May 13, 2010

Civilization Comes To The C-9 Basin

Various stuff and chickens 261

Jeanette Jordan, president of the South Florida SPCA responded to my column on the outrages long tolerated in the C-9 Basin.

    The answer to your question about defeating blood sport in our community is “yes.”

     The thirty-year long party in the C9 basin is over for good.  The reason?  Too many people now know what is going on and are outraged by the degradation of our precious wetlands not to mention the horrific animal abuses involved in dog fighting, cock fighting and illegal slaughter.

    The first time I actually visited the C9 Basin was in July, 2009 to see with my own eyes and to document the corpse of “Linda,” a beautiful Quarter Horse mare stolen, slaughtered and burned in front of her own foal, at Stone City.  After I got over the sick feeling and shock of the dead horse and seeing her stunned, confused baby still trying to nurse on his dead mother, I looked around and wondered what woe-begotten, hideous, Third World country I had landed in.

    Up until then, South Florida SPCA had been documenting the 20+ horse carcasses showing up on our roads, byways and even in their own stalls.  Had been that is until it became too big and too dangerous for us to continue. There are some really bad actors involved in these activities.  Death threats are not something I could tolerate on behalf of my organization.

    We withdrew.  Luckily, the gauntlet was taken up by our former board member, Richard “Kudo” Couto, now founder of A.R.M (Animal Recovery Mission), by law enforcement and the many government agencies involved in cleaning up the unholy mess in the C9.

 Last, but not least, the media – local, state, national and international, print, TV, radio and Internet are all keeping an eye on the C9 Basin.  Let the evil-doers  lawyer up, demonstrate and make all the phone calls they want. The dirty little secret of the C9 Basin is out now and I have full confidence that our elected officials will not cave.

This stain on the reputation of the legal and proper agricultural businesses in our beautiful Florida will be soon be gone and with good riddance.

Another South Florida writer adds her own lament:

 Moved to West Palm Beach --  a game bird breeder poisons my oldest, sweetest dog.  Moved back to Princeton, the neighbor has eleven big dogs in cages in plain sight, tethered pit bulls, with brutal, horrific screams emanating from this little boarded up house.

The police and animal services are letting the U.S. Constitution get in their way.  Everyone shrugs while these people brutalize dogs day and night.  I run my outdoor fan to drown out their screams.

Crimes of this nature are far more damaging than property theft.  This continuous torture has taken away my freedom and my peace.  I do not know what to do. You go as far as the law allows and the criminal continues laughing

More Photos from the C-9 Basin:

Various stuff and chickens 237
And:

Various stuff and chickens 251
Various stuff and chickens 257
Various stuff and chickens 259
Various stuff and chickens 235


Posted by Fred Grimm at 11:44 AM
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May 09, 2010

A Super Lobbyist Displays His Super Ego

              This American Life, the NPR show that airs Saturday and again Sunday mornings on WLRN, this week featured a segment on the Julia Tuttle Causeway and the sex offender camp that festered in its bowels for more than two years. 

Most Miamian’s are, by now, aware of the contradictions and the ironies and the policies-gone-amok that created that mess. But the NPR show, reported by former New Times writer  Isaiah Thompson, offers a stunning performance of the self-styled super lobbyist Ron Book. It is a study in unapologetic megalomania as Book both defends the dodge logic behind the sex offender residency laws he invented and the Napoleon-like power the unelected campaign money bag man wields in this community.  It makes for stunning listening.

The link:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/407/the-bridge

Posted by Fred Grimm at 11:53 AM
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For Being Utterly Unconvincing, McCollum Slipped Rekers Another Sixty Grand

As it turns out, George Rekers, the anti-gay professor of behavior science, caught flouncing around Europe with a gay prostitute, made paid much more than $60,900 from the office of Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. Rekers provided the “expert” testimony in McCollum’s courtroom defense of Florida’s prohibition against gay adoption.  For that unconvincing expertise, he was paid a total of $120,693.

For its $120,693, the Attorney General’s office got testimony that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman found was “motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.”

The link to the Florida’s payment to its anti-gay vendor:

    http://flair.myfloridacfo.com/approot/dispub2/cvphsrch.htm

Posted by Fred Grimm at 11:29 AM
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April 28, 2010

So Much For The Florida Lobster Industry


    Commercial Fisherman Jim Higgins worries that by the time authorities figure out whether the Gulf of Mexico oil slick is truly an environmental disaster, Florida's lobster industry will be sunk.


