When the Clean Water Act was passed by Congress forty years ago under a Republican administration, I was a clueless college undergraduate at Yale. Laws belonged to those serious looking law school students around the corner, perhaps including two I may have passed crossing the quad: Hilary Rodham and Bill Clinton. The environment? It seemed good to me. If I had been questioned, I could have testified, walking with school friends to the banks of the Providence River in Rhode Island to watch the river in flames like the Cuyahoga in Ohio, that triggered the calls for federal clean water standards. Read the rest of this entry »
Why this matters is simple. Presupposing the failure of government regulatory authority virtually guarantees it will happen. The notion that government cannot do anything that private industry can do better, cheaper, and faster including protecting public safety, health and welfare has spread its toxic roots far and wide. Florida provides more than its share of examples of government-designed-to-fail.
These didn’t happen overnight. DCA was caught up in a thirty year war against governmental regulation of land use and the environment. Initially, the agency’s work enjoyed broad bipartisan support. By the time the agency was frog-marched to the platform and guillotined by the Florida legislature and an indifferent governor, it had already mostly surrendered to “regulatory capture” by special interests. When the final blow was delivered, no one was quite so surprised as the insiders to watch decades of history simply wash away. Read the rest of this entry »
(Counterpunch, March 20, 2012) At two in the morning, the sleek, modern airport at New Delhi hummed with activity. Most travelers pointed westbound to European capitals and from there, mid morning connections to the Americas.
What piqued my curiosity at that ungodly hour: airport security worked at half pace while the crowds piled behind. For the most part, India’s bureaucratic indifference was far from sight during a three-week visit.
Here at the moment of departure, anxious lines pushed and security responded with its own laws of gravity, and I felt the curious pull of the familiar, something that reminded me of home. You know what they say about Schenectady: it’s not hell but you can see it from there?
The places that hold us, whether in Uttar Pradesh or New York, have their tell tales. For example, in Florida –my home–, the sign of the eternal, damning wheel is the predisposition of bureaucrats to work hand-in-glove with politicians and lobbyists to destroy the Everglades. Read the rest of this entry »
Marco Rubio has been in the US Senate nearly nine months. After a nine month gestation, last Sunday the junior senator from Florida emerged as tidy proof on “Face the Nation’.
Face The Nation host Bob Schaeffer led off with a question about the GOP stance on raising the debt ceiling. Rubio returned with spin: it is a problem of spending, not the debt ceiling. Spending cuts, spending cuts, spending cuts. Even rating agencies like Standard & Poors say so. Schaeffer asked the senator’s view of a compromise deal to allow the president to increase the debt ceiling without action by either party. Rubio stuck to his point: “it’s not about the debt ceiling, it’s about debt.”
Rubio used the phrase “credible solution” to the debt problem several times, including the rating agency’s emphasis on a credible solution in its recent report. When Schaeffer tried, twice– including a Rubio clip from a Fox News interview– to get the junior senator to acknowledge that not everything in the economy is President Obama’s fault, Rubio pushed back.
“People want to know when they will have a job. Until America has a credible solution to its debt problem, people will be afraid to invest in America.” Here, Schaeffer could have asked: name one investor who wouldn’t create a job in the US because of the national debt. Read the rest of this entry »
We have reached the nadir of the dumbing down of American politics. The path was cleared by ideologues: and why should the devastation not be delivered by the conservative right holding the Book of to their American flag lapels? I am half-tempted to go along with the Ron Paul wing of the Republican Party and let August 2nd come and go: just like Y2K right? (On Jan 1, 2000 apocalypse was predicted when computers would all shut down or short circuit because they had not been programmed to accept the millenium date. If you don’t know what happens on August 2nd, stop reading now.)
Republican brainiacs believe they can pin “this budget thing” on President Obama and the Democrats, but if there is no resolution to the budget and debt ceiling crisis, expect a stock market crash of at least 20 percent off the bat. No one thought home values could be worth only half of what they were, five years ago. Let the GOP masterminds like Karl Rove explain how it is the Democrats’ fault our savings turn out to be worth only half of what they were.
That the Republican Party turned into a party of unrecognizable extremists didn’t happen overnight. For those who thought Grover Norquist was just trying to shrink the size of government, look at the consequences of the decapitations that are working themselves out in slow motion. Turn, for example, to Florida’s GOP wrecking crew in the House of Representatives.
If you were too focused on Texas’ GOP initiative to save the incandescent light bulb, or the electric utilities’ decision to abandon investment to reduce man-made chemicals that cause global warming (because of regulatory uncertainty as a result of Republicans effort to kill environmental regulations), then you might have missed the Florida GOP delegations’ most recent tactic in the Holy War against the US EPA: to gut the Clean Water Act as revenge for the federal agency’s efforts (after decades of lawsuits and inaction) to clean up Florida’s filthy waters where the state refuses (thank you, Governor Barely Legal Rick Scott). Read the rest of this entry »
The conservative right deploys right-to-life as its battle cry, but when it comes to rallying against environmental pollution that is arguably a greater threat to fetuses than abortion, the right is silent. With a few exceptions, there is hardly a whisper from the pulpits about organizing to protect the unborn by rallying congregations to support tougher anti-pollution laws and candidates for public office who support them. Mercury exposure, for example, is known to cause deformities and developmental disorders. In Florida, mercury is as ubiquitous as sulfur thrown on sugar fields by billionaire farmers, flowing downstream to God knows where.
