Monday, July 23, 2018

Does Stephen Cody Play Fair? By Geniusofdespair

Stephen Cody has an ethics complaint against South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard.

Stephen Cody was hired by someone when we were examining ballots for the Lynda Bell/Gene Flinn election -- I was there and he was watching us. As I watched him looking over our shoulders, I thought "scum." After he had his license suspended as a lawyer by the Supreme Court, I made peace with Natacha Seijas's lawyer/friend Stephen Cody - even friending him on Facebook when he posted cute pictures of his granddaughter Olivia.  Those days are long over.

Cody doesn't play fair. He can be vindictive. He ain't no friend of mine.  I unfriended him in February, when he was attacking Phil Stoddard. He had Valerie Newman do a robocall for his PAC. Everyone knows that Valerie is a known enemy of Stoddard  and has been accused of questionable activity in that regard.

My words to Cody:
I doubt you care as much about feminism as you do at helping your pals at FPL.
 I really think that Cody,  in a corner of his clouded brain,  thinks he is being a good guy, but I am apt to believe he is just a hired gun.  I just do not like someone who plays by his murky rules and I don't like anyone lecturing me on what kind of a Me-Too survivor I should be. Sorry Steve, ethics rules are not in effect. No response needed by you.

You are a bully still, trying to explain it away as you hide your supporters behind a 501-C4's.  I wrote this in 2012 about him:
The big question always comes down to: Who is paying Stephen Cody? He doesn't appear to do work when he isn't paid. He charged Natacha Seijas and her PAC's a small fortune over the years. He has had a shadow client before like he has in Miami Lakes. He tried to get Eugene Flinn thrown out of the District 8 County Commission race. Who paid him for that? No one knows.

We have an example of the importance that Cody puts on getting paid in a recent (4/13/2011) Florida Bar "Admonishment" where he was fined about $2,000 for minor misconduct. In the complaint, even though he had a $5,000 retainer, he did not answer calls from his client so she stopped paying 2 installments due. In return, he says for NON-PAYMENT, Cody then failed to send his client correspondence advising his client of the status of the appeal. In Cody's signed admission he stated:
"Respondent (him)  failed  to  send  written  correspondence  to Vazquez advising her of the status of the appeal and/or his failure to file the appeal due to her nonpayment."
 So why is Stephen Cody in Miami Lakes snapping photos and passing out 15 pages of stuff, most of it dismissed ethics complaints (deemed frivolous), at a meeting in Miami Lakes?  Kevin Morejon, a 20 year resident said he wanted to know.

Kevin said he went to the meeting held by Mayor Pizzi with 75  to 100 of his neighbors.
Pizzi was having the Town Meeting at the Royal Oaks Park Community Center  on January 17th at 7:00 pm. The topics were public safety, park and lake issues for homeowners in Miami Lakes. The town of Miami Lakes is a very long way from Cody's Palmetto Bay office. When people arrived, they were confronted by Stephen Cody, and some workers he brought with him, according to Kevin Morejon. He said Cody and his crew confronted everyone going into the meeting and passed out a  bunch of pages with an unflattering photo of Mayor Pizzi stapled on the front.  According to Pizzi the content of the pages were an old ethics report of false allegations against him. He said the multiple page flyer cut off the portion of the report that said that these were allegations from years ago and that they were all dismissed.

Morejon said that he didn't know who the group were crashing the meeting, until he heard an employee call the man in the blue shirt Mr. Cody. He said they were disturbing the residents and they were unprofessional. Morejon said "I thought it was wrong that they gave under-age kids the stapled papers.  Mr. Cody was taking numerous photographs too. I thought he was a photographer at first. My guess is he took 25 to 30 snapshots. It was very disruptive." Apparently for a time he was blocking the view of  Mayor Pizzi as he was talking, filming or snapping photos.

Morejon said, after I revealed Cody was an attorney: "Now you tell me he is an attorney. If he is a lawyer, I am surprised he was doing that.  Some residents left because they were scared." Then I said to Kevin: "What would you think if I told you that he was Natacha Seijas' lawyer?"  He said: "I would freak out. Why would she stoop to his level if she sent him? She might as well have been there herself giving out the papers." He said a lot of people ripped up the papers in front of Cody.

I also spoke to Mary Collins, of Miami Lakes who, like Morejon, wanted to know why Cody was in Miami Lakes. She said, "Why is Cody so interested in Miami Lakes he doesn't even live here?" Good question. If I had, to guess, this is who I think is paying Cody.  I told Mary that he was once Natacha Seijas's attorney. She said: "I didn't realize he was her lawyer but I did not sign that recall petition."

How dirty is Miami real estate? A LOT DIRTIER than you think ... by gimleteye

It is time for reflection, as a long run as a Miami-Dade taxpayer draws to a close. When I moved to Miami in 1992 from the Florida Keys, I embraced the challenge of calling attention to the importance of preserving open space and farmland as a buffer between the intensely developed areas of Florida’s most populous county and the fragile beauty of the Everglades. Previously, I spent nearly four years as an advocate for marine resource issues, mainly Florida Bay, and had become involved for the first time in my life in local county politics, part of a successful effort to run out of office a majority who had proudly called themselves, “The Concrete Coalition”.