I read your article with great interest and concern this morning. Under the " Calculating Currents " heading you stated it was too soon to measure the extent of the environmental damage. I'm a commercial lobsterman. I can tell you that we are now going into the part of the year where the spawning of spiny lobsters, Panulirus argus, is at its greatest, April through July.   
     At this time, after mating , females release their eggs into the currents. They in turn become phyllosome larvae, eggs, that are at the mercy of currents and wind for the next 9 months to a year before they go through a  metamorphosis and swim to a suitable substrate to live.    These substrates are the grassbeds of the Florida Keys. The majority of these larvae float in the Gulf of Mexico for a 9 month to a year-long period. You can imagine what will probably happen if they come into contact with this oil sheen. It's ironic that at one time lobsterman use to oil soaked leather to attract lobsters into their traps.

      Spiny lobsters are the largest fishery in the state of Florida. Numbers have already been largely diminished , in my opinion, to a herpes type virus. I think in the future your going to see that this spill will have had a catastrophic effect on this fishery.

     I agree that it is too soon to know what environmental damages have and will occur but unfortunately by the time they do figure it out it may be of little help.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 05:18 PM
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What's The Real Cost Of Offshore Drilling?

 

     Teresa Stephen wants to weigh the real cost Florida will pay for offshore oil drilling against the purported benefits.

     Several summers ago,  we spent a day at New Smyrna Beach and met a lady from Texas.  She informed us that they could not enjoy the Texas beaches as they were fouled by oil, thus the visit to Florida.  This prompted my daughter to educate Floridians about the risk of oil spills including the risk from  the real possibility of hurricanes.  My daughter began a community service project whereby she circulated printed petitions and created an on-line petition against oil drilling in Florida.  She sent letters to many House members of Florida last year when they were voting to allow oil drilling off Florida's coastline.  Our family has been actively working against oil drilling in Florida for several years on a small scale.

       My question: How much we have to lose financially from oil drilling?  Is Texas really that much better off than we are with their dirty beaches?  What really does Florida have to lose and gain financially?  If it is so great, why have they not included drilling off of Maine and other beaches whereby lobster and fish thrive?  Who really gets this oil?  Doesn't BP have the right to sell it overseas?  Many Floridians think if we drill it they will bring it on shore and the cost of gas will go down here.   

Posted by Fred Grimm at 01:08 PM
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Gulf Currents Extend The Oil Spill Threat To Florida

In my column regarding the spreading oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, I erroneously referred to the concerns  “climate” scientists  have expressed about the Gulf of Mexico currents that might carry the oil slick toward Florida. Villy Kourafalou, a research professor in the Division of  Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the  University of Miami  Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science wrote to correct me. But Professor Kourafalou had much, much more to say about the Gulf disaster.

               

    I agree with the general spirit of your article (4/27) on the Gulf oil spill. It is, indeed, true that spills happening in the Gulf have great potential to influence the South Florida coastal areas. I am quite  amazed that the media have not mentioned by name the elephant in the room, namely the Gulf Stream. As an oceanographer, I feel we scientists have failed to share some of the quite relevant knowledge on the Gulf offshore drilling issue.

     However, I would like to bring to your attention a quite erroneous reference to climate scientists addressing the prediction of the oil spill. Climate prediction has NOTHING to do with the time scales we care about for this problem. You should refer to "ocean prediction" where  models run in real time, integrating available data and providing predictions of ocean circulation for the next few days (much like what  the weather service does for the atmosphere).

    We have a number of such tools available in the Gulf of Mexico, going from global to regional to coastal models, increasing in model resolution etc. Unfortunately, sustained operations for coastal models of high resolution are not in place, which is exactly what is needed for a detailed prediction required in this case. But the regional models can give a good framework  for the needed operations.

    Below I offer you a brief statement on the oceanographic background that is relevant to your story.

    Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico sounds irrelevant to the Gulf coasts. Floridians appear relieved that the new zones are far from the Florida beaches. However, the Gulf interior is well connected to shelf and coastal areas in the Gulf, including the Florida Keys reefs and beaches from Miami to West Palm, through the Loop Current/Florida. Current branches of the Gulf Stream.

    These currents change within days or weeks and large recirculating features (eddies) travel along them. The eddies act as carriers of various substances, moving them relatively quickly at great distances from the Gulf interior toward the shelf and coastal areas.

