ISIS: THE COMEDY SHOW

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I sometimes think back on that glorious night in November of 2008, when Barak Obama gave his victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park. As the tens of thousands gathered there watched Obama and his beautiful family approach the podium, there was a feeling of ecstasy in the air, almost as if the President-elect need not say anything for this moment to be etched in history forever. One could feel it, even from the vantage point of a TV screen. America had done it again. We’d thrown out the Bush-Cheney Huns, we’d righted the ship, and, most importantly, we’d blazed a new path for all the world to see, one in complete harmony with the national rhetoric of equality, democracy, opportunity and freedom. It felt good to be an American again. It was time to restore the nation’s dignity, especially in the realm of foreign policy, which The Huns had reduced to little more than a barbaric use of force (I use the word “barbaric” with purpose, being that we use it so often in describing ISIS). Please, somebody, anybody, rescue us from this endless degradation of drones, smart bombs, color coded terrorist threats, and the narrative needed to make us accept such idiocy. And we thought, yes, this man, this poised, intelligent black man with the dazzling smile — maybe he can do it.

Yeah — and maybe an elephant can fly. Continue reading

Reflections on Columbus or Happy Genocide Day

christopher columbus

Here we are, another celebration of Columbus Day has passed, and every year it gets just a little bit more embarrassing, bordering on surreal. We citizens of the United States are slowly waking up to the reality that the Americas were heavily populated by natives and doing just fine without European “civilization”. The fact that the Europeans were greeted for the most part by friendly folks willing to share what they had, was taken as a sign of weakness by our “hero”, Columbus. Instead of honoring the people that invited him into their home, he enslaved and murdered them, of course, baptizing them before they were put to the sword. Not the best way to start a new relationship.

Continue reading

Apathetic Losers or Leisure Users?

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In the published responses to last week’s column on the death of the middle class, the always-ascerbic Keysbum dared to dump on me for “blaming the victims” of our “fascistic” corpora-tocracy. He’s right. I blame them for allowing and even helping create their own miserable job conditions. But I have reflected on Keysbum’s barbs and am playing with the idea: have the losers actually won? Continue reading

Subsidizing Religion: The Monroe County School District and Eagles Rest Ministries

make your own rules

make your own rules

If you have been reading my essays the last few weeks in the “Blue Paper”, you know that I have been looking into community use of School District property.  More specifically, I have been examining Facilities Use Agreements (FUA’s) between various schools and community organizations.  It has been an interesting exploration to say the least.

The School District has very specific policies governing community use of school facilities.  SB 7510  – Use of District Facilities, along with the terms and conditions contained in Facilities Use Agreements, govern the contracts between the District and renters.  What is most interesting about the execution of these policies is that they are ignored more than they are followed.  A particular case in point is an FUA between Poinciana School and Eagles Rest Ministries. Continue reading

The Eyes Have It

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What my mind sees when someone tries to explain quantum physics.
(Rubik’s Cube, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Remember the Rubik’s Cube? I have a theory that one of the reasons for the world’s ills today was the appearance of this nightmarish puzzle game in 1980. By 2009, over 350 million of these mental torture devices had been sold worldwide, which means that at least five percent of the global population has suffered serious psychological damage trying to match up the colors on the six sides of this “toy.” No doubt some buyers took a hammer to the thing in exasperation after failing to stumble on which of the 43 quintillion possible permutations “solved” the puzzle. Those who somehow restrained themselves from going Rubik in this manner passed the cubes on to others and others and so on ad infinitum. (Forgive them. They knew not what they did.) So theoretically, everyone on this planet could have come in contact with the RC at some point in their lives. I’m thinking the guys who started ISIS must have been among that cohort. Had they not, they would likely have maintained their sanity and the world would be a more tranquil, less deadly habitation. If this is what happened, we should definitely go all Fahrenheit 451 on these things to protect future generations. Continue reading

JUMPING OVER THE FENCE AT THE WHITE HOUSE AND OTHER POTPOURRI

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Of all the federal buildings in this country, you might think that the White House would be the most secure. If you’ve ever been to the White House, or even if you’ve only seen it through the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue, or even if you’ve just seen it on TV, you may have noticed the snipers on top of the building. And you probably assumed that there were dozens of Secret Service agents all over the grounds, as well as specially-trained attack dogs. And even more Secret Service agents inside the building. Continue reading

Work Two Years and Die

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Yes, the middle class is dying. We in the Keys are helping to kill it. Even those in the middle class themselves. How? Herr Dr. International Business Professor Boettger is going to teach you what “outsourcing” and “globalization” mean to us in Paradise.

The death of the middle class began with the gutting of labor laws in the 1970′s and culminated in the passage of NAFTA in 1994. At the time I was all for it, International Business being a prime MBA class that I taught at the time.  I, old Bush, Clinton, and a majority of both Democrat and Republican legislators all cheered. Continue reading

Document Validity: A School District Quandary

rule book

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Question:  When Is A Valid Document Not A Valid Document?

Answer:  When It Originates In The School District

Last spring, I got involved with community use of School District facilities.  I asked for a copy of all rules and regulations concerning public usage and received the following on April 18, 2014:

  1. SB Bylaws & Policies 7510 – Use of District Facilities
  2. Blank Facilities Use Agreement, Monroe County School District
  3. Community Use of Facilities and Equipment, Schedule of Rental Rates Continue reading

KEY WEST’S HEIGHT REFERENDUM: What’s It All About?