I discovered that in Miami-Dade, two planning toolS were critical to protecting the downstream economy and environment in the Keys; 1) the Urban Development Boundary embraced by the county but under constant pressure by developers and the supply chain of special interests stretching from bank financing to heavy equipment operators and 2) state law mandating comprehensive land use plans by every one of Florida’s counties.

“All growth is good” propelled Miami into the 20th century, but by the end of the century it was evident that a new model needed adjustments. These two planning tools were intended as a rationale framework to bring together competing interests. The problem, of course, is that the competition between civic values and private property owners is not fair, and one of the ways the failure manifests is through the unregulated influence of corporate law that encourages property owners and speculators to hide their identity through invisibility shields like limited liability corporations.

Every issue of concern to Miami Dade taxpayers — traffic congestion, overburdened schools and stressed fire and police protection — manifests through county politics. And as we know, too well, county politics are extraordinarily influenced by deep pocketed donors who now, thanks to the Citizens United decision by the Bush Supreme Court, can give unlimited amounts of money to support causes and candidates.

Today, there is attention on the decision by Mayor Gimenez and the majority of the county commission to support the extension of a major state highway, SR 836, into the southwest corner of Miami-Dade; exactly the geographic area that absorbed my interest after moving to Miami two and a half decades ago. It is as true today as it was then: it is impossible to know who one is negotiating with, when one’s opponent can shield his or her identity through a LLC.

Eye On Miami is virtually the only space in the media universe where this and related issues have been investigated. We have mapped to the extent possible, with freely donated time and energy, the LLC’s behind the push that absorbs so much of the elected officials attention. Sometimes the identities are well known — lobbyists, for instance, who are required to identify themselves. But that is the tip of the iceberg. What we suspect to be the case is that a very small group of land speculators, who are extraordinarily wealthy through the growth of suburban sprawl, dominate the outcomes that put such huge costs on the backs of taxpayers. They’ve figured out the playbook, to persuade voters that their cause is noble: ie. “jobs” and that opponents are “elitists”and worse.

If voters knew their names and could make the linkages, it would be a start to a level playing field. At least, then, there would be some “sunshine” to illuminate a path for voters. That’s why, in 2016, I was so excited to learn about an Obama Treasury Department initiative to require the disclosure of LLC ownership in property transactions, as a test case in a few areas of the nation. Miami-Dade was an obvious place to start. I wrote at the time, this was “the best story of 2016”. Attention was being paid.

"How dirty is Miami real estate? Secret home deals dried up when feds started watching"

Last week’s report in the Miami Herald put something of a coda on my excitement: LLC transactions declined by 95% during the study period. The breathtaking number answers the question, “How dirty is Miami real estate?” Very dirty.

The land flippers and speculators who stand to benefit from Mayor Gimenez’ SR 836 jihad don’t want to be identified, but we know they exert profound influence through their campaign contributions to the burdens on our quality of life.

The take-away is as true today as it was those long years ago: VOTE. If you care about Miami-Dade, your taxes, and your quality of life; vote for candidates who aren’t stuck on the suburban sprawl merry-go-round because they are tethered to the campaign cash spigot from special interests whose identities are shielded by corporate law.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Miami Dolphins Kneel ... by gimleteye

I don’t care about the culture of the NFL. I DO care about free speech in America.

I don’t care about Donald Trump. I DO care that his presidency is a dog whistle to racism and Alt R extremism and that he is eroding fundamental American values.

I don’t care about billionaire NFL team owners. I do care that racial discrimination tears at our social fabric, bearing most heavily on young African American men.

I don’t care that NFL players have chosen to protest by taking a knee. I DO care that freedom of speech is protected.

In November: VOTE. 

Disgusted With Donald Trump: Do This

OPED: Disgusted With Donald Trump, Do This
Frank Bruni, New York Times

We got it wrong in 2016. We can get it right in 2018. There’s a far side to this American disgrace, a way to contain the damage, and it’s both utterly straightforward and entirely effective.

It’s called voting. And from now until Nov. 6, we must stay fanatically focused on that — on registering voters, turning them out, directing money to the right candidates, donating time in the right places.

The moral of the Helsinki freak show, the NATO tragicomedy and the children in cages near the border isn’t just that Donald Trump lacks any discernible conscience, real regard for this country or mature appreciation of history and our exalted part in it. It’s that this next election matters — immeasurably.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Great Congressional Debate Last Night: Big Loser David Richardson. By Geniusofdespair

Miami Dade County Democratic Party Head - Juan Cuba introduces the Candidates

The Candidates for District 27 of the US Congress: Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, David Ricardson, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Donna Shalala. Michael Putney was the moderator.

David Richardson annoyed the hell out of me when Kristen Rosen Gonzalez questioned him about his getting Big Sugar donations. He didn't address them he just turned it into an attack and said the pollution to Lake Okeechobee was coming from North of the Lake and that is where we needed remediation. He told Kristen she should get her facts straight.  No sugar related pollution David? Oh, well he can't win anyway.

The rest of it, put me to sleep. They agreed on a lot. Free College Tuition? Come on. Get realistic, how about affordable loans. Democrats can be so fanciful with our tax dollars. That is what gets them into trouble. I never saw Michael Hepburn speak before. He was impressive.

I still hold a grudge against Donna Shalala over the Pine Rockland sale when she was head of U of M. I assume she will win. Anyway, the St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove was packed and hot as hell. I left pretty early.

