

To say that the topic of health care insurance has been in the news lately is a sizable understatement– as is noting that Obamacare is somewhat controversial. So I take up this topic for my column this week with some trepidation.

First of all, let me make a less-than-profound statement: Health care insurance is good. Everyone should have it to at least partially cover routine medical care as well as major emergencies. Especially major emergencies. And especially for families. I hope you will agree that these statements are non-political. I hope you will also agree that the following statement is also non-political, maybe even an “inalienable right” kind of thing: NOBODY LIVING IN AMERICA SHOULD BE FORCED TO BUY HEALTH CARE INSURANCE AND BE FINED IF THEY DON’T! But having said that, some level of government assistance should be available to help poor people who cannot afford to buy health insurance. Continue reading

Brotherly Love

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All I need to do, if I want to know what is going on inside the mind of a right wing ultra-conservative is ask my brother his thoughts and presto, he enlightens me. Jim is my only sibling and over the years we have had many seriously heated debates on topics, ranging from the invasion of Iraq (“war to find WMDs/rid Iraq of Saddam/spread democracy/whatever…”) to the Deepwater Horizon oil well blow-out (“caused by environmentalists”, according to Jim) As you can imagine, Thanksgiving dinners with our parents and later our children and our parents were lively, to say the least. A steady diet of daily FOX News watching has made normal conversation impossible with the old boy. As we have aged we have come to the conclusion that if we are to have any relationship at all we need to stow the political debate and stick to “safe” topics like the kids or books and movies. Continue reading

JESUS WAS A LIBERAL

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Now that our national holiday of Thanksgiving has passed immediately followed by the new tradition of battling our fellow Americans in big box stores for even more stuff to be thankful for, we are coming up fast on the mother of all holidays: Christmas! That magical time of year where we wish each other “peace on earth and goodwill towards men”, and women, please… Where the lights that have been stored all year come out and the trees get trimmed with tinsel and ornaments, Christmas cards are mailed, shopping lists are checked off and Christmas music is playing everywhere.

Another new tradition has been introduced to the holiday season.  Every year around this time conservative talking heads, right wing political celebs and practically anyone that needs a fix of gratuitous press coverage trots out the baseless non-issue issue of the un-American and godless “WAR ON CHRISTMAS!” Magazine articles and books have been written on it, FOX News sells a lot of cars and drugs yakking about it and it’s given mediocre pols a platform to increase their stature amongst the illiterati.

As much as it pains me to give any coverage to the half-term-governor-attention- junkie, Sarah Palin, she is a frequent flier on this topic and Continue reading

WHY THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE NO LONGER ASKS THE CITY FOR MONEY

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Here’s a look back at a long-running story that Key West The Newspaper covered as “News of the Weird” back in 1995 and 1996.

The Key West Chamber of Commerce has always been considered a valued asset to the community and, for years, routinely asked for and received city funds to help finance various Chamber projects. In addition, the Chamber had a super-sweetheart deal on rent for a large city-owned building on Mallory Square– $10 a year for 10 years! But, during the early 1990s, some city commissioners– namely Joe Pais and Harry Bethel– began to question why the Chamber repeatedly returned to the commission to ask for taxpayer money to fund Chamber projects– when the Chamber reportedly had more than enough funds to pay for these projects. Continue reading

GREEN Reactor: Fresh GREENs

We mentioned last time that GREEN Reactor would be back in December with something fresh….. How about some Fresh GREENs?

Fresh GREENs

(drawing by AngelLily)

Key West is loaded with old-timers like me who’ve long been involved across the spectrum of GREEN matters (not just environmental concerns, but also quality of life, social justice, equality, etc). However most of us realize that a significant chunk of our generation (the Boomers) has distorted the N in their GREEN credentials into a D and have since relegated the health of our world well below their GREED quotient.  And others have become so afraid of Teapublican backlash that they now pretty much shun their inner GREEN.

With all this drain on GREEN power, we find more and more that without an influx of YOUNG GREENs we’ll soon be regressing strongly toward those bad-old-days that Teapublicans so misguidedly adore. Continue reading

MARATHON COUNCIL EXCLUDES PUBLIC / Last minute agenda item requires prayer

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People who didn’t attend the November 26, 2013 Marathon city council meeting or watch it on television or over the Internet might not know that their representatives voted to adopt a resolution requiring prayers before future meetings.

The item had been put on the agenda at the meeting itself by city councilor Ginger Snead. After a brief comment by each of the five council members, the group voted 4-1 to have a non-denominational prayer before future sessions. Newly elected member Mark Senmartin was the only one voting against as he felt that a moment of silence would be more appropriate.

The vote represents two problems. First, because the item was not on the agenda, no one from the public could comment because no one knew it was coming. Second, prayer before governmental meetings could violate the first amendment of the United States Constitution. Continue reading

1991: THE FAT BOY CONNECTION

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Because I edited and published the Blue Paper from the first issue in January 1994 until my retirement last year, one of my assignments as a columnist for the new Blue Paper on line is to periodically go back and dredge up some of the more bizarre stories we published back in the old days. One of the biggest scandal stories Key West The Newspaper was covering back in 1996 and 1997 was then-City Manager Julio Avael’s continuing vendetta against then-Police Chief Ray Peterson– despite the fact that Peterson was one of the most popular police chiefs in the city’s history.

