Thursday, May 14, 2009

Are You A Florida Voter?

I just got this in my inbox. It's also a group that I work with pretty regularly.

Please Call Gov. Charlie Crist now and ask him to VETO SB 2080...

When you call...tell the staff member your name, city, phone number
and let him know how you feel about HB 2080. He has till Saturday
(or earlier) to sign or VETO this bill. If we can create enough
opposition, it may be possible he will NOT sign the bill.

Senate Bill 2080. It is "stealthy amendment that could keep the
public and government regulators from challenging developers seeking
to tap the state's waters. " See article below:

What we think: Fit for a veto

May 9, 2009

It's maddening to review some of the ridiculous bills legislators
consider important enough to send to the governor for his signature.

This year's poster child? A measure permitting state universities to
build on-campus columbariums to house the ashes of alumni, in
perpetuity, of course.

Meanwhile, important stuff that would benefit the living gets buried.
Stuff like a commuter-rail system for Central Florida. A requirement
that utilities generate 20 percent of their energy from clean,
renewable sources by 2020. And a bill allowing red-light cameras in
intersections statewide.

It almost makes us want to urge Gov. Crist to sweep the alumni ashes
bill under the rug just to send lawmakers the message that they
should stop wasting their time on things like the hereafter and work
harder on the here and now.

But the veto pen isn't there to make such a point. This year, it's
there to kill some particularly unworthy measures that Florida's
legislators thought deserved their approval, but that would do the
state considerably more harm than good.

Two stand out: the well-publicized package that coddles the property
insurance industry and a stealthy amendment that could keep the
public and government regulators from challenging developers seeking
to tap the state's waters.


The governor that championed needed reforms of the state's property
insurance industry went missing this year, hiding from the horde of
lawmakers - many from his own party - who eagerly wanted to do the
underwriters' bidding.

They did that and more, most appallingly by removing the authority of
regulators to determine when rate hikes requested by large companies
are excessive.

All that regulators would be able to do is determine whether those
companies' rates are too low. Right. Like that'll be something
they'll have plenty of opportunities to evaluate.

Mr. Crist needs to reassert himself and the interests of homeowners
by vetoing the insurance reforms rollback. Lawmakers did need to
reduce some of the state's risk, and they agreed to trim the size of
Florida's Catastrophe Fund by $2 billion a year. The fund provides
the industry with cheap backup insurance it needs to pay claims after
catastrophic storms.

But lawmakers also should have capped the price of backup insurance
sold privately. Their failure to do that could result in insurers
passing on the exorbitant cost of backup insurance to policyholders
- the very thing that sent rates soaring two and three years ago.

Water managers

Senate Bill 2080 looks fairly placid, from a distance. It requires
that regional water managers provide Florida-friendly landscaping
ordinances for local governments to use as a model. Fine, as far as
that goes.

But wade beyond the thickets and there's a carnivore waiting. The
bill would work to effectively devour the authority of water
management district board members. They would no longer vote on
requests to withdraw water from the aquifer, rivers, lakes and other

Instead, the districts' executive directors would make those
decisions - and largely out of view of the public, which now is
allowed to attend regularly scheduled board meetings.

If that isn't enough to make Mr. Crist, Florida's environmental
governor, break out his veto pen, here's the kicker: Board members
get to weigh in only if the district's executive director decides the
permit is harmful and denies it.

In other words, developers who are denied withdrawals would get a
last chance to plead their case to board members.

Hardly what the public needs.

Copyright © 2009, Orlando Sentinel

Submitted by Save Our Aquifer
PO Box 251, Cocoa Fla. 32923

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm Not Very Original This Week

As you are probably also experiencing, life is a bit much right now. Though the news that last month's unemployment wasn't as horrific as the past few months and that our trade deficit isn't as horrific as it once was (only because nobody's got a job and so they ain't buyin useless shit anymore) and the news that our economy has already hit bottom, has helped with the news of yesterday that social security, medicaid, and medicare are almost depleted. Damn it we should have let all those rich people put their social security into the stock market!! That would have solved everything! Damn liberals.

Anyways, as I am on my way to Florida for some sunshine time and all that work crap I've got to do, I'm not very original this week. So I'm stealing words from somebody else. Rachel Carson. Let's hear it for the women of the movement! hollaaaaa!

Silent Spring

"We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road - the one 'less traveled by' - offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth.

The choice, after all, is ours to make. If, having endured much, we have at last asserted our 'right to know', an if knowing, we have concluded that we are being asked to take senseless and frightening risks, then we should no longer accept the counsel of those who tell us that we must fill our world with poisonous chemicals; we should look about and see what other course is open to us.