Fossil fuel companies spent billions to block climate change adaptation ... by gimleteye

Is anyone surprised fossil fuel companies spent billions to block climate change adaptation? Moreover, one political party — the GOP — now reinforces America’s status as a pariah among the world’s nations attempting to deal with humanity's biggest challenge.
Legislation to address climate change has repeatedly died in Congress. But a major new study says the policy deaths were not from natural causes — they were caused by humans, just like climate change itself is.
Climate action has been repeatedly drowned by a devastating surge and flood of money from the fossil fuel industry — nearly $2 billion in lobbying since 2000 alone.
Trump, first and foremost among the denialists. It is literally as though one political party is in the midst of a group psychosis.

Meanwhile, the Arctic is on fire. What do Republicans think: that next year, soaring temperatures will GO DOWN?

No. Temperatures are on a rising curve, and the time we have lost to billionaires and their partners in the fossil fuel supply chain, including the Federalist Society, could be recorded as the start of the darkest chapter in mankind’s history. Is change in the air?

Have we hit rock bottom as a nation and superpower? We will know better, after the November elections.

Hot Times for Reindeer: All-Time Records Melt in Lapland

Temperatures soared into the nineties Fahrenheit north of the Arctic Circle on Tuesday and Wednesday, as 2018’s parade of exceptional heat continued marching across the Northern Hemisphere. This week has been northern Scandinavia’s turn under the sizzling klieg lights, including Lapland (Sápmi), the region of northern Scandinavia famed for its reindeer and often associated with Christmas. In contrast to that wintry reputation, Sweden is now grappling with an onslaught of wildfires unprecedented in modern times, as reported by
Here’s a sampling of the preliminary all-time highs set in Scandinavia on Tuesday.
Kilpisjärvi:  28.3°C (82.5°F)
Kittila Pokka: 30.2°C (86.4°F) 
Salla: 31.5 (88.7°F)
Sodankylä: 31.8°C (89.2°F)
Rovaniemi (capital of the Finnish province of Lapland):  32.2°C (90.0°F)
Sihcajavri: 29.2°C (84.6°F)
Namsskogan: 32.6°C (90.7°F)
Mo I Rana: 32.6°C (90.7°F)
Katterjak Airport: 28.3°C (82.5°F)
Kvikkjokk: 32.5°C (90.5°F)
Located at an altitude of 1100 meters (3500 feet), Finland's Tarfala Research Station is the coldest long-term reporting site in Lapland, according to weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera. The station hit 23.1°C (73.6°F) on Tuesday, smashing the all-time record of 21.4°C (70.5°F). The overnight low Monday night at Tarfala was a strikingly mild 13.3°C (55.6°F).
More records were smashed on Wednesday, including 33.4°C (92.1°F) at Kevo, Finland—the hottest temperature in reliable records for all of the province of Lapland in Finland, according to Herrera. Other all-time highs in the preliminary list for Wednesday:
Muonio: 30.8°C (87.4°F)
Kittila Pokka: 31.8°C (89.2°F)
Savukoski: 31.9°C (89.4°F)
Sondakyla: 32.1°C (89.8°F)
Rovaniemi:  32.2°C (90.0°F), tying the all-time high set on Tuesday
Inari: 32.6°C (90.7°F)
Svolvaer: 29.7°C (85.5°F)
Leknes: 29.9°C (85.8°F)
Kautokeino: 30.0°C (86.0°F)
Sandnessjoen: 30.2°C (86.4°F)
Bodo:  30.4°C (86.7°F)
Stokmarknes: 31.6°C (88.9°F)
Evenes: 32.2°C (90.0°F)
Alta: 33.0°C (91.4°F)
Bardufoss: 33.5°C (92.3°F)
Katterjak Airport: 29.3°C (84.7°F)
In addition, Sweden's northernmost weather station, Naimakka (latitude 68.683°N), hit 29.5°C (85.1°F) on Wednesday, breaking its all-time record high of 29.4°C set on July 17, 1945. 
Sweden fires

A tropical night in the mountains of Lapland

At the Makkaur, Norway lighthouse, located at 70.7°N--hundreds of miles inside the Arctic Circle--the temperature did not drop below 25.2°C (77.4°F) the night of July 18 - 19. According to Herrera and weather records expert Jérôme Reynaud, this destroyed the world record of highest minimum temperature for the Arctic, and is the all-time third highest minimum temperature recorded anywhere in Scandinavia. It is also the highest minimum temperature ever recorded in northern Norway (previous record for northern Norway: 24.7 °C on July 1, 1972 at Grøtøy), and for northern Scandinavia as a whole. Several other stations in Norway also set unfathomable minimum temperature marks on Thursday morning, including 20.5°C (68.9°F) at Lyngen Gjerdvassbu, Norway at 69.55°N at an elevation of 710m (1583 feet).
The insanely warm minimum temperatures are being made possible by ridiculously warm ocean temperatures in the Baltic Sea, which were more than 8°C (14°F) above average on July 18, in the northern Gulf of Bothnia between Finland and Sweden.
Here are the top three all-time warm-minimum temperatures on record in Scandinavia:
25.8°C (78.4°F), Alstadhaug, Norway, 5 July 1937, at a latitude of 63.7°N.
25.5 °C (77.9°F), Halden-Langbryggen, Norway, 9 July 1933.
25.2°C (77.4°F), Makkaur, Norway, 19 July, 2018
And these are the all-time warm minimum records by nation:
Norway highest minimum: 25.8°C, Alstadhaug, 5 July 1937
Sweden highest minimum:  23.7°C, Kullen, 10 August 1975
Finland highest minimum: 24.2°C, Kotka-Haapasaari, 1 August 2003

Has it ever hit 100°F in the Arctic?