But Avael had been virtually ordered to fire Peterson by then-Mayor Dennis Wardlow, supported by several other “Bubba” city commissioners. You see, they blamed Peterson for calling in the FBI to investigate corruption in city government and that investigation had resulted in the indictment of Mayor Wardlow. The mayor was subsequently acquitted. But payback is a bitch. Avael concocted a dozen or so charges against Peterson and the chief was eventually forced to retire– although his settlement included a letter noting that all charges against him were unfounded.

Consciousness Projected–Consequences Deserved

There’s always enough money to fight a war. Eradicating the slums of the world, while feeding children starving to death, are undertakings that have never been funded.

We attract and create the causes of our own suffering. The energy projected by our wrongful thoughts and actions are recycled, as matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Changing form, it continues to birth destruction throughout the world. The cumulative damage of the wrongful conduct of all human beings is unfathomable.

Mastering and conquering the delusions, disturbances and evil that lurks within oneself is the antidote to suffering. Equanimity is an internally developed attribute. Any individual thinking positive and peaceful thoughts, projects concordant energy via their conduct.

Most schools are sorely lacking in delivering any type of instruction that reflects this ‘wisdom of the ages’. Their negligence and failure are legend. Continue reading

The United States of Litigation

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Seriously? That was my reaction to the news that Super Boat International Productions President John Carbonell and four other race officials of the annual power boat races in Key West, Florida are being sued for wrongful death in the cases of Jeffery Tillman and Joey Gratton. Robert Morgan also lost his life that race week. The three men perished in two separate power boat mishaps in the Key West races of 2011. Of course, any accidental death is tragic and difficult for surviving family members to accept and this is no exception.

An uncle of Tillman, personal representative of his nephew’s estate, is claiming that race officials were negligent in allowing the deceased to participate, because his boat “did not meet industry safety standards”. The suit goes on to claim his race partner, Mr. Morgan was 74 years old and “had a history of heart problems”. The men died when their 46-foot catamaran, Big Thunder Marine, flipped and crashed in Key West Harbor. Continue reading

Crane Point, Marathon Keeps The Shades Drawn

On October 19 of this year an advertisement appeared in the Florida Keys Keynoter titled “Notice for Early Public Review of a Proposal to Support Activity in the 100-year Floodplain and Wetland.” While ads of this sort generally garner little attention, it did catch the eyes of those concerned about the installation of a zip-line attraction in the Crane Point Nature Center.

The notice sought input on the proposed construction and gave as a contact Marathon Community Services Coordinator Debrah London, listing her email address and phone number. The notice also gave contact information for Loretta Geotis from Crane Point and Calvin Knowles, the consultant from Meridian/GSG, the company that Marathon hired to manage the grant application process.

When a representative of Keep Crane Point Natural, an ad hoc group that opposes the plan, called Ms. London for more details, she was unable to explain what the comments were supposed to address. She referred the caller to Kevin Sullivan in Marathon’s planning department. His comment was that he “was not privy to the ad.” Nor did he respond with any further information. Continue reading

Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, A Personal Reminiscence

Campaign Button Worn By 15-year Old Michael Welber

Campaign Button Worn By 15-year Old Michael Welber

For those of us who are aging boomers, today brings back bittersweet memories. It’s the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a day that I will always remember very clearly.

I heard the news in my college dorm room (I was reading Gulliver’s Travels for a class) and was completely bereft. Kennedy was the first politician I admired, the first I actually helped campaign for. Once, shortly after I left for college and my parents were visiting, my mother and I raced out to see his limo rush by the restaurant where we were eating. Tan, handsome, young, cultured, intelligent – everything most politicians at the time weren’t. My mother was in love with him and I guess many of us were. Continue reading

HURRICANE FORECASTING: THE SCAM CONTINUES

hurricane

Well, the 2013 hurricane season officially ends next weekend. So it is time, once again, to ridicule the so-called hurricane forecasters. If you were paying any attention back in May, just before the beginning of this year’s hurricane season, the so-called experts were again predicting an “extremely active season.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that 7-11 hurricanes would form. Accuweather predicted eight hurricanes. William Klotzbach and William Gray, the supposed experts from Colorado State University, downgraded their predictions in August to eight hurricanes with three being Category 3 or higher. For those of us who live in Key West, those kind of predictions are scary as hell– until you realize that (1) these so-called experts have a less than impressive record of accurate forecasts and (2) they do not even pretend to know when or where the hurricanes they predict will hit.