A truly extraordinary variety of alternatives to the chemical control of insects is available. Some are already in use and have achieved brilliant success. Others are in the stage of laboratory testing. Still others are little more than ideas in the minds of imaginative scientists, waiting for the opportunity to put them to the test. All have this in common: they are biological solutions, based on understanding of the living organisms they seek to control, and of the whole fabric of life to which these organisms belong. Specialists representing various areas of the vast field of biology are contributing - entomologists, pathologists, geneticists, physiologists, biochemists, ecologists - all pouring their knowledge and their creative inspirations into the formation of a new science of biotic controls."

I recently hosted an event at the capitol about a common trend, the building of schools on or near sources of pollution. (no federal law against it) And I met a bunch of women from EPA. One of which had been there since the very beginning. Since the day the doors opened. I was amazed and astonished. How could that be? How could you believe in an organization that deeply that you could continue to be part of it through the political manipulation that we have all seen? The woman with her said that I should consider working for them. That this is a good time to get in there. And the woman who had been there since the beginning said, we need activists. We need her to do her work.

Alright before I get down to my real job, read this article on how the Tennessee sludge spill is being cleaned up, kind of.

Lata bitches.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Goodmorning, Poetry!

Goodmorning, Poetry!
Poetry, how-do-you-do?
I'm worrying along -
So I come to worry you.

Ida Ruth Griffin, age 12, Harmony, Carthage

I am Mississippi fed,
I am Mississippi bred,
Nothing but a poor, black boy.

I am a Mississippi slave,
I shall be buried in a Mississippi grave,
Nothing but a poor, dead boy.

Fight on Little Children

by Edith Moore, age 15, McComb

Fight on little children, fight on
You know what you're doing is right.
Don't stop, keep straight ahead
You're just bound to win the fight

Many hardships there will be;
Many trials you'll have to face.
But go on children, keep fighting
Soon freedom will take hardship's place.

Sometimes it's going to be hard;
Sometimes the light will look dim.
But keep it up, don't get discouraged
Keep fighting, though chances seem slim.

In the end you and I know
That one day the facts they'll face.
And realize we're human too
That freedom's taken slavery's place.

Our Largest and Smallest Cities
by Nettie Rhodes, age 14, Jackson

Large town, small towns,
Vacant cities, busy cities
sports coats, nightgowns,
laughs, cries, signs, pities

All these build our largest and smallest cities.
Candy bars, grocery stores
hold the hearts of our gay kiddies
and the gossip of our neighborhood biddies.

Loud cries, mumbled noises,
Teen-agers, small kid's voices,
Freedom-riders, Jackson Advocate subscribers,
neighborhod people, political bribers.

Large towns, small towns,
Vacant cities, busy cities,
sports coats, nightgowns,
laughs, cries, sighs, pities,
All these build our largest and smallest cities.

Who Am I?
by Sandra Jo-Ann O., Hattiesburg

Who am I, let me see,
Am I a dog or am I a bee?
Am I a maniac who's out of her mind?
I think I know and I'll tell you
I'm not the girl I used to be.

Who am I? I have to know
So I may tell it wherever I go.
I'll tell it to men of all the land,
I'll tell it to kids who shake my hand,
That I am free and it shows
To everyone over all the land.

Who am I? I'll tell you now,
I'll have to find words, but I'll tell it somehow.
I am a Negro who fought her best
To earn her freedom and deserves to rest.
So do as I did, and you'll be free,
Just don't hit back and you'll win
Your rest.

I Am A Negro

by Roslyn Wterhouse, age 11, Meridian

I am a Negro and proud of its color too,
If you were a Negro wouldn't you?
I am glad of just what I am now
To be and to do things I know how.
I'm glad to be a Negro so happy and gay
To grow stronger day by day.
I am Negro and I want to be free as any other child,
To wander about the house and the woods and be wild.
I want to be Free, Free, Free.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Swine Flu or Is This A Fucking Joke? Part I

I know that some of you laughed at my dusty collection of Foreign Affairs on my flickr page, but it came in handy this week. I remembered reading an interesting article about pandemics a couple years ago. So I dusted them off and found the journal I was looking for dated July/August 2005. It actually came out two months or so before the whole SARS thing scared the shit out of us.

As I was flipping through the pages I found all my highlighted sentences helpful in picking some things that has been helpful in letting me wrap my head around this new animal-human flu panic.

One thing that made me feel a little better was that "more than 60 percent of the 1,415 infectious diseases currently known to modern medicine are capable of infecting both animals and humans". Most of these diseases originated in animals but crossed over to infect people. One such disease is Monkey Pox - ha ha. The others are called anthropozoonotic and they originated in humans but can infect animals, such as human herpes virus, tuberculosis and measles.