The hottest location in the Scandinavian Arctic on Tuesday, according to Michael Theusner (Klimahaus), was Kevo (latitude 69.75°N), with a high of 32.7°F (91.0°F). If you’re wondering whether any place in or very near the Arctic has ever broken 100°F, the answer is yes—but just barely. Back on July 23, 2010, the community of Ust Moma, Russia (latitude 66.27°N, or about eight miles south of the Arctic Circle), got up to 37.8°C (100.04°F), according to weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera. That’s the warmest reliable temperature on record at or north of that latitude, he says, although there’s an equal reading of questionable veracity in the books from Prospect Creek, Alaska, on June 27, 1915. The highest reliable reading north of latitude 67°N appears to be 37.3°C (99.1°F) at Verkhoyansk, Russia (67°33'N), on July 25, 1988.
The heat across Scandinavia is being driven by a large, strong upper-level high parked over the region. The persistent high pressure has also fed unusually warm, dry conditions across the British Islands, where several all-time heat records were broken just a few days ago (see last week’s roundupfrom WU weather historian Chris Burt). Parts of southern England have gone more than a month without a drop of measurable rain, noted the Guardian, which also pointed out that the same type of upper-level blocking pattern can produce bitter cold across the region in winter. As this upper high builds westward, and a zone of warm maritime air approaches from the Atlantic, London could see a solid week of highs topping 80°F from Thursdayonward.

After a less hot interlude over the last couple of days, forecast models are suggesting temperatures creeping up again 🌡️into next week, along with increasing humidity
— Met Office (@metoffice) 


Japan heat

Heat wave rolls onward in East Asia

Extreme heat has gripped parts of East Asia, including Japan and Korea, since last weekend, with several more days of intense heat on tap. The heat wave is being blamed for at least 14 heat-related deaths and thousands of heat-stroke hospitalizations. On Thursday, July 19, Kyoto tied its all-time high temperature for any month, 39.8°C (103.6°F), previously set on July 8, 1994. Kyoto has also beaten its previous all-time high for July (38.3°C/101.0°F from July 26, 2014) on five of the past six days:
38.5°C (101.3°F) on Saturday, July 14
38.7°C (101.7°F) on Sunday, July 15
38.5°C (101.3°F) on Monday, July 16
39.1°C (102.4°F) on Sunday, July 18
39.8°C (103.6°F) on Thursday, July 19
Weather records in Kyoto extend back to 1881.
A number of all-time records set on Monday, July 16, in Japan, although most of the stations have periods of record dating back only to 1976.
Okunikko (Tochigi prefecture): 30.4°C (86.7°F), previous record 30.2C on July 16, 1946 (data since 1944)
Ikari (Tochigi prefecture):  33.9°C (93.0°F), previous record 33.6C on August 7, 1994 (data since 1977)
Otawara (Tochigi prefecture): 37.1°C (98.8°F), previous record 36.8C on August 6, 2015 (data since 1976)
Ikuno (Hyogo prefecture): 37.5°C (99.5°F), previous record 37.4C on August 8, 1994 (data since 1978)
Miyoshi (Hiroshima prefecture): 37.9°C (100.2°F), previous record 37.4C on the day before and 37.2C on August 2, 2001 (data since 1978)
Akana (Shimane prefecture): 35.1°C (95.2°F), previous record 35.0C on August 6, 1994 (data since 1978)
Map of state and national monthly and all-time temperature records for 2018 thus far

Rocky Mountain highs: Record-breaking strings of hot days

Parts of Colorado have seen an unprecented number of days hitting at least 90°F for the year to date. Up through Monday, July 16, Denver reported 33 days in the 90s, which beats the old year-to-date record of 31 such days, set in 2012. Denver’s weather records go all the way back to 1872. In Pueblo, where records go back to 1888, a total of 49 days have hit the 90°F mark so far, compared to the previous year-to-date record of 42, set in 1974. We have a long way to go before Pueblo could reach the full-year record total of 90 days hitting at least 90°F, which was set in 2000. However, the city is predicted to reach 90°F every day for at least the next week, and some of Pueblo’s hottest weather can occur in August, after the peak of the midsummer monsoon.
Even the state of Texas—where summer temperatures often climb above 100°F—is feeling the heat. Readings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area hit 104°F on Tuesday and 106°F on Wednesday. The DFW metroplex could reach or exceed 105°F each day into early next week, along with low temperatures possibly failing to dip below 80°F. The longest streak of highs on record of at least 105°F in Dallas-Fort Worth occurred during the infamous heat wave of 1980. That year produced 11 consecutive days of 105°F heat—from July 8 to 18—and an incredible 28 days across the summer as a whole. The forecast calls for the heat wave to peak on Friday, with a high temperature of 109°F. There has been only one July day since 1980 to record a temperature that warm in the city—a 110°F reading on July 12, 1998.
Waco, Texas recorded a high temperature of 108°F on Wednesday. This breaks the previous daily record of 106°F set in both 2006 and 1925, and is the hottest temperature recorded in Waco since August 28, 2011 (109°F).
Thanks to Maximilliano Herrera, Etienne Kapikian, Jerome Reynaud, Michael Theusner and Jeff Masters for contributing data to this post.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The GOP yard needs to be bulldozed and re-sodded ... by gimleteye

The GOP has stopped, blocked and inhibited at every turn any effort to use state or federal regulation to protect water quality in Florida. Elected Republicans use specious arguments like "federal overreach" and when it is time to loosen state laws, they do things like exchange hard numerical standards for "narrative" ones.