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Youtube video above by Marc Averette, actual footage during Hurricane Wilma, October 24, 2005

On November 4th we will be voting on a referendum to allow homeowners to voluntarily raise the elevation of their homes above flood level in order to protect themselves and their property. We saw thousands of our homes flooded during Hurricane Wilma. One way to protect them and to lower our flood insurance premiums is to raise them above flood level. Our current height restriction of 35 feet (25 feet in some neighborhoods) would prohibit many of those homes from being raised. One example would be a two-story home in New Town. Continue reading

The Shade of Ignorance

Shade of Ignorance

Shade of Ignorance

Remarkable laws exist so ‘We The People’ can detect and avoid abuse from our government officials. Unfortunately, too many media and political action groups have abdicated their watchdog roles, keeping themselves and the public in the shade of ignorance.

Florida’s 1967 Sunshine Law was a remarkable accomplishment, influencing the rest of the states and even the Federal government to follow our lead. Basically it requires government officials to open their meetings to the public and maintain open records. There is no common law or First Amendment guarantee of such rights—our Founding Fathers met in secret. It takes legislation like Florida’s to give us citizens the right to monitor how our politicians are deciding our fates. Continue reading

I DON’T LIKE AMERICAN FOOTBALL

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 As I sit down to write this essay, we are one day out from Super Bowl XLVIII. To sit down and write about the Super Bowl has become much more an exercise in socio-cultural behavior than athletic endeavor. If my memory serves me, this would be the 5th time I’ve written about an event that has become perhaps the most galvanizing moment on the American calendar. With the exception of the essay “Super Bowl XLIII”, where I consciously decided to play the role of a sports writer, every other foray into the subject matter has been made with broader, more universal intentions. An event of this magnitude has philosophical meaning beyond The Game and sport itself.

As the countdown to kickoff 2014 enters its final day, what most stands out for this writer is the raw, almost hysterical popularity of the sport in question. In making a detailed inventory through the voluminous storehouse of what has become a long lifetime of experience, I cannot remember anything having grabbed the American psyche in such a passionate, overwhelming way. No fad, no trend, no food stuff, pop star, musical innovation, diva, no cinema crapola, product, clothing line or whatever else might pollinate and spread through a group of people with a cultural identity, has ever aroused the American mindset in such a continuous, emotional and widespread way. It is almost embarrassing to think that one point of focus could render the bulk of the population so helplessly devoted to it. Football’s popularity has almost made everything else seem trivial and irrelevant. Such massive, hypnotic subjugation to such a single source of passion could almost be called “provincial”.

When something so fanatically and universally adhered to grabs hold of a culture, it cannot be considered an innocuous or neutral force. It creates an experience people are affected by. In a subconscious way, like termites invisibly and stubbornly undermining the integrity of a house, it bores into our behavioral patterns and influences who and what we are. The question I ask is the following: is this almost pathological subjugation of the American people to this game of football a healthy force in our development? Is it leading us in the right direction?

Before expounding upon such themes, I’d like to give the reader a short history of my athletic prowess. Let’s start by describing myself as a genuine American “jock”. Undoubtedly, my earliest doses of ego gratification were the result of my athletic ability. In an attempt not to mislead anyone, it’s pertinent to say I was never talented enough for any kind of professional consideration, but I was always one of the best in the neighborhood. I eventually played on some good baseball teams at a large university and although my protagonism was modest, I made my contribution and was able to play at that level. I also played on some undistinguished high school basketball teams in an area where the high school basketball is quite good. Later on, as my body grew into maturity, I became a fixture in some of the best schoolyard environments in both New York and Philadelphia. I mention all this not as a means to glorify an athletic background that, when put into its proper perspective, is far from noteworthy in a global sense, but more as a way of having the reader understand that the upcoming remarks are not those of some condescending academic-intellectual looking at the world of sport from outside its borders.

Perhaps because of a tall, spindly body not generally conducive to football, but probably more the result of a middle class upbringing lacking the more ferocious elements germane to being a good football player, I never played this sport on a serious level. But, as a genuine American “jock”, I’ve followed it and know football. Anyone interested in verifying that fact can go read the essay “Super Bowl XLIII”.

It is ironic that a genuine American “jock” has begun to lose his passion for the sport of football at a time when it has conquered American culture like perhaps nothing else ever has. What I’ve come to dislike about it is the spirit with which it is played. As mentioned in the essay “The Super Bowl Revisited”, it has lost much of its nobility. Although I do not object to a governed form of physical aggression, the football format has evolved into a reckless, ruthless exercise with virtually no empathy for anything beyond the 10 men on your side. Its attitude has become an almost pre-historic exercise in hunting where everyone becomes prey and predator at the same time, as if we were playing this sport at a time when more organized, sedentary human life had not yet come into being. Football has become a Darwinian quest for survival akin to what might happen on the plains of the Serengeti. Other then the refined strategy of the game, the only other exclusively human behavior left in the sport’s “modus operandi” is the way in which opposing players taunt and mock each other. The football industry is selling a lower form of homo sapien, but it sells.

