Thursday, June 30, 2016

"How Florida Republicans (and we) Became Losers"


This Huffington Post article by Alan Farago lays bare the crude facts and dangerous failures of Republican Leadership fostered by Rick Scott, Joe Negron, Pam Bondi, and Adam Putnam since 2010.  With the upcoming elections, it would be our foolishness to let that failure continue in any form.  Whether you're Democrat or Republican, leadership that will return the state to an educated respect and countenanced balance between the need for protection of property rights while effectively and scientifically protecting and preserving what remains of Florida's natural systems is existentially important for Florida if the way of life it now provides us is to be sustained. - Sandspur

 Some Quotes from the article:

"Massive toxic algae blooming around the southern half of the Florida peninsula, coating public health, tourism, business and real estate on both Florida coasts with dangerous scum, is the real consequence to taxpayers and voters of losing their bet on Republican leadership: Gov. Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, state representative Matt Caldwell, US Senator Marco Rubio, and all the insiders and cronies they corralled to serve on boards like the water management districts and Public Service Commission. This isn’t hyperbole. A real bet was made by voters. A real bet was lost."

"One of Gov. Rick Scott’s first acts as governor was to axe the science budget and staff at the state agency charged with protecting fresh water resources in Florida. By eliminating scientists at the South Florida Water Management District, Scott erased the institutional memory of an agency nominally charged with balancing the needs of people and the environment with the needs of industry. Specifically, Big Sugar."

"Scott appointed members of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District with no experience or compassion for the environment. The Scott way distilled to a simple formula: cede regulatory control to special interests who had the most to earn by limiting the impact of regulation on their profit models."

(Scott was systematic through out the state doing the same thing at all five of its water management districts and its Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Community Affairs - Sandspur)

"Florida’s shadow government, exemplified by Big Sugar, could not have been more pleased. Scott, as a newbie, needed training. He came to Tallahassee without a game plan or qualified staff. He would need to be brought up-to-speed and who better to bring him up-to-speed than the shadow government comprised of lobbyists and insiders who populate the state capitol, Tallahassee, and report back to employers in Palm Beach, Tampa, Jacksonville, Naples and Miami. Scott was, fortuitously, exactly what the shadow government had been looking for all along: a smart guy perfectly in sync to streamline their profits by eliminating government regulatory functions to the maximum practical extent."

(The writer must have been in audiences I've been speaking to for the last 5 years.  This is almost verbatim what I've been saying. See my presentation notes - https://www.dropbox.com/s/zk53mipiiunc03h/2015-12-11%20FlSpgsInst-New%202.docx?dl=0 - from a talk I gave to the Florida Springs Institute on 12-11-2015- Pages 5-14                          - Sandspur)

"Today’s ecological collapse in the St. Lucie River, connected estuaries, in the Caloosahatchee River, along both Florida coasts and stretching down through the Everglades to Florida Bay is a neon sign flashing in front of taxpayers and voters. When Gov. Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and Adam Putnam killed the US Sugar deal, they ignored the history and science of Lake Okeechobee, the massive fresh-water lake in the middle of Florida. Scott had already eliminated the science capacity of the state water district. By allowing political science to trump fact and the imperative for government intervention, Florida’s GOP created political conditions for deadly cyanobacteria to destroy the treasures of South Florida, including public health and personal real estate"

"If Democratic voters are furious, what is the word to describe Republican voters in Florida? Losers. Losers, because over a long period of time, they elected Republicans who turned their back on history, on bipartisan consensus and the lessons of the past. They did so with the confidence that insiders and special interests could protect the public better than regulations and enforcement because they get paid when customers are happy.

See the full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-farago/how-florida-republicans-b_b_10715792.html

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Oddly immune to the fire, Brian Armstrong, new ED at SWFWMD

Brian Armstrong has just been named the next Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.  That declaration will be followed in all the media releases that will now gush forth from DEP and SWFWMD with, "by the Governing Board." 

Brian should be congratulated, I suppose, because anyone who thinks the ED's job at a water management district these days under Rick Scott and his back channel manipulators can still do environmental good should be.  However anyone who thinks it was the Governing Board of the District that made the decision to place him there has not been paying attention.  These jobs are not left to any chance that someone not locked and chained to CEO Scott's anti-environmental mantra, or said another way, hasn't drunk the kool aid, might make the wrong decision. So it isn't likely a group of head bobbing political wannabees are going to be left for the task. 

No.  Street rumor has it that Brian's appointment is the handy work of none other than Scott's transition team sub-committee chairman on regulation and the guy who oversaw development of the committee's plan to take down Florida's nationally respected environmental regulatory protection mechanisms, Tampa lawyer and current general counsel of the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, Doug Manson.