Well it turns out those narrative standards are utterly failing at protecting public health and the environment. Public health, as in severe and permanent neurological diseases.

In DC, the GOP is determined to gut the federal protections of the Clean Water Act.

To get really sick -- perhaps not today but down the road -- you don't have to TOUCH cyanobacteria. All you have to do is BREATHE.

So don't "hold your breath" and vote for Republicans this November. Principled conservatives need to keep saying it like George Will and Bill Kristol have: VOTE DEM.

The GOP yard needs to be bulldozed and re-sodded. Only voters can do that.

Toxic blue-green algae is really cyanobacteria, plus other facts about blooms, microcystin

Tyler Treadway  |  Treasure Coast Newspapers Updated 17 hours ago
Video: Blue-green algae through the years
Algae blooms from different sources are popping up throughout the Treasure Coast.
The green slime is polluting the St. Lucie River in Martin and St. Lucie counties and Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River County.
Here are some things you should, but may not, know about it:

It's not really algae

Blue-green algae is actually cyanobacteria, naturally occurring microscopic bacteria that, like plants, use photosynthesis to produce food from nutrients and sunlight.
A combination of things can cause normal levels of blue-green algae to explode into a full-tilt bloom: high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer runoff and septic tank leakage; long, hot days; and low salinity. 
The normally salty St. Lucie River estuary is susceptible to algae blooms only when there are high freshwater inflows from canals and Lake Okeechobee discharges.
Blooms can harm an ecosystem like the St. Lucie River by killing the tiny organisms at the bottom of the food chain, oysters and sea grass. And when the bloom dies, bacteria eating the dead cells suck all the oxygen out of the water, which can cause fish kills.

Toxic threat

A species called Microcystis aeruginosa has been the primary blue-green algae in St. Lucie River blooms. It produces several toxins, including one called microcystin.
Microcystin can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested and rash or hay fever symptoms if touched or inhaled. Drinking water with the toxins can cause long-term liver disease.
Breathing in fumes from blooms with microcystin can cause respiratory problems, particularly in people with asthma or pulmonary disease.
An Ohio State University study found people living in areas with significant blue-green algae blooms containing microcystin are more likely to die from nonalcoholic liver disease than those in areas without the blooms. The study did not conclude blooms cause liver disease, especially not in particular individuals.
A growing number of scientists think another toxin in the algae, known as BMAA, can trigger diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.
Concentrations of toxins in blue-green algae are measured in parts per billion. The World Health Organization considers water with up to 1 part per billion safe to drink and more than 10 parts per billion to pose a health threat from recreational contact.

Other algae

Another blue-green algae found in the Indian River Lagoon, lyngbya often looks like masses of brown seaweed floating on the water, especially in the summer.
Lyngbya (LING-bee-yah) can be toxic to fish, plants and other marine creatures and cause a skin irritation known as “swimmer’s itch" in humans.
It grows rapidly in water with high levels of fertilizer and septic runoff, so blooms are a sign of an unhealthy lagoon.

Brown tide

Aureoumbra lagunensis, a true algae (not cyanobacteria) known as "brown tide," is more common in the northern and middle Indian River Lagoon as far south as Sebastian.
The aftermath of a brown tide bloom in mid-March 2016 in the Banana River, an arm of the Indian River Lagoon that stretches from Kennedy Space Center to just north of Melbourne in Brevard County, killed millions of fish.
Scientists suspect the bloom absorbed all the nutrients in the river, then died. Bacteria eating the dead cells sucked all the oxygen out of the water, and the fish suffocated.
Originally Published 12:29 p.m. EDT July 18, 2018
Updated 17 hours ago

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Sliming of Florida Politics ... by gimleteye

Again, Florida politicians are scurrying about, trying to camouflage their reputations and avoid being targeted in November by angry voters.

There's Rick Scott, trying to unseat Bill Nelson for US Senate: Scott, whose very first act as governor was to chainsaw the budget of the science agencies charged with protecting Florida waters. No funding, no science, no problem.

And Adam Putnam, whose loyalty to agricultural polluters in Florida led him to lobby Congress to WEAKEN federal laws protecting state waters. Putnam, currently the state agriculture secretary, wants to succeed Scott as governor. He will do anything to accommodate Big Sugar.

And Matt Caldwell, whose district is over-run by toxic algae including potent neurotoxins that can cause brain damage, spends his time bashing groups trying to get some -- any -- enforcement of pollution laws by government. Caldwell is running to be the next state agriculture secretary.

Scott, Putnam, Caldwell.

For context, read a recent article by John Moran, writer and photographer who captured the awful mess Florida politicians allowed to occur.

The Sliming of a Florida River
by John Moran, July 2018

The Great Toxic Slime Outbreak of 2018 has befouled the Caloosahatchee River, the river of my childhood. I needed to see for myself, so I grabbed my cameras and headed south to Fort Myers and Cape Coral. A heartbreaking sight awaited.