    The Florida Keys and the beaches from Miami to West Palm are particularly vulnerable, due to their proximity to the Florida. Current and eddies in the narrow Straits of Florida. The narrow shelf also plays a role, with shelf topography causing the eddies to break apart and deliver the substances, which can be good (like fish larvae and nutrients) or bad (like pollutants).

The debate on "offshore"  drilling in the Gulf should bring oceanography on board. Models of ocean prediction are already in place, assimilating data in real time and providing a wealth of information on these processes. Any exploration of marine resources needs scientific support to management in tandem with  sustained ability of rapid response to environmental hazards.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 11:58 AM
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April 26, 2010

Doctors, Even Irresponsible Doctors, Regarded As Gods

    John Ryan, a longtime critic of the pharmaceutical industry's penchant for peddling psychotropic drugs for unapproved uses -- including dispensing adult psychotropics to children -- responded to my column about the state's hesitancy to take action against the doctor who prescribed the apparently fatal cocktail of drugs for 12-year-old Denis Maltez. (John is a retired hardware and software engineer, currently an adjunct math professor living in Las Cruces, New Mexico.)

      Your article points out a problem that those of us in the anti-psycho/pharmaceutical-complex movement have.  People hold doctors in high esteem and are very deferent to them.  They are almost considered gods.  People are skeptical of criticism of any doctor.

       The State of Florida rightly went after the Rainbow Ranch and quickly suspended its license.  Yet, as you stated, over-medication of psychotropic drugs killed Deniz Maltez.  For that, Dr. Kaplan is responsible, yet he continued to “treat“ 800 children on the Medicaid program for about one month shy of three years.

      The State Medical Board could have suspended Dr. Kaplan’s medical license, but all they did was suspend him from the Medicaid program.  I don’t doubt that at some later date Dr. Kaplan will be reinstated in the Medicaid program.

      In the case of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley in Massachusetts, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji of Tufts University Medical Center temporarily had her license suspended, and was given a leave of absence with pay. But after the trials in which Rebecca’s mother and father were convicted of second degree murder, and in which Dr. Kifuji was granted immunity from prosecution for her testimony, Dr. Kifuji’s license was reinstated, and she was reinstated to the TUMC staff.  She is now practicing pediatric medicine again.         Dr. Kifuji prescribed a cocktail of psychotropics for Rebecca based on what the girl’s mother told her.  She only examined Rebecca once.

     And that arrogant ass Dr. Kaplan has the chutzpah to say that “nothing I did caused that boy’s death,” or words to that effect.        Doctors are indeed regarded as gods who have come down from Mount Olympus.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 10:54 AM
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April 22, 2010

Insurance Coverage For Home Health Care


Judy  Cannon Stierheim passed on the letter she sent to the governor decrying the failure of insurance to cover home health care, despite the potential savings in money and stress.

Dear Governor Crist:
  I could not sleep as I think about my parents and care for them now that they both have Alzheimer's.  It makes it doubly difficult, as our system of health care only caters to crisis care and not prevention in the home for the elderly.  I thought that you might like to consider something that would have many benefits on many different levels: Consider the pros and cons of proposing that within the State of Florida, homeowner's property assessment would not increase in value if they were to add on a Granny Flat in order to care for their elderly parents....quarters for the parents or parents-in-law, thus giving an inducement for people to make plans to look after their elderly parents in advance of the crisis events in which many end up.  So many people live day to day in stress mode, worrying what is happening to my mother or father in their home alone, or in the nursing home; are they being ill treated? etc. etc. Our insurance system does not give allowances to pay for nursing care in the home and only covers hospital and doctor visits, which in my humble opinion is a very expensive system based on crisis events resulting from lack of preventive care in the home.  I would propose that if a portion of a nurse/care giver's expenses was covered by our insurance for the elderly in their own home, it would be a much more sensible, cost effective and a humane system that puts the patient first.   Now combine these two things:  no property assessment increase for quarters for the elderly parent in the family home and insurance compensation for care givers in the home and you have a win win.  Benefits: - increased opportunity for construction jobs - increased job opportunities for health care workers [independent and agency employees] - reduction in the need for nursing homes - reduction in the demand to police these facilities - reduction in the number of crisis events for the elderly, thus reducing Medicare and Medicaid costs - peace of mind for the elderly and their families - increase in the quality of life for families, strengthening of family values and it's the right thing to do    I am sure that there are many more tangible and intangible benefits that I cannot think of at this hour but know that one of the things that I admire about you is that you are intelligent and will do the right thing and not compromise your principles or the people principle in the State of Florida....Judy Cannon Stierheim