Rumor also has it that Brian, oddly immune from all the fire that was swirling around SWFWMD at the time, was under consideration for the job years ago when the first raids on district funding and staff were getting underway, but the thought was that his executive management experience was too thin.  So, he was spirited away to get that experience as assistant executive director at the DEP Tampa office when that organization was being put through a sausage grinder, and then later brought back to SWFWMD as the assistant ED in waiting.   Now that SWFWMD's most recent Scott-appointed political fodder for an ED, Robert Beltran, has been cast to the winds of rejection, for who knows why, Brian is there to take charge just as planned.  Problem is, all this has nothing to do with the fact that it's the governing board's responsibility to fill the position, not political operatives from Tallahassee who couldn't give a wit less about Florida's natural systems.  Just another reason why "locally appointed" governing boards have become a joke and are there only to protect the substantial ad valorem taxing authority of the districts without which such political plums like a water supply for central Florida could not be funded.

Now, is all this just more methane in a windstorm?  I really don't know.  It will all be denied, certainly.  But the rumor mill is churning and for the poor souls still working at SWFWMD, and by emotional extension for the other WMD's, it's just more stink to add to what will be Scott's ruthless anti- environmental legacy, like that stench rising from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.  Brian will hopefully be able to operate as he might, with the professional freedom to base his decisions on good science and not Doug Manson's political objectives, but I'm not holding my breath ... my nose, yes, but not my breath.

Sandspur

Oddly immune to the fire, Brian Armstrong, new ED at SWFWMD

Brian Armstrong has just been named the next Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.  That declaration will be followed in all the media releases that will now gush forth from DEP and SWFWMD with, "by the Governing Board." 

Brian should be congratulated, I suppose, because anyone who thinks the ED's job at a water management district these days under Rick Scott and his back channel manipulators can still do environmental good should be.  However anyone who thinks it was the Governing Board of the District that made the decision to place him there has not been paying attention.  These jobs are not left to any chance that someone not locked and chained to CEO Scott's anti-environmental mantra, or said another way, hasn't drunk the kool aid, might make the wrong decision. So it isn't likely a group of head bobbing political wannabees are going to be left for the task. 

No.  Street rumor has it that Brian's appointment is the handy work of none other than Scott's transition team sub-committee chairman on regulation and the guy who oversaw development of the committee's plan to take down Florida's nationally respected environmental regulatory protection mechanisms, Tampa lawyer and current general counsel of the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, Doug Manson.

Rumor also has it that Brian, oddly immune from all the fire that was swirling around SWFWMD at the time, was under consideration for the job years ago when the first raids on district funding and staff were getting underway, but the thought was that his executive management experience was too thin.  So, he was spirited away to get that experience as assistant executive director at the DEP Tampa office when that organization was being put through a sausage grinder, and then later brought back to SWFWMD as the assistant ED in waiting.   Now that SWFWMD's most recent Scott-appointed political fodder for an ED, Robert Beltran, has been cast to the winds of rejection, for who knows why, Brian is there to take charge just as planned.  Problem is, all this has nothing to do with the fact that it's the governing board's responsibility to fill the position, not political operatives from Tallahassee who couldn't give a wit less about Florida's natural systems.  Just another reason why "locally appointed" governing boards have become a joke and are there only to protect the substantial ad valorem taxing authority of the districts without which such political plums like a water supply for central Florida could not be funded.

Now, is all this just more methane in a windstorm?  I really don't know.  It will all be denied, certainly.  But the rumor mill is churning and for the poor souls still working at SWFWMD, and by emotional extension for the other WMD's, it's just more stink to add to what will be Scott's ruthless anti- environmental legacy, like that stench rising from the Indian River lagoon.  Brian will hopefully be able to operate as he might, with the professional freedom to base his decisions on good science and not Doug Manson's political objectives, but I'm not holding my breath ... my nose, yes, but not my breath.

Sandspur

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ready to say adios to the Republican Party



A friend of mine emailed me some cartoons recently.  Here are a few words by two of the cartoon characters that reflect the humor they were supposed to elicit:
Character 1: "There's a super PAC called 'Ready for Hillary'.  What exactly does it mean to be Ready for Hillary"?
Character 2: "It's like being ready for prostate exam ... that will last for eight years."