Gov. Scott has declared a state of emergency in seven counties to combat the noxious green algae fed by water discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

The governor directed state health officials to warn Floridians and visitors of the dangers of toxic algae. Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, will assist impacted businesses. And the governor once again blamed the Army Corps of Engineers for the slow pace of Everglades restoration projects.

Missing from Rick Scott’s emergency declaration—and indeed, missing from his entire tenure as governor—was a targeted response effectively dealing with the source of the pollution. Real leadership demands an acknowledgment that Florida’s water woes are a time-release disaster of our own making.

An epidemic of indifference has led to this riot of slime, and the response of officialdom has clearly been incommensurate with the severity of the ongoing crisis we face.

I believe we’re missing the big picture in part because our political leaders are reluctant to connect the dots and help us see that we are killing Florida’s waters with our lifestyle choices and business practices.

Nobody wanted this to happen, but that’s no excuse for the choices we’ve made. My message to our political leadership is clear: It is the Earth that lies at the very center of our existence and makes possible life itself, to say nothing of human endeavors like the economy.

That famous line about “the business of government is business” is shallow and shortsighted. We must aim higher: The business of government is wellbeing.

And to our business leaders, I say there can be no longterm wellbeing in Florida if we continue to use and abuse our waters like there’s no tomorrow.

Look in the mirror, Florida: Choices have consequences. Sustainability must be more than a marketing buzzword. Real sustainability must be at the foundation of our vision for Florida in the 21st century, for without it this will not be a place our children’s children will want to live or work or play.

Florida’s waters are the very foundation of our economy, our way of life, and our identity on the world stage.

This is the truth that must be said: Our waters are a mess. We are failing the test of responsible stewardship. With apologies to the great Caloosahatchee, Denial remains the mightiest river in Florida.

For the love of Florida, listen to the pictures and then listen to your heart.


John Moran is a Florida nature photographer based in Gainesville. The following photos taken recently of the Caloosahatchee River, courtesy of John Moran.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Big Sugar boosters attempt whisper campaign against Bullsugar ... by gimleteye

The writer Carl Hiaasen quoted the late Nathaniel Reed in a New York Times obituary last week, "He'd say, ‘Don’t be discouraged. Get angry, show up, make your voice heard, and when they ignore you, make it louder the next time.’"

The group "making it loudest" was formed during the toxic algae outbreak of the winter of 2015/ 2016 when the state's rivers, bays and estuaries downstream from Lake Okeechobee were poisoned primarily through the influence of Big Sugar on South Florida's water management infrastructure. That group is Bullsugar, and this year -- and election year -- the slime is baaa-aaack.

Yes, the slime is back and it's dangerous. Cyanobacteria is linked to severe neurological disease. The state of Florida has been downplaying the risk, avoiding the science, and failing to protect citizens through rigorous science, effective regulation and enforcement against polluters.

One change from 2016: Big Sugar launched a whisper campaign against Bullsugar, a grass roots group founded in Martin County, calling the group "liberal" and "extreme". As if anything could be less radical or conservative than pointing out taxpayer money is being squandered as quid pro quo to Big Sugar's campaign contributions.

Rick Scott and Adam Putnam and Matt Caldwell come foremost to mind as defenders of the polluters: Scott is Florida's term-limited governor seeking to unseat US Senator Bill Nelson, Putnam being the state's Agriculture Secretary seeking to be the next governor, and Big Sugar's legislator of the year, Matt Caldwell, a state representative being offered as Putnam's successor.

Where Big Sugar sees a political ladder, bolted together with unlimited contributions, Bullsugar sees bowling pins set to be knocked down by angry voters. For Big Sugar, that's a problem.

Yes, these are all Republican, but Bullsugar doesn't shy from explaining: when it comes to accommodating the state's biggest polluters party affiliation doesn't matter: Big Sugar is an equal opportunity contributor and Florida Democrats are just as susceptible if not more so -- with a few startling exceptions -- to sugar's sticky, treacle and influence.

One of the Democrat standouts for honesty is Chris King, seeking the party's nomination to be next governor. King has made Big Sugar's corrupting influence on state politics a rallying cry of his campaign. King recently told the Tampa Bay Times:
"Sugar corporations bear clear responsibility for the billions of gallons of toxic algae water pumping out of Lake Okeechobee and threatening public health," Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King said after campaigning in communities most hurt by algae blooms around Lake Okeechobee. Then he moved on to the corporate headquarters of U.S.Sugar in Clewiston. "After traveling deep into sugar country to call out their vise grip on Florida's environment, it's safe to say Big Sugar wasn't a big fan of our campaign today. We've led the debate against Sugar and forced the conventional politicians I'm running against to take a stand and return their sugar industry cash, and I'll continue to call out Big Sugar's abuse of Florida's environment –– even if the political establishment doesn't want to hear it."
Sugar's whisper campaign against Bullsugar seeks to negate the hundreds of thousands of Bullsugar followers on Facebook and the web.  Big Sugar has mobilized paid-for "fake news" to spread rumors and innuendos.

By throwing enough bulls** against the fan, the polluters want voters to be confused and to avoid learning how its polluting ways is putting Florida citizens directly in the path of cyanobacteria; a form of toxic algae that scientists are studying for links to severe neurological diseases including Alzheimer's.