Posted by Fred Grimm at 08:02 AM
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April 19, 2010

The Cost Of Bailing Out The Bail Bond Industry

 

Forty-four years ago, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) assigned a young volunteer, just out of law school, to create Dade County's (and Florida's) first pretrial release program. “The battle continues,” Judge Tom Peterson told me by e-mail. “The commercial bail system is more flawed than ever. “

                Miami-Dade Senior Judge Peterson, who presides over bond hearings, wrote a letter to Florida State Senator Victor Crist, protesting the proposed bailout of the bail bond industry via a law that would emasculate pretrial detention.

                Dear Senator Crist,

    I have recently had the opportunity to read a document published by the bail bond "industry" entitled  "Taxpayer Funded Pretrial Release: A Failed System". The document was given to me by a fellow Judge and I assume that it is being circulated to members of the Florida Judiciary and Legislature in the context of the current Legislative Session, as a component of the "industry's" objective of further curtailing or effectively eliminating our Pretrial Services Program, administered by our Department of Corrections. The document represents nothing more than a compilation of false, erroneous and misleading information which should not go unanswered.

     My personal experience with Public Pretrial Release began in 1966 when, as a recent law school graduate, I was involved as one of the creators of Miami-Dade County' Pretrial Release Program.  Subsequent to that experience I served as prosecutor for eighteen years and Chief Assistant State Attorney to both Richard Gerstein and Janet Reno. Since 1989 I served as a Circuit Court Judge and then as a Senior Judge assigned, ironically, to bond hearings. I currently continue to serve in that capacity. I have also been an Adjunct Professor of Criminology at the University of Miami for ten years while serving as a Judge. Secured Bail and Public Bail: A Background The rationale for the creation of the public bail program in 1966 was and is that surety bonds were beyond the reach of the indigent offenders who then crowded our jails despite ample community ties and minimal prior records.

    Unable to post a surety bond they sat in jail for at least 21 days.  Were the public Pretrial Release Program in Miami-Dade County to be curtailed today, we would revert to the same jail overcrowding status that precipitated Pretrial Release programs 45 years ago.

    Today, the cost of incarcerating one inmate for one day is $130 of taxpayer dollars. Before addressing the falsehoods and errors in the bail "industry's" glossy publication, a bit of history may be helpful.  Posting financial bond has been a practice in place for centuries.  The premise has been that the posting of one's own financial assets, and their loss should the offender abscond, would provide an incentive for the accused offender to appear in court.

    Over time, presumably because of the recurring issue of the inequity of that system for indigents or others unable to pay the total amount of a bond, a new player appeared: the bailbondsman. For a fee of ten percent of the bond (the premium) and collateral for the remaining 90% (deed to a house or other security - which represents the genesis of the term "secured" release), the accused defendant was released to the bondsman who, in turn, was and is backed by an insurance company.

    Gradually it became apparent that most defendants, being indigent, could not afford secured bail and, irrespective of community ties, remained in jail. The first criminal defendant released to the new Dade Pretrial Release Program, for example, was an 18 year old Liberty City resident whose family had lived in the same home for 20 years, who had no prior record and who was charged with being a passenger in a stolen car. He had been in jail 45 days before becoming the first defendant released to the Pretrial Release Program. He was released under my supervision, was required to physically report in every Friday (which is still the program requirement) and I was required to locate him and if I could not a warrant was issued, as is the case today with both secured bail and public pretrial release.

    Today that 45 days in jail would cost the taxpayer $ 5,800. Any professionally conducted comparison of the two critical issues, (1) comparative costs of those kept in jail because of inability to post bond compared to the costs of release to a public bail program, and (2) a comparison of the non-appearance rate of those released to the Pretrial Services Program with those released on bond, will immediately demonstrate the public policy error inherent in any way further restricting those eligible for Pretrial Release.