This Super Bowl has found a poster boy for this kind of behavior in one Richard Sherman, a heretofore semi-anonymous cornerback on one of the Super Bowl teams. Sherman’s interview directly after the game which put his team in the Super Bowl ripped through our culture like a nearby grounded thunderbolt. It was a vicious, vindictive diatribe meant to humiliate a named opponent, as well as a declaration describing himself as the greatest football player since the inception of the forward pass — or so it sounded. Compounding the obnoxious quality of its message was the shrill, screeching, lunatic way in which it was delivered, a presentation that could even draw Sherman’s sanity into question.

Whatever happened to the modesty we so admired in our heroes? Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

Sherman offended — and rightly so — a good part of America with his tasteless outburst. And yet, for the 2 weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, I had to listen to an endless medley of rationalizations, excuses and justifications for his behavior from not only the most important elements of our sporting punditry, but from socio-political commentators of all kinds. Most disheartening for me was to see how the progressive segment of our journalistic community, the segment I most identify with, was the most vociferous in defending Richard Sherman.

One learning that Richard Sherman is a cornerback in the NFL also knows, without ever seeing, hearing or knowing of him before, that he is also a black man. The liberals who came so stridently to his defense played what the conservatives like to refer to as the “race card”. His left leaning defenders claimed he was being persecuted unfairly by those who just can’t accept a successful, self confident, brash black man. They claimed the word “thug”, used by so many of Sherman’s critics, was just a code word for the “n” word.

There are 2 black men I find relevant in this discussion: Barak Obama and Muhammad Ali.

Let’s start with Obama. It would be naïve to not believe that much of the personality critical of this historic president has been shaped by his genetic make up. The nature of this criticism has taken on a tone and modulation different from what political opposition has been before in our nation. To suggest that Barak Obama being the country’s first man of color to be our Commander in Chief has had no bearing on the quality of the behavior of many who oppose him, is to deny reality itself. There is a “race card” to be played here and those of us of good will should not let such retro thinking go unchallenged.

But Richard Sherman plays in the NFL. The product in the NFL is an overwhelmingly black product. We are used to black men in this venue. We accept it and glorify success here regardless of its color. Like a stubborn weed in an otherwise beautiful lawn, there is a racist element that will always exist, but the vast majority of us who were offended by Sherman’s outburst were offended as human beings, not racists. The progressive pundits that brought race into this equation have crossed a border into knee jerk behavior they should have given more thought to.

Ali enters this story for the following reason: it is not unreasonable to suggest he was the originator of this kind of behavior. But he differs from the Richard Shermans of the world in 2 fundamental ways. 1) Ali delivered his rants with a kind of “panache” that was almost disarming. We heard him, we listened, he had his effect, but we were not, regardless of how we viewed him, deeply disturbed or disgusted by him. He was not some kind of boogeyman we cringed from or feared. But even more importantly, 2) whatever it was Ali was trying to do had parameters far beyond his persona. I’m not sure how he actually saw or described himself, but, in essence, he has to be considered an activist and a civil rights icon. He had a cause to fight for and he did it in a way that was as necessary and relevant as what people like Martin Luther King did. Much more than a boxer, Muhammad Ali is an important figure in history.

Try putting people like Richard Sherman, or buffoons like Terrell Owens, whose performances serve no purpose beyond their own self aggrandizement, in that kind of league.

With the publicity Sherman reaped from this incident, we’ve gotten to know him better. One thing we’ve all learned is that he is not a “thug”. Quite the contrary, he is an articulate, intelligent, impressive young man. And that seems to be a further indictment of the NFL and the sport it represents. It has created an environment where even intelligent young men like Richard Sherman are turned into boorish ogres while under its influence. It has created a subculture that promotes our lower instincts more than our noble ones.

If I had the opportunity to talk this over with some of the progressive commentators who came to Sherman’s defense (and one of my absolute favorite political pundits led the charge in defending Sherman), I’d ask them this: if you had been plopped in front of your TV with your 10 year old son watching Sherman’s infamous tirade (or daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, cat, dog or house plant), is that the kind of behavior you’d want him to emulate? Is that how you’d want him to relate to his opponents? Is that how you’d want his opponents to relate to him? Is that how you’d like him to relate to the world in general? Is that the kind of world you want him or anyone else to live in, a world where we simply compete and squash each other without compassion?

And that is why I don’t like football anymore. If something as powerful as this is not setting a healthy example, it can be dangerous.

I quote from the essay “The Super Bowl Revisited”: “The NFL is Iraq; Iraq is the NFL”.

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

Jerome GrapelI began writing essays in the early 90’s, the collection “Because You Never Asked” being a fractional but representative cross section of an output that is still in progress today. I restrict their content to anything that may be relevant since the dawn of time to the end of eternity. They’ve given me a kind of therapeutical way to voice my objections to the paradigm of our culture and the negativity it is leading us into. All cultures attempt to inculcate their constituents into someone’s narrow minded, self serving version of reality and this book is an attempt to translate these subterfuges into the truth. Although a number of my earliest essays are included in this collection, the vast majority of them are more contemporary. Regardless of their chronology, they should all still be pertinent to whatever is happening at this moment.

To order you copy of “Because You Never Asked” by Jerome Grapel click here.