For saying so, Bullsugar is attacked for being "impolite" and "rude" and "unreasonable". They grumble, Bullsugar won't compromise like other "more polite" groups. That is bulls**.

There should be no choice or compromise when it comes to public health. No choice or compromise when it comes to requiring the polluters to bear the costs of their pollution. It is thin-skinned of the state's political heavyweights to take offense at a small grass roots group, but that's what happens when one's fingerprints are all over the slime.

It is time for voters to reset the direction and to reject green slime candidates like Rick Scott, Adam Putnam and Matt Caldwell.

They don't like that Bullsugar is compiling voter guides because -- horror! -- taxpayer and voters might start putting two and two together and figure out that they've been voting against their best interests. So when you hear Big Sugar's whisper campaign; hold your breath, cover your ears and turn your backs. If it feels sweet and sticky, run.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Nathaniel Reed ... by gimleteye

Nathaniel Reed, a champion of Florida's environment, passed away after an accident while fishing for salmon on a river in Canada. He was 84 and had lived a full and purpose-driven life.

I met Nathaniel in 1988 in Key West. We shared a love of fishing, and he was a mentor in advocacy for protecting Florida Bay and the Everglades. Nathaniel was an idealist whose ideals were tempered by pragmatism. He was friend and, as a result of a long career in public service -- both in state and federal government appointed positions -- a unique one.

Our fishing was in Florida Bay with a guide, poling a narrow draft skiff to catch and release bonefish, permit and tarpon; species that inhabited shallow water, seagrass flats when the tides, the current and weather were right. I last fished with him, west of Key West with his longtime guide, Gil Drake, a few years ago. It was a windy, grey late winter day in the Marquesas. We were after permit; notoriously finicky and hard to see much less catch.

It had been discouraging fishing and cold. Gil's back was aching from poling the boat sideways to wind and current. At lunch he anchored the push pole off the fishing tower, on the far side of the Marquesas in a little channel against a sand bar. The boat rested in about two and a half feet of water.

We had unwrapped our sandwiches and started to eat when Gil said, "Fish, two o'clock." Nathaniel dropped his sandwich, grabbed his fly rod and cast where Gil was pointing. We waited a second, then the line went tight and streamed off his reel. Nathaniel didn't bring that permit to the boat -- it scampered off --, but we all had a great laugh. Nathaniel's laugh, always being the loudest. The unstated joke of that moment; it's the grace of God that puts a permit on your rod when you are not even looking. That is how I will remember Nathaniel.

He caught a lot of fish in his life, way more than I ever will, but when I fished with him, it wasn't about the fishing. Our conversation was like downloading an encyclopedia on history, the environment and politics.

Nathaniel was a moderate Republican. He was from a family of wealth and privilege, and the idea of noblesse oblige rankled some powerful politicians who opposed him. They missed the point. Protecting the environment is not about deal-making, although -- yes -- there are always deals. It is about responsibility. Nathaniel could support a bad deal and grit his teeth, but he never forgot the score.

Nathaniel was from a generation of Florida leaders who didn't need to be persuaded about the value of Florida's natural heritage because they, too, had experienced it directly. In the Everglades. In the rivers and bays and streams. Democrats AND Republicans. He was outraged by what happened on his watch.

Nathaniel's brand of Republican has been burned out by the conservative right. Although he served as a political appointee under conservatives, like Richard Nixon and Gov. Reubin Askew, the ethos of protection and conservation -- of assessing the costs of toxics and pollution where they originated -- has sharply diminished.

Nathaniel was not just among the early generation of environmentalists, he was among the generation that created and implemented both big national environmental laws and state ones, like the Growth Management Act. I know of no other non-elected Floridian who had been so involved at both these levels of government.

He was unfailingly cordial and correct in a way that is also endangered. He valued knowledge. Knowledge of the natural world, knowledge of the law, knowledge of business and farming and the science of things. And he remembered just about everything. He was a terrific story-teller, in a voice filled with laughter.

For environmentalists in Florida who have faced such a steep climb, humor has its purpose. It is an antidote to the pain of listening to charlatans and demagogues rattle on about "shared adversity" when, in fact, the net result is so much loss over so many years.

Nathaniel had a mental rolodex of agency staff and scientists and engineers. He had a serious, in-depth understanding of the operations of Florida's water management system, at a level of intricate detail. He was an informal advisor to US senators, congressmen, and to governors who would listen. Answers to specific problems, for Nathaniel, were never more than a phone call, a fax, or email away. He brought these skills to the Everglades Foundation as an original board member.

Earlier Nathaniel served on the board of the South Florida Water Management District. Like many environmentalists, he was deeply disappointed by the slow, agonizing progress forward on Everglades restoration. He was diplomatic, even though his opponents -- whether sugar barons or the state's large development and water resource engineers -- scorned him. He was always up for an honest fight.

As founder of 1000 Friends of Florida, Nathaniel brought together the gamut of Florida development interests and legal minds to implement, protect and improve the state's Growth Management Act. Under his leadership, 1000 Friends became the most important state advocacy organization for the effort to tame low-density, urban sprawl and to reinforce protection for the state's treasured natural resources. It was a terrible blow to him and so many citizens when successive governors and Republican legislatures eviscerated the agency charged with promoting growth management, the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

Nathaniel's heart was in the Everglades. He never gave up hope that if the right energy could be mobilized, if the right resources and political pressure applied, if the right laws could be written and enforced, if property rights could be protected at the same time as the jobs that depend on a stable environment, that we could succeed in restoring a badly damaged ecosystem. Success was always, for Nathaniel, within grasp -- just like a permit at the end of his line. A permit he would always let go at the end. Because that is what grace and good fortune is about: accepting and releasing the bounties God has blessed us with. They are not for us to take. They are what we hold in trust for future generations.