Southern Christians (I’m singling out Southern Christians, because this writer is from Florida) ought to recognize that the rights of fetuses are harmed by pollution. So why isn’t the conservative right deploying their message machinery to educate Southern Christians about the threats of environmental pollution to the unborn, especially since it is clear thatpollution is arguably a bigger threat to fetuses than abortion? Read the rest of this entry »
Drought, wildfires, floods. The first three minutes of network news is like a TV primer from the Book of Revelations. Al Gore, in Rolling Stone, was inventor of that line, but at some point in the not-so-distant future, destroyed drinking water wells in South Florida could be on Nightly News. And if Al Gore is still with us, the shot wells scattering chaos in the nation’s presidential bellweather state will not go unremarked. Florida’s threatened drinking water supply is a stark reminder of Gore’s 2000 loss in Florida. Fearing dissent in his own ranks on policies governing growth and the environment, Gore retreated. Today there is no doubt, none at all, that water management has put South Florida property owners into the path of fresh water at the price of gold or a modern Exodus. This is the dirtiest little secret in Florida and why the dying Everglades are a potent symbol of politics in America today.
For decades in Florida, elected officials supported more growth and development and agriculture than our aquifers could reasonably sustain. It is not conjecture. It is not smarmy, feel-good ethos. Within government agencies, scientists, policy makers and attorneys treaded on the subject like walking on egg shells. Early on, it was established that standing up to the destroyers on water supply or water quality issues was the fastest way to lose one’s job. Sugar billionaires, their lobbyists, builders and developers and trade associations like Miami’s Latin Builders Association had the inside track in the inside hallways of government: from the White House to the lowliest office of the county commission. It is still going on. Last week, Florida’s Jack-Ass-In-Chief Barney Bishop– the Associated Industries leader, a self-described “life-long Democrat” (who led the successful effort to dismantle Florida’s growth management agency), appeared on Fox News, calling out the U.S. EPA for “killing jobs faster than President Obama can create them”. Bishop, a carpetbagger if there ever was one, has prevailed on Florida Governor Rick Scott to push back against federal authority to regulate nutrient pollution where the state won’t: overwhelming Florida’s valuable rivers, estuaries and coastal real estate values. To round up the disaster, after so many decades, in a pithy “killing the goose that lays the golden egg” puts an unforgivable smiley face on abject corruption. Read the rest of this entry »
(Counterpunch) The Service Employees International Union gave $20,000 to the political action committee to save long-time Miami Dade county commissioner Natacha Seijas from recall and political oblivion. Seijas is facing the second recall by petition in less that three years. The Hialeah commissioner– it is well known– is the de facto chair of local government in Florida’s most populous county. She has carved out a permanent incumbency in a Cuban American district that seethes with resentment against Fidel Castro but enforces political orthodoxy with the same exact ferocity. Seijas is a battle axe in defense of untouchable fiefdoms: mainly contracts at Miami International Airport, near the end of a $4 billion rebuild that is notable for chronic cost overruns– and zoning for development in farmland and outside the urban development boundary. Read the rest of this entry »
(Counterpunch) It is hard to face the close of 2010 with an admission. I was wrong. For more than twenty years as an environmentalist and writer, I harbored the expectation that progress would come. But I did not believe it would come because we had somehow persuaded decision-makers it was time, finally, to abandon the Chamber of Commerce values that crashed the economy into a ditch. I believed that once in the ditch—an inevitability, from witnessing so much bad policy and bad results the past two decades—that people would awake. Rise and Sing!
I was wrong. I had been right about the threats. I started looking in the early 1970s in Florida, through a watery lens of water only a few feet deep covering hundreds of square miles in Florida Bay, the tail end of the Everglades ecosystem. By the late 1980′s, the magnificent efflorescence of nature had been severely injured by repetitive algae blooms. Even then, scientists were chasing changes happening faster than baselines could be anchored with facts. My small layman’s window on marine life in two feet of water, hosting crustaceans and shrimp and sea grass billowing out in glorious creatures from rays to sharks and tarpon and the whole coral reef, encapsulate the whole realm: oceans and a warming planet. Read the rest of this entry »
(Counterpunch) Florida has three industries: tourism, agriculture, and construction/development. These industries are bound together by land speculation, avoidance of environmental regulations, and gaming buyers. The hucksterism expanded radically in the past decade to include the idea that the environment is protected by existing regulations and a (bloated, inefficient) bureaucracy. What is true is that environmental agencies are so brow-beaten by Growth Machine ideologues, a significant percentage of agency time and energy is spent either fending off attacks or strategizing how to avoid them. Florida is the manifest example of government designed to fail; pressured from outside and from within. Appointees to lead environmental agencies must pass the litmus test. In Florida, they are then charged with channeling missions toward allowing foxes in henhouses, opening the gates at night, evening using flashlights to show them the way in. Legislators target budgets and staffing wherever government and regulations interfere with campaign contributors’ business lines. It is the Grover Norquist/ Karl Rove model, and it is poised to come back with a vengeance on November 3rd because Democrats simply failed to explain how these simple mechanics of theft ruin ordinary taxpayers degree by degree. Read the rest of this entry »