    With respect to the second issue, I am attaching the 2009 failure to appear statistics of Miami-Dade's Pretrial Services Program which is 4 %.  I challenge Miami-Dade's bail bond "industry" to produce their own non-appearance rate. In reality they cannot.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 10:16 AM
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March 28, 2010

How To (Actually) Fix Florida Schools

Miami schools media specialist Karen Herzog, troubled by legislation that promises radical changes to teacher tenure, job security and other aspects of Florida education, has written an angry letters to Florida legislators.

   
Dear Senator Atwater, Thrasher, Diaz de La Protilla, Rudy Garcia 
        Representatives: Cretul, Gonzalez, Bovo, Fresen, Rivera, Lopez-Cantera, Flores, Zapata, Llorente, and Planas:
 
    I am appalled at what you (my elected officials) are doing to the teaching profession. As a longtime teacher who has gone back to school for three masters, I am an avid reader and a promoter of higher learning, I now feel angry, devalued, and frustrated with what is taking place in Florida from my politicians who once had teachers. I know that many of you are trying to destroy public education in this state and that goes against our US Constitution.  It is apparent that we need change some aspects of education, but not this way. We do need to get rid of our ineffective teachers, but both "bills" will do the opposite. Please do not vote for Bill 7189 or Bill 6. 
   
    We do need to make some changes, but not the not changes proposed. I am tired of politicians making these decisions without consulting the classroom teacher, who for the most part works very hard for our children. (Many teachers spend money from our own pockets for the classroom.) I can tell you as a media specialist (whose field had been destroyed both by eliminating personnel and funding), you are not looking at the whole picture clearly. Most teachers are too busy educating your children and do not have enough time to write you. But the time has come. Here are a few suggestions if you get this far in my email.
  •  Provide competitive salaries. If you do not give teachers decent pay (and that should be determined where they live and by their bargaining unit), then many bright and young teachers will not enter into the field. Who could afford to save or budget their monies or take out a mortgage with a varying pay scale year to year?  How could you tie a teacher's salary to the FCAT test? Since I live in Miami, I pay $4,000 for my homeowner's insurance on a small home  Do you pay that in your area where you live? YOU WILL CONTINUE TO SEE POOR TEACHERS IF YOU DO NOT PAY THEM ADEQUATELY AND THAT IS WHAT I AM SEEING TODAY AS A VETERN TEACHER.
  • I am evaluated every year. Work with the union and let the school districts create a better plan to get rid of the so called "ineffective teachers". SPEAK TO YOUR EXCELLENT TEACHERS around the state to GET MORE FEEDBACK!  
  • Higher degree incentives: I earned three masters:  English from FIU, an MFA from the University of Miami in Communications, and MLS (Masters in Library Science from University of South Florida because of two reasons: the incentive extra pay and the understanding that in order to be an effective teacher one must continue learning. Fresh ideas create a stimulating teacher.   
  • FCAT does not teach critical thinking skills or promote reading or for that matter, the life long learner. As a media specialist, our students are not reading. Teachers say to me: "The reason I can't come to the library as much is because I have all these FCAT prompts." And I see a difference in how our students learn because they are not readers. AND I continue to provide promotions for our students- speakers, authors, book exchanges, contests in addition to my other duties to get them to read. In addition,  for no extra money, I am working towards Florida Power Library even though I will be retiring in 3 years. 
  • Hire veteran retired teachers to help the younger teachers who are not interning or reestablish internships for all new teachers as in the past. I see very poor management skills because of this issue. 
  • Change the tax base in Florida. Property taxes are not going to provide you with quality education funding.
  • Tenure- I am observed every year. Perhaps have rotating APS and Principals or committees (again this could be your retired teachers who have been outstanding in the classroom)  to observe teachers. It is important for a teacher to develop seniority. Think about your profession...doesn't seniority matter on what committee you get assigned to...????
  • And last, but not least: Tying FCAT tests or standardized tests to teacher salaries is both unfair and abusive to the hard working teacher.   If you have children please think about this question I am about to ask you. Have all your children learned at the same time the same way? How could you allow a teacher's salary to be a part of that? Each year there are different students with different levels and multiple personal issues.  We should consider to tie your salary to the home sessions you miss and how many bills you don't pass for the state.
  • Put more money into your libraries. We are falling behind because of the budget. cuts and some libraries will never recover.  Our libraries are becoming obsolete and our students need the resources and personnel that has been eliminated because of the budget cuts. Please understand that reading is tied into the student's performance on any test you administer.

Posted by Fred Grimm at 10:16 AM
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