In Case You Have Nothing Better to Do

Raymond Queneau in his later years
Are wedding-chests having fusion yet?(Raymond Queneau, Oulipo co-founder)

Are wedding-chests having fusion yet?
(Raymond Queneau, Oulipo co-founder)

While watching Vi Hart’s short film “Twelve Tones” (I recommend it if you have 30 minutes to spare), I was introduced to the word “Oulipo.” It denotes a group of French-speaking writers and mathematicians who thought it would be fun to create works using “constrained writing.” (All of my writing seems constrained. I’ve convinced myself, as they did apparently, that it is enjoyable in spite of this.) Although Oulipo sounds like something started by artistic types high on green fairy juice in the 1800s, it was actually founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and Francois Le Lionnais.

Constrained writing simply means there are certain arbitrary rules you must follow. If you want to “snowball,” for example, you have to write a poem where each line is one word and each successive word is one letter longer than the previous word. If you take the N+7 route, you replace every noun in your text with the seventh noun that comes after it in the dictionary (see caption above). Here are two examples of Oulipian creations: Continue reading

There Is Hope

There Is Hope

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When I read a report on Jefferson County Colorado high school students walking out in protest over proposed changes to the school’s history curriculum, I rejoiced. Anyone that pays attention to current events knows there is a concerted attack on common sense being administered by conservative ideologues and their corporate sponsors. The kids in Colorado have decided enough is enough. Their misguided school board members are proposing a flag waving revisionist history curriculum that emphasizes obedience to law, extolls the virtues of individual freedom and free enterprise, and at the same time dismisses social consciousness, past struggles and victories for civil rights as mere footnotes. Hardly worth mentioning…, and PLEASE disregard the fact that our nation was actually forged in the fires of revolution caused by lack of representation in our government. Yeah…that’d be great. Continue reading

WHY I BELIEVE IN CLIMATE CHANGE

Because You Never Asked

because you never asked adThe fact that something so having to do with science has become such a political issue is not only surprising but significant. We live in a world where the issues proven or debunked by scientific investigation — rationally and patiently proven through an objective set of criteria and methodology — are generally accepted with some degree of Gospel-like adherence. The debate as to right and wrong, true or false, yes or no and what we should finally believe, is generally confined to the realm of professional science. If and when an issue is resolved within this community is almost always what the rest of us take our cues from. This does not mean science is always correct, but what makes professional science the most reliable oracle of truth is its ability to admit its mistakes. It understands the road to truth is pot holed with mistakes and is constantly trying to not just break new ground but to rectify and renew old “truths” that could be leading us astray. Like any other human endeavor, some element of ego might cloud an investigator’s assumptions, but ego gratification in professional science overwhelmingly rests on getting it right. That is why we laymen almost always trust it. Continue reading

NO AMERICAN BOOTS ON THE GROUND

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With the advances of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist army in Iraq and Syria, America is once again reacting to the argument that we have to confront the bad guys over there or we will have to fight them over here. So our anti-war president has reluctantly authorized the use of American air strikes on ISIS positions. The new war is being supported by a few allies– including even a few Muslim nations. But the President has solemnly promised that there will be no American boots on the ground. Critics, including a number of military experts, quickly came out of the woodwork to point out that, while even “pinprick” air strikes might slow down the ISIS terrorists, somebody’s boots on the ground will be required to defeat them. I want to suggest here that, under the immediate circumstances, the “slow-down-ISIS” strategy may be the right strategy. Continue reading

AIN’T NO SUNSHINE…

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Is George Neugent on the take?

First, George. Second, are the Keys corporate media in full defend-the-powerful mode? Third, are the 60% of voters for George in full denial?  Numbers two and three, I’m sure of. About George, what do you think?

George is certainly doing his best to make me believe he has used his votes on grinder pumps and the waste contract to feather his own nest.  I  reported  two  weeks  ago  about  the  mysterious  $ 150,000 increase in his bank account from $ 50,000 in August 2013 to $ 200,000 in June 2014.  In print, I asked anyone to explain how it happened.  I also sent respectful letters to George’s 16 biggest donors begging them to defend George.

I have not heard a word of defense or explanation from George or his supporters. Realize that public documents like the Financial Disclosure Form exist in order to expose suspicious irregularities like this to us, the public. This is exactly how we would find out about a financial kickback: a public servant who reports only his $ 40,000 government salary, and no gifts, somehow adds $ 150,000 to his bank account at a time when mega-million-dollar contracts have gotten his votes. Continue reading

GREATNESS

THE ROOSEVELTS corrected

My wife and I just finished watching all seven, two-hour installments of Ken Burns’, documentary on Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. It left me feeling a bit melancholy, for watching any birth-to- death encapsulated in a few short hours will depress, but such Olympian greatness ending like ordinary mortals is an especially bitter pill to swallow. Ken Burns’ reputation for skillful use of black and white stills melded with music, sound effect and professional actors reciting the written word of the protagonists is mesmerizing and “The Roosevelts, An Intimate History” did not disappoint. Continue reading

Sheriff Rick Ramsay—Detectives, Deputies & Staff Under His Command—Deliver Commendable Result…

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Words are insufficient in describing the extraordinary brilliance demonstrated by Sheriff Rick Ramsay and his magnificent team of officers, when it comes to their apprehending the individual, who allegedly tortured and killed an innocent dog, because it snored.