____________________________________________________

This was my radically measured response:
I’m getting ready to leave the Republican Party, my friend.  The GOP is lost. It has endorsed a racist, sexist, egomaniacal, hate-baiter as its candidate for president and yet it continues to demonize and ridicule Hillary Clinton and our twice-elected President, Barack Obama, which suggests it would rather have a nut-case as president and risk whatever catastrophe he will surely cause as a result of his buffoonery and ignorance than another choice who would not.
Your party, apparently the Tea Party, is so doctrinally rigid it is ready to destroy the country rather than admit it has nothing to offer, absolutely nothing, by way of positive, constructive solutions for some of the most complex and dangerous problems this country has ever faced.  Tell me one tenet the Tea Party espouses that will benefit a majority of the people in this country.  Carpet bombing?  Isolationism? Nuclear war? Economic inequality? The Tea Party holds up the Constitution as if only it knows how to read it.  It has run the GOP and the ability of this country to govern itself into a ditch and given our country the worst recession in its history.  GOP propaganda falsely blames the Democrats for what clearly was caused by the Bush’s - two wars that cost trillions that were never properly financed, which were initiated under false pretenses (WMD’s) and which ultimately resulted in disastrous middle eastern governmental vacuums, religious genocide, the birth of ISIS and a lethal religion-based terrorism from which we can neither extricate nor protect ourselves. The Party is in denial and because it will not face the truth that its failure to find common ground, a fundamental prerequisite for a democracy, is the singular most obvious cause for the deadly paralysis and failure now infecting the highest levels of our government. What used to be moderate Republican principles are now socialism and liberalism.  Nothing short of the irrational alarms spewed from the radical right is acceptable.  You’re right I don’t like the cartoons.  I think they’re foolish and dangerous when Trump is the apparent alternative.  What is your purpose for sending them around? Are you supporting Trump?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The GOP ...blindly dedicated to the reasons they're about to self destruct

I've published over 188 posts on this blog and if there are any themes that might be discernable amidst all those perhaps slightly energetic offerings, it is this.  The doctrinal tenets the GOP shout from their right wing pulpits, as if it is the gospel straight out of the "good book," is odorous nonsense.  To wit:

1) No government is small enough or even needed - none;

2) There are no reasons whatsoever that can justify the existence of, much less an increase in, taxes - none;

3) There is no justification whatsoever for any regulation that constrains free enterprise in any way - none;

4) There is no program designed to assist poor, downtrodden, sick, aged or infirm humans that is not socialism - none;

5) There are no valid bases for thinking the importance of healthy, protected and preserved natural systems is critical to the economic future of this state and country - none

6) All capitalist endeavors that turn a profit, no matter the long-term or tragic consequences upon society, are by definition both morally and spiritually justified under the guise of free enterprise - all

7) Being believed is more important than whether or not one is telling the truth - honesty no longer matters

8) No matter the positive value or importance to our country, nothing fostered, initiated or supported by Barack Obama is right, good or worthwhile - nothing. He's a Democrat

9) No matter the truth, Reagan was never a Democrat, a moderate or suffered dementia while still in office - never

10) Even if we are a country of the people, by the people and for the people, it does not mean we are the government - that's somebody else

So when President Obama gave the following speech in Flint the other day, I felt something of the sense that, just maybe, I haven't been too far off.  The GOP have suffered their party major if not fatal harm by adopting and blindly defending tenets that are so weighted toward serving their party and moneyed special interests rather than their country, their base has left them and is running lemming-like behind Donald Trump ever closer to the precipice of complete and utter national embarrassment, or worse.  They have chosen hemlock over gridlock.  According to a friend, "It can't be explained more succinctly ..." than the way our President did.

President Obama
And it's a mindset that believes that less government is the highest good no matter what. It's a mindset that says environmental rules designed to keep your water clean or your air clean are optional, or not that important, or unnecessarily burden businesses or taxpayers. It's an ideology that undervalues the common good, says we're all on our own and what's in it for me, and how do I do well, but I'm not going to invest in what we need as a community. And, as a consequence, you end up seeing an underinvestment in the things that we all share that make us safe, that make us whole, that give us the ability to pursue our own individual dreams. So we underinvest in pipes underground. We underinvest in bridges that we drive on, and the roads that connect us, and the schools that move us forward. And this is part of the attitude, this is part of the mindset.
We especially underinvest when the communities that are put at risk are poor, or don't have a lot of political clout and so are not as often heard in the corridors of power. And this kind of thinking—this myth that government is always the enemy; that forgets that our government is us—it's us; that it's an extension of us, ourselves—that attitude is as corrosive to our democracy as the stuff that resulted in lead in your water. Because what happens is it leads to systematic neglect. It leads to carelessness and callousness. It leads to a lot of hidden disasters that you don't always read about and aren't as flashy, but that over time diminish the life of a community and make it harder for our young people to succeed.
So it doesn't matter how hard you work, how responsible you are, or how well you raise your kids—you can't set up a whole water system for a city. That's not something you do by yourself. You do it with other people. You can't hire your own fire department, or your own police force, or your own army. There are things we have to do together—basic things that we all benefit from. And that's how we invested in a rail system and a highway system. That's how we invested in public schools. That's how we invested in science and research. These how we invested in community colleges and land grant colleges like Michigan State.
But volunteers don't build county water systems and keep lead from leaching into our drinking glasses. We can't rely on faith groups to reinforce bridges and repave runways at the airport. We can't ask second-graders, even ones as patriotic as Isiah Britt who raised all that money, to raise enough money to keep our kids healthy. You hear a lot about government overreach, how Obama—he's for big government. Listen, it's not government overreach to say that our government is responsible for making sure you can wash your hands in your own sink, or shower in your own home, or cook for your family. These are the most basic services. There is no more basic element sustaining human life than water. It's not too much to expect for all Americans that their water is going to be safe.

Sandspur