Courtney Nash’s Last Swim: Florida’s Lethal Waters

August 17, 2011

Courtney Nash from undated photo

(Counterpunch) Better than a torrent of words, an unnecessary death can spark new legislation protecting children. Such was the case in Florida of the Ryan White Act, approved by Congress to protect children with HIV/AIDS and Megan’s Law, a Florida law meant to protect children from sex predators. In a perfect world, this would also apply to the tragic death of Courtney Nash, who died as a result of swimming in the polluted St. John’s River. The St. John’s is polluted because Florida legislators– and now the Florida GOP congressional delegation– refuse to allow the federal government to establish rules to fix severe water pollution where the Florida has utterly failed. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Wrecking Crew: Making Florida a Haven for Polluters

July 15, 2011

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 »


Of Fetuses and the Everglades: Mercury Flows Downstream

July 6, 2011

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 »


The Salting of Florida: And Not a Drop to Drink

June 28, 2011

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 »


Environmental Catastrophe Fatigue: Tuning Out

June 28, 2010

(Counterpunch) Since the Gulf oil spill catastrophe, more than two months ago, I have dropped in regularly to the excellent online coverage by the Times-Picayunein New Orleans. Recently the web edition of the the newspaper has segregated the Gulf oil spill catastrophe into a special section, relieving readers and subscribers from a ceaseless tide of bad news. To be fair, the Times Picayune has an entire click-thru feature filled with news and information of the unfolding Gulf catastrophe, but I’m not imagining the necessity of sublimation. Americans are an “up” people. We are not weighted down by history. We are inventors, entrepreneurs and builders. The paper is responding to a phenomenon well-known to close observers: environmental catastrophe fatigue.

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The Forty Year War on the Environment: Along Came Jeb

June 24, 2010

(Counterpunch) In The New York Times, Jeb Bush offers a rare glimpse of what we have been missing since the former governor of Florida– and putative lynchpin of the Karl Rove/ Grover Norquist wing of the GOP– left office. Jeb! derides President Obama blaming his brother’s administration for the nation’s ills. “It’s kind of like a kid coming to school saying, ‘The dog ate my homework… “It’s childish. This is what children do until they mature. They don’t accept responsibility.” Read the rest of this entry »


Stage Managing a Catastrophe in the Gulf: From “Top Hat” to “Top Kill”

May 24, 2010

(Counterpunch) From the very first, the Gulf Oil Spill has been about “managing expectations”. Coast Guard Admiral Mary Landry used exactly that term in an early televised press conference about “Top Hat”, the first failed intervention to stop tens of millions of gallons of oil from leaking into the Gulf. “Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry cautioned about high expections for the containment system. ‘So, please, I have to manage your expectations and just understand that our job is not done until this well is sealed, until this well is cemented, our job is not done ’til then.'” (Crews prepare to take contraption to Gulf oil leak, AP, May 5, 2010) Read the rest of this entry »