Monroe County Sheriff’s detectives and investigators did not have much to go on in capturing their suspect. An exemplary effort, with an inordinate amount of work was necessary to gather the intelligence required to get their man. Continue reading

IT’S ONLY ROCK ‘N ROLL

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My daughter the lawyer calls me an “accidental academic.” After high school, there was no way that I could afford to go to college. So I joined the army and learned how to jump out of airplanes. After the army, I used the GI Bill to finance a degree in journalism and landed a job in public relations with a large corporation based in New York City. It wasn’t long, however, that I realized that an advanced degree would be helpful if I wanted to progress in my career. Also, in the field of public relations, mass persuasion is the name if the game– and I learned that there were entire programs of study being offered by some universities dealing with persuasion and mass communication. Social psychologists had been studying the effects of mass communication for years, but it was just then becoming an independent field of study. So I returned to graduate school to get a masters degree and, a few years later, I went back again and got a Ph.D in mass communication.

One of the ways I paid my tuition in graduate school was to teach one course every quarter– usually journalism 101. But one quarter, journalism school management asked me to teach a course called Mass Communication in Society. Okay, something different. As I reviewed the textbook, I saw that the content of the course was basically what I expected– the effects of various mass communication media. Newspapers, magazines, radio, television, etcetera, etcetera. And music. Music? Yep, music as a mass communication medium. Continue reading

Records Management: The Black Hole in the School District

black hole canstockphotoI am sure that you all have read the press release from Coral Shores High School touting student accomplishments on the various Advance Placement (AP) tests.  Kudos to the Hurricanes for a job well done.

I noticed that neither Key West High School nor Marathon High School published or otherwise broadcast their AP results.  Curious, I requested the AP scores from each of the principals and they promptly replied.

As you might expect from the absence of public commentary, the results in Key West and Marathon were mixed and by no means a cluster of high achievement.  To the contrary, there were instances of certain classes where the results can only be described as poor, if not downright abysmal.  As often as not, fewer than 50% achieved the coveted “3”, which the principals refer to as “passing”.  To be fair, I did not read any class by class results for CSHS and it may be that they had their deficiencies as well. Continue reading

Making Smart Medicare Choices for 2015

Ron Pollack

Ron Pollack

As we head into autumn, people with Medicare once again need to consider their options for next year. Even if you like the coverage you have now, you should spend at least a few minutes making sure it will still meet your needs next year. Here are some key questions that people with Medicare should ask.

When is the enrollment period?

Medicare’s open enrollment period runs, as usual, from October 15 to December 7. During this time, you can make changes in your Part D prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan, or, if you don’t have one, you can select one for the first time. Continue reading

Where Are the Vampire Linguists?

640px-Burne-Jones-le-Vampire

Ha! You Vill Never Split an Infinitive Again!
(The Vampire, Philip Burne-Jones, 1897, US-PD)

If this is a question that’s never crossed your mind, don’t feel alone. It did come up, however, in a recently published Speculative Grammarian, “the premier scholarly journal featuring research in the neglected field [?] of satirical linguistics.” The current issue, for example, has articles on “Linguimericks, Etc.,” “Profuse Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know” (this will go on my reading list obviously), and “It Was a Dark and Stormy Noun.”

But I digress. The article in question, written by F. Ang Bangah (oh the pun of it!), presents musings such as this one: Continue reading

Sunset Key Rip-off

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Last year I wrote a column praising Sunset Key, titled “Sailing to Wisteria.” It described a wonderful wedding anniversary stay-cation Cynthia and I had with treasured friends, ending with our evening sunset on a beach that reminded us of one on Vanuatu, except riotous Key West was only five minutes behind us on the other side of the island. I thoughtfully wrote that one alternative to cruise ships was places like this, and maybe if that happened to Wisteria, it wouldn’t be all bad.

Oh boy, have I had a change of heart. Continue reading

That Would Explain A Lot…

Brain Scan

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No matter what your political affiliation is, haven’t you wondered, “What is wrong with those people? Can’t they see how misguided they are?!” God knows, I’ve said that countless times. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some explanation why political paralysis and polarization are so prevalent? Look no further than science!  Finally we have an answer why some see black and others white when looking at the exact same thing. The amygdala, sometimes called the amygdaloidal nucleus, a little almond shaped bit of gray matter amongst our other gray matter, in the anterior section of the temporal lobe, might be the culprit. Frankly, I don’t care what it is or what it’s called. I’m just pleased as punch there is ANY explanation for the insane cognitive dissonance and schizophrenic contradictive perceptions of what is our current political theater of the absurd.

MRI images of test subject’s brains revealed that conservatives have a larger amygdala than liberals. Now before you conservatives start high-fiving each other, Continue reading

Shine Your Light—Make It Bright…

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The first line of defense against incursions upon our rights and liberties, are law-enforcement officers. Members from policing agencies either protect and serve the citizenry, adhering to a legal and professional standard of conduct, or from the onset, denigrate and deny an individual their Constitutional and God given rights.

Just because the violence or intrusive actions utilized by a police department upon a citizen are determined to be legal, it doesn’t mean that their conduct was appropriate, reasonable or correct.

On the front lines, during the heat of battle, the meaning and intent, along with obedience to the law, can become blurred and obscured for police officers seeking to rationalize and justify improper or illegal conduct. Continue reading

BLUE WALL OF SILENCE COST CITY ALMOST $300,000!