No: we are not here to dominate the earth, but to nurture and to share its blessings. God speed, Nathaniel Reed.

Bullsugar calls out Big Sugar's rigged political system ... by gimleteye

Toxic algae bloom on the St. Lucie River, Florida

Big Sugar farms on over 400,000 acres -- roughly 800 square miles -- south of Lake Okeechobee, the liquid heart of Florida. The big players in the industry are billionaires; Florida Crystals owned by the Fanjul family and US Sugar Corporation, owned by the descendants of Charles Stuart Mott. Through its campaign contributions, Big Sugar controls the levers of government in Florida.

It needs levers. Big Sugar needs control because profits depend on micromanaging rules and regulations of water pollution (think, Lake Okeechobee and toxic algae) and the operation of the nation's most complex flood control system whose primary purpose is keeping sugar farms dry in wet season and wet in dry season. Regulatory and political capture is Big Sugar's game, pure and simple.

Oh. There is one more season that matters to Big Sugar: election season.

This cycle is exceptional because a massive toxic algae outbreak in Lake Okeechobee is focusing voters' attention on Sugar's role in ways that could upset its best laid political plans.

So Big Sugar is lashing out at the group taking a stand against a rigged system at the root of the toxic algae outbreak. That group is Bullsugar, whose purpose is to call out the fakery and to direct public attention toward real solutions to protect Florida's environment and jobs.

By its very name, Bullsugar elicits anxiety from the polluters it shadows.

In 2016, Big Sugar suffered a stinging defeat in the Republican presidential primary. It bet the farm on US Senator Marco Rubio to be the Republican nominee for president. That investment came a cropper. (By the time John C. Hotten published his A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words in 1859, the phrase has come to refer to any failure rather than the specific failure to stay on a horse: "Cropper, 'to go a cropper', or 'to come a cropper', that is, to fail badly." In the word of our president, Sad!)

Pepe Fanjul, of the billionaire Florida Crystals empire, was first to hug Rubio when he left the Miami stage after his campaign debut. From there, it was all downhill. Rubio's shellacking by Trump shocked political operatives who calibrate Big Sugar's risk. The reason Rubio did so poorly among Republicans, garnering scarcely 25% of the primary vote, was his pathetic response to a massive toxic algae outbreak on both coasts -- the same kind that is occurring today.

If the toxic algae outbreak was the wild card in a normally predictable game, what surprised Big Sugar even more was Bullsugar's role. The grass roots start-up organized in Martin County on Florida's east coast. Its staff quickly mobilized hundreds of thousands of supporters through social media.

The role of toxics in Rubio's thrashing by Trump in the GOP primary generated practically no attention in the mainstream media. Nor did Democrats wake up to the phenomenon in the subsequent US Senate race; an election that Rubio handily won.

Big Sugar did not immediately adapt to this unwelcome development in its careful communication strategy. But it has.

State Representative Matt Caldwell, campaigning to be the next Agriculture Secretary, recently attacked Bullsugar in Sunshine State News: "From the base vulgarity of your name to the harassment and abuse hurled toward fellow Floridians to the constant stream of twisted misinformation spread to the public, your organization has all the hallmarks of a hate group." (Read more about Sunshine State News, here.) Caldwell's claim is a laughable, sad commentary of our current politics.

Big Sugar picked Caldwell from the GOP bench as an up-and-com'er through his role unseating the only Republican county commissioner in Florida with the guts to call out the rigged system that permits Big Sugar to pollute Florida waterways at the expense of taxpayers. In 2012 Ray Judah, a long-serving and popular official in Collier County was blind-sided by a television ad campaign later revealed to be organized by a political committee headed by Caldwell, resident of an adjacent county. US Sugar Corporation was the sole benefactor and spent a million dollars in the dark money blitz. It worked, and Caldwell was on his way to calling Bullsugar a "hate group".

In this election cycle, Big Sugar's political plans are clear. It is spending hundreds of thousands -- if not, millions -- to push term-limited Gov. Rick Scott into the US Senate seat held by the Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. Although Nelson has always been respectful of Big Sugar, Scott is an energetic ally who proved his chops by bending state authority even more closely to Big Sugar's will. Scott, of course, is a friend of Trump. To succeed Scott, Big Sugar is pushing Adam Putnam -- now Agriculture Secretary -- to be governor. Big Sugar never had a better friend than Putnam, whose family wealth derived from a land sale to the state at an inflated value compared to its appraisal. To succeed Putnam, Big Sugar has thrown its weight behind Caldwell to be the next Agriculture Secretary.

Whether Big Sugar's election plans are a golden ticket or a trap door depends on Florida voters in November. Informed voters should take a close look at the results of the Bullsugar candidate questionnaire, the one that is getting Matt Caldwell and Sunshine State News all hopped up, because the only way out of this rigged system is to loosen the grip of the polluters who refuse to clean up their pollution at the source and instead force taxpayers to pay and pay and pay.