But no matter. Back in June, the local and national media picked up the predictions of the so-called experts and solemnly announced the bad news– the 2013 hurricane season would be more active than usual with multiple hurricanes! OMG! Are we all going to die! Also, the scare ads for hurricane shutters and other storm-related products quickly appeared, citing that “the experts are predicting a very active hurricane season this year and you better buy our stuff or your family is going to die!’ (Well, maybe I exaggerated those sales pitches just a bit.) Continue reading

GREEN Reactor: Shades of GREEN

GREEN Reactor is in evergreen country at the moment, so here’s a re-run column from last Spring. If you missed it then, give it a read.  Fresh GREEN Reactor returns in December….

Too many hear “GREEN” and instantly think “tree hugger” or “eco-warrior” or “occupier” or other extremist or radical viewpoint.  Of course there are lots of GREENs that proudly carry those tags, but in today’s world virtually all sensible people are painted with at least SOME shade of green.  For a lot of them that shade is a really soft pastel, but it does show through from time to time.

GREEN Reactor

Many of us try to be GREEN, but are mostly fair-weather fans.  Watch the water consumption, try to recycle at least the aluminum cans, don’t needlessly burn a lot of gasoline, etc.  Efforts at this level should be second nature to all of us.  Failure to even bother with the easy stuff like this is totally lazy or even narcissistic.  But doing so at least gets you a GREEN primer coat.

Lots of us have gone well beyond that, to exercising great care in our shopping (minimal disposable packaging, non-toxic produce, earth-friendly producers – LOCAL as much as possible – and when storage space is available, bulk purchasing to reduce transportation impact), to avoiding pesticides, to acquiring high-mileage lower-carbon transportation, to staying away from greedy middle-class-destroying merchandisers, to keeping our energy consumption down.  These aren’t as easy, but Continue reading

City Commissioner Teri Johnston Weighs In On Key West’s New Homeless Shelter

City Commissioner Teri Johnston

City Commissioner Teri Johnston

When I opened this past Wednesday’s Key West Citizen online (www.keysnews.com), I saw an article on the night before’s city commission meeting, which I either spaced out or did not know was happening. I probably had a lot more fun at Kelley’s Caribbean MUSE open mike, and then at The Bull listening to Wanda Wilder belting out one song after another.

A major agenda item reported in the Citizen was a city planner report on where might a new homeless shelter go. Heaps of suggestions, many ridiculous.

The last paragraph of the Citizen article really caught my eye:

“It’s not just a city of Key West problem,” said City Commissioner Billy Wardlow. “It’s everybody’s problem. It’s a city, county, state and federal problem. Everything is negotiable.” Continue reading

TRYING TO CRAFT CITY LAWS TO SOLVE PROBLEMS THAT MAY BE VIRTUALLY UNSOLVABLE

Over the almost two decades that I wrote Page One Commentaries for Key West The Newspaper, I was often critical of the “just pass another law” mentality of the various generations of mayors and city commissioners. In addition to the question of whether or not a new law was needed, it also seemed that laws were often passed that were not well thought out (gasp!) and, perhaps, didn’t really focus on the problem that lawmakers were supposedly trying to solve. But having said that, the most interesting law-related news stories and commentaries we published over the years were stories about the city commission debating the passage of laws to try to solve problems that may be virtually unsolvable. Two random examples: Loud music on Duval Street and the shortage of residential parking in Old Town.

If you don’t live in Old Town, parking in that area is probably not much of a problem for you. And if you don’t live near Duval Street, loud music on Duval Street is probably not a problem for you. But if you do live in Old Town, parking is maybe even a serious problem for you. And if you do live near Duval Street, loud music may be a serious threat to your peace and happiness. We should give our law-makers some credit for at least trying to address these problems. And we should also recognize that, if they have looked bumbling and stumbling in the process, it isn’t necessarily their fault. They were simply trying to solve problems that may be virtually unsolvable.  Continue reading

Key West High School Academic Challenge Team Needs Your Help

Academic Challenge Team members pictured are (L-R from back) Alexandra Mercurio, Katie Upshaw, Sam Kearney, sean Barber, Humberto dos Santos, Alexis girard d'Albissin, with team sponsor Elizabeth Ford [not pictured: Edgar Romero, sherman Kaplitz]

Academic Challenge Team members (L-R from back) Alexandra Mercurio, Katie Upshaw, Sam Kearney, Sean Barber, Humberto dos Santos, Alexis Girard d’Albissin, with team Faculty Sponsor Elizabeth Ford [not pictured: Edgar Romero, Sherman Kaplitz]

Two years ago six Key West High School students brought home the state title in the Academic Challenge Tournament in Orlando. But, they almost didn’t make the trip. School budget cuts had stripped the team of its funding and the situation was not looking too promising. When the students made a public appeal for help, the community responded and within 24 hours the team was fully funded!

This year the school district is still struggling and the team has no funding for participation in competitive events – even at the County level.   The KWHS Academic Challenge Team needs our help once again.

Here is a note from team captain, Key West High School Senior, Sherman Kaplitz:

Due to a lack of funding, the Key West High School Academic Challenge Team, which has placed within the top three teams in the state of Florida for the past four years, may not be able to compete on the county or state level this year. Continue reading