Blue shhhh

By now, you have probably read in the daily paper or heard on the radio that the City of Key West has agreed to pay former Key West cop Matt Klosowski $ 287,500 to settle a six-year-old whistle-blower lawsuit. But you probably don’t know the rest of the story. The real significance of this story is that the Mayor and City Commissioners now know that the Blue Wall of Silence is alive and well inside the Key West Police Department. The Mayor and Commissioners now know for sure that Police Chief Donie Lee’s department is corrupt. That is basically what City Attorney Shawn Smith had to admit when he recommended that the City settle out of court. Continue reading

Buyer Beware! School District Public Records and The Ultimate Escape Clause

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I believe that it is reasonably well known that I often make Public Records Requests of the School District.  Usually these requests are for documents of a financial nature.

Superintendent Mark Porter finds my requests tedious and objectionable, but he ultimately complies as Florida’s Public Records laws demand that he do so.  You have to stay on top of the situation and usually repeat your request.  Porter invariably hopes that if he ignores you long enough that you will go away, which I never do. Continue reading

BLUE WALL OF SILENCE COST CITY ALMOST $300,000!

Blue shhhh

By now, you have probably read in the daily paper or heard on the radio that the City of Key West has agreed to pay former Key West cop Matt Klosowski $ 287,500 to settle a six-year-old whistle-blower lawsuit. But you probably don’t know the rest of the story. The real significance of this story is that the Mayor and City Commissioners now know that the Blue Wall of Silence is alive and well inside the Key West Police Department. The Mayor and Commissioners now know for sure that Police Chief Donie Lee’s department is corrupt. That is basically what City Attorney Shawn Smith had to admit when he recommended that the City settle out of court. Continue reading

Fraudulent Obstruction of Information Act – FOIA

USDA photo by Ken Hammond

Supreme Court Building, Washington D.C., USDA photo by Ken Hammond

The U.S. Navy has refused to release a public document that proves they lied. This well-documented chronicle of lies and obstruction is not likely to bring justice, but the beauty of the internet is the lies are very public. Having repeated those lies on October 31, 2013, the Navy has restarted their five-year Statute-of-Limitations clock.

In June 2014, former County Commissioner Kim Wigington (Monroe County, Florida) appealed the Navy’s rejection of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request she submitted in 2011. Below is the latest chapter in the seven-year history of fraud, abuse and obstruction. Continue reading

Environmentalism, My Opponents, Bees, Dogs, and GM Mosquitoes

Lynda Schuh with Bingo

Lynda Schuh with Bingo

As an activist for so many years it warms my heart that both of my opponents refer to themselves as environmental. Twenty years ago being a tree-hugger carried the same stigma as being a Communist.  And whether you feel you are one because you recycle, or because you do beach clean-ups, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is the direction you are moving in, your growing awareness and your actions.

(However let me say here that Governor Scott calling himself an environmentalist is just too much of a stretch.) Continue reading

In Monroe County, Change Is A Dirty Word

Change Blvd

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[Note from the editor:  In case you missed Dr. Murray's article last week [which was inadvertently posted late last Friday - my bad] … here it is again… No one pays attention to School District affairs like Dr. Murray…]

Change is a dirty word in Monroe County.  In last week’s election, every incumbent save one was returned to office.  And the incumbent turned out was a judge in the midst of a tawdry personal scandal who still managed to appeal to nearly 4,000 voters or 23% of the electorate.  The only new face to win was in the District 1 School Board race where Bobby “King Conch” Highsmith bested outspoken reformer Stu Kessler and incipient change agent Warren Leamard in a battle for an open seat. Continue reading

Life and Death

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Recently I read with fascination an article on simple life forms that can survive the harsh environment of space. British scientists are claiming that they discovered single cell algae, Diatoms, living sixteen miles above the Earth. They were discovered when specialized balloons were sent up to collect data on the Perseid meteor shower. Some of the scientists believe these Diatoms are of Earth origins and somehow managed to reach the stratosphere by air currents sweeping over the ocean and rising, but others are positing it may be our first encounter with alien life, further hypothesizing these “aliens” might explain how life started here. Did comets laden with super resilient single cell organisms travel countless light years to slam into our planet and seed it with our far distant ancestors?

Continue reading

BODY CAMERAS FOR COPS?

Chief Lee body cams

Apparently, enough is enough. Use of  excessive force by police officers, that is– real or imagined. More and more police departments across the nation are equipping officers with body cameras that can record both audio and video. The increasing use of this new technology has two goals: (1) Help try to catch cops who might use excessive force during arrests and other interactions with citizens; and (2) To try to protect cops from false allegations by citizens.

Just last week, the New York City Police Department unveiled new body cameras that officers will wear as part of a pilot program to test the technology. One of the cameras being tested is about the size of a pack of cigarettes and weighs 3 ounces. Another camera being tested looks like a small microphone and can be worn on a collar, a baseball cap or helmet or even on the frame of a pair of glasses. New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said that he expects the cameras will help to reveal the truth in “he-said-she-said” situations. Continue reading

Impeding Traffic on the Boulevard

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Poster - St. Augustine

Poster – St. Augustine

It’s official: it is legal, and in fact encouraged, for bikes, and only bikes, to impede traffic on highways. While it is illegal for motorized vehicles and pedestrians to impede the flow of traffic, and they can be ticketed, bikes are encouraged to use the car lanes even if they  impede the flow of traffic. Their slowing down cars is now considered a good thing. Continue reading

The Hurrier I Go…

Late
"Oh dear I'm behinder again!"

“Oh dear I’m behinder again!”

The White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was not a master of time management despite looking at his pocket watch every three seconds or so. I suspect part of the reason he was always late was his OCD impulse to check the time and confirm that, yes, he indeed was late.

Whoever said something like “a plague on all your houses” must have been cursing humanity with time because, when you take time to think about it, it is indeed a sort of curse upon us. (Well, to be honest, no one ever said “a plague on all your houses.” Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet says “a plague on both your houses” after he’s mortally wounded. And I’m sure he was wanting to have more time at the moment rather than laying a big whammy on the world.) Continue reading

Tick…Tick…Tick

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Doomsday Clock: Minutes to Midnight, 1947-2012 (US-PD)

On Friday, Vladimir Putin said this: “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations. This is a reality, not just words.” He’s also started calling eastern Ukraine “New Russia,” which is a little scary since we have a good idea where that could go and more than a little ironic because Putin seems intent on bringing the Cold War “Old Russia” back into our lives. On reading about these events, I wondered if they had moved the hands on the Doomsday Clock.

If you’re not familiar with the DC (and why should you be?), it first appeared in 1947, created by the members of the Science and Security Board of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The “minutes to midnight on the clock” represent how close the world is to a politically related global catastrophe. Initially, this meant nuclear war but now climate change and “new developments in the life sciences and technology that could inflict irrevocable harm to humanity” have been added to the cheery mix. Continue reading

Key West Homeless Forum Report From An Ex- Key West Street Person’s Perspective

canstockphoto16346190While The Blue Paper was hard at blue news work, the Key West homeless forum happened on August 28 at the Harvey Government Center.

The  four forum panelists’ main thrust was the criminalization of homelessness is the most expensive and least effective way to deal with homelessness. Jailing homeless people costs the criminal justice and the court systems heaps of money and makes it even harder for homeless people to get a job and stop being homeless. Putting homeless people into hospitals, instead of into jails, also is super expensive. Easily the cheapest and most effective way to end homelessness, 95 percent proven success, is to put homeless people into housing where they are managed by case workers until, and if, they are ready to move out on their own. Continue reading

Over-Development, Cronyism, and Corruption in the Middle Keys

Cities and towns love development. The more the better. More money – for rich people – more tourists, and more – low paying – jobs. That’s partly why the Marathon City Council rubberstamped a proposal to redevelop the Sombrero Country Club into what will become Florida Keys Resort.

The newly approved development may also endanger a threatened bird and the sanity of nearby residents, while calling into questions the ethics of elected government in Marathon.

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The Bird

It’s well documented that Burrowing owls have lived on the Sombrero Country Club golf course for many years. The club uses the image of the owl in its logo. Continue reading

Kindred Acknowledgements–Spur Curiosity, Intellect & Optimism…

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Anguish and struggle are  a part of life.  It doesn’t mean that we are doing something wrong or need to be saved. If we’re willing to acknowledge that these experiences are integral components of life, the fear and despair associated with these states of mind can be eliminated.

Focusing on exterminating or avoiding any mood, outlook or sensation, which are central to our  growth and evolution as human beings, is a neurotic expenditure of energy. Continue reading

Just Sayin’

Mother Earth Tears

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My wife and I just returned from a long holiday touring Scotland and Ireland. We have visited Scotland before, but this was our first time on the Emerald Isle. We try to get out of the states every three or four years and see how it’s done elsewhere. We’ve been lucky enough to travel to France, Spain, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are closer, and almost as exotic. Meeting others from different locales in their natural habitat is eye opening and educational. I highly recommend travel if you are able. Even the most hard core nationalist might learn something.

The United States of America is a great country, no doubt about it, however there are MANY great countries on the planet. The incessant mantra by the thought police that we are “The Greatest” is becoming harder to sell as we witness the rapid decent of America into third world corruption, terminal environmental destruction and sanctioned violence and threat by those charged with serving and protecting us. News flash. It ain’t like that everywhere. Continue reading

VOTER ALERT: IN THE WAKE OF THE EIMERS GRAND JURY SCANDAL, STATE ATTORNEY VOGEL IS UP FOR REELECTION IN 2016

Corruption and Justice

Corruption and Justice

State Attorney Catherine Vogel’s office is corrupt. This statement might appear to some readers to be an attempt on my part to be a bit sensational. But it’s not. Informed government-watchers reading this are more likely to simply yawn and silently ask, “So what’s your point?” I have been reporting to my readers for years the varying degrees of corruption on the part of the various residents of the State Attorney’s Office (SAO). I have repeatedly pointed out that prosecutors knowingly allow police officers to present false under-oath testimony against  defendants — including, but not limited to “facts” from falsified police reports.

To grasp the truth of the concept that I am presenting here, you need to understand that the objective of the SAO is not necessarily justice — the objective is to win cases. Continue reading

In Monroe County, Change Is a Dirty Word

Change Blvd

Change Blvd

Change is a dirty word in Monroe County.  In last week’s election, every incumbent save one was returned to office.  And the incumbent turned out was a judge in the midst of a tawdry personal scandal who still managed to appeal to nearly 4,000 voters or 23% of the electorate.  The only new face to win was in the District 1 School Board race where Bobby “King Conch” Highsmith bested outspoken reformer Stu Kessler and incipient change agent Warren Leamard in a battle for an open seat.

As I made my way into the auditorium at Harvey Government Center election night, two things immediately struck me.  First was the small size of the crowd, a fraction of two years ago.  Second, there was a decided tension in the air as hardly anyone was speaking to anyone else, even on their cell phones. Continue reading

UPDATE: New Charges in Ethics Complaint Against George Neugent

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I previously reported on the formal ethics complaint I filed with the state of Florida against George Neugent for his actions bankrupting Stand Up for Animals in order to award their contract to his friends. I also reported on Neugent’s breaking of his signed oath on his financial disclosure Form 6 with numerous errors showing no effort to be “true, accurate, and complete.”

I also reported on George’s strange responses to these columns in my endorsements column.  He does not address a single fact I discuss, preferring instead to call me a “Slander[er]” and “nut case.” And the strangest thing is this is the most cogent defense anyone is offering, as no one else has said a word on his behalf—neither in the dozens of responses praising my columns, nor in emails I have sent to his fellow commissioners asking for a word to help out their friend. Continue reading

Green Drinks and Aquaponics

Green Drinks

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

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

Dr. Bill Irwin, photo courtesy FKCC

Dr. Bill Irwin, photo courtesy FKCC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clueless Ambivalence…

August 28, 2014 Editor:

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

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

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

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

Alex Symington

Key West

An Extremely Modest Proposal

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

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

It’s The Law, Man

Marijuana poster

Wasting police time; wasting taxpayer dollars

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

Not medical marijuana either. Smoking dope, man.

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

FOLLOWUP 2: THE BLUE WALL OF SILENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot Hot Hot

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

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

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

FOLLOWUP: BLUE WALL OF SILENCE

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

Kessler and Jones, Yes; Neugent, No

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trial By Ambush And Other Hometown PAC Mayoral Candidate Forum Quirks

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

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

PRIMARY ELECTIONS IN KEY WEST: Three Different Ballots

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

Neugent Breaks Oath

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

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

“SLANDER” or THE FACTS? FORMAL ETHICS COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST GEORGE NEUGENT

George Neugent
Rick Boettger

Rick Boettger

I have recently reported that I was filing an ethics complaint with the State of Florida against George Neugent.  It charges him with using his power as County Commissioner to affect the awarding of a contract to his friends. At the August 4 Hometown PAC candidates’ forum, he charged me twice with “slander” when questioned about my reporting.

Neugent is thus forcing me to make public the full complaint that I have mailed to the state ethics commission. While the commission by its charter must keep its investigation confidential until resolved, they explicitly state that either the filer or subject of the complaint may say anything they want about it.

The complaint itself is 2,800 words long, accompanied by 16 exhibits adding another 50 pages. You may read as much of it as you wish.  The exhibits are public records and Neugent’s own words: emails, media quotes, transcripts of county commission meetings, and his sworn deposition in the county’s years-long losing litigation against SUFA. Continue reading

Standing Up For ‘Stand Up For Animals’

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

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

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

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

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

Moving Out of the Comfort Zone

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

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

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

ZOMBIE SWIMMING POOLS…

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

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

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

THE WAR TO END ALL WARS STARTED 100 YEARS AGO

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

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

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

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

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

THE BLUE PAPER AND BILL O’REILLY

Dennis Reeves Cooper with Bill O'Reilly in 2001

Dennis Reeves Cooper with Bill O’Reilly in 2001

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

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

Today’s World

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There is so much darkness in my mind,

one never knows what one will find.

There is so much trouble in our life,

we live in a world so much strife.

*

Senseless wars for money to be made,

all at the expense of the lower pay grade.

Chemical weapons and IED’s,

soldiers returning with “soul disease” Continue reading

Fouling Our Nest Part II: Let Us Spray

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

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

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

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

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

Who sprays in the Keys?

Continue reading

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

leadership

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

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

GUEST COLUMN: Mosquito Control in the Florida Keys

Mosquito

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

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

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

Does Climate Make A Difference?

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

Rose Garden Betrayal…Odious Symbolism…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Issue 48 investigation for web

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

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

Peter Pan

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canstockphoto19842166

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

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

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

DESCRIPTION OF A GRINDER PUMP

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

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

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

Mosquito

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

I saw both cars were gone

I felt so low down deep inside

I threw my drink across the lawn

 – Martin Mull, Shaker Heights Blues

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

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

Tragic.
Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

Murder-for-hire Perpetrator Gets Maximum Allowable Sentence

Pistol

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

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

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

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

Капитализм (Capitalism)

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canstockphoto8613371

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

Let ‘em fry!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Conditioned Minds–Attract Duplicitous Ideologies… Continued

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

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

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

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

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

DO YOU THINK WE MIGHT HAVE A HOUSING CRISIS?

Affordable Housing Crises

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

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

A POTPOURRI OF UNSOLICITED OPINION AND COMMENT

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

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

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

Conditioned Minds–Attract Duplicitous Ideologies…

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

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

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

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

Recovery

Recovery

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

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

SAVING THE WORLD: Where Do We Draw The Line?

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canstockphoto14913127

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

Water Water Neverywhere

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

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

Disposable People

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canstockphoto19604766

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

Continue reading

More Bull from Marathon City Council

Lego Lighthouse

 Lego Lighthouse

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

Florida Keys Keynoter

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

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

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