Another thing that makes my anxiety go down a bit are the statistics surrounding the annual flu season we all endure. According to the CDC, 200,000 Americans are hospitalized and 38,000 die from the flu each year. This is a 0.008 mortality rate. This is also much higher than what we are seeing right now. Though those affected did double yesterday.

The article, "The Next Pandemic?", by Laurie Garrett goes on to discuss the details in the 1976 Swine Flu. It started with an 18 year old Private at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Private David Lewis collapsed during a forced march in basic training in a brutal winter. No other soldiers died but health officials panicked. It was widely believed that influenza appeared in cycles with especially lethal forms surfacing at relatively predictable intervals. 1918-19, 1957-58, and 1968-69. So in 1976, scientists believed we were overdue and began taking aggressive steps, including a congressional appropriation of $135 million for the production of sufficient amounts of a vaccine to inoculate every man, woman, and child in the US. A response stated directly to the American people in a press conference by President Ford.

The US government even went so far to pass a law stating that it would take liability for those companies that produce a vaccine in the short amount of time that President Ford was asking, which was April to early Fall. The article doesn't list who the companies are that produced the vaccine (Floegel- any thoughts?), but four months was not enough time to produce a quality vaccine and there were immediate side effects, including the neurologically debilitating Guillian Barre Syndrome and the US government ended up paying claimants around $90 million. Of course, as we all know now, the 'catastrophic flu pandemic' never materialized and the head of the CDC resigned, with Congress never again considering to assume liability of pharmaceutical companies during a potential epidemic.

I keep thinking why does this happen. Why are we having surges in monster infectious diseases. Is it just a natural cycle, you know like climate change? Isn't that what happened before we knew to wash our hands or was able to pick up some cherry blossom scented anti-bacterial soaps? We are a civilized world after all. Though I have been sneezed on in a metro car, like seriously sneezed on, like my neck where the dude sneezed on me was damp. It was digesting.

Here comes industrial agriculture (industrial ag): Liz can tell you about the importance of eating locally and making your own baby food. She is our new slow food guru. But I want to talk specifically about the connection between industrial agriculture, increased use of toxic chemicals, and why we have superbugs that can mutate faster than you can brush your teeth, which means that going to the hospital is increasingly meaning you are sicker when you leave than when you arrive.

We all know the bird flu, avian flu, or scientifically known as H5N1. Where were the poultry industry's public relations firms in 2005? The main reason that bird flu, sorry, H5N1 began to develop was because of the migratory patterns of East Asian birds. First, bird flu is usually found in aquatic birds like ducks and geese without any harm. As the birds migrate, they pass the virus to domestic birds, like chickens. It has been common for centuries that Chinese farmers have chickens, ducks, and pigs together in small pens surrounding their homes, which greatly increases the chance of contamination. So, migrating birds that travel from Indonesia to Siberia are forced to land an search for sustenance in city parks and industrial sites, which means that the chickens in the nearby industrial ag park gets the H5N1.

As the demand for chicken in China has increased substantially in the past several decades and industrial poultry plants are now rivaling those in Arkansas and Georgia (without the hygienic standards), there is a greater chance that contaminated chickens are being served by the street vendors and high end dining places alike.

Lots of animals, small places, increased demand for food that is not native your community, more diseases.

Here is a paragraph I can not paraphrase and add snarky remarks to. I'm just not that smart at 9am on a bus to NYC on a Sunday morning after a great hike in PA.

"Influenza viruses contain eight genes, composed of RNA and packaged loosely in protective proteins. Like most RNA viruses, influenza reproduces sloppily (ha ha); its genes readily fall apart, and it can absorb different genetic material and get mixed up in a process called reassortment. When influenza successfully infects a new species - say pigs - it can reassort, and may switch from being an avian virus to a mammalian one. When that occurs, a human epidemic can result. The transmission cycles and the constant evolution are key to influenza's continued survival, for were it to remain identical year after year, most animals would develop immunity, and the flu would die out. This changing form explains why influenza is a seasonal disease. Vaccines made one year are generally useless the following."

That paragraph however is a rather limited view on the situation given the amount of chemicals we pump into our bodies and the environment on a regular basis. Our body burden is changing how viruses reassort.

I discussed with you a book that I read not too long ago called Good Germs, Bad Germs. Some people over at Seventh Generation suggested I read it and when I did I realized just how important my great aunt's saying was after all these years. Everybody should eat a little dirt everyday. Or something of the sort. There is a really interesting historical significance on eating dirt in the south that I would love to share with you, but I'm trying to stay focus -- Swine Flu, is this a fucking joke!?!

Anyways, Good germs, Bad germs is an excellent book that will help us better understand why we are having superbugs that can't be killed by the science we know today and why right now one of the only solutions public health officials can come up with to end the Swine Flu is for every country to have on stock two sets of medications. One that is used until right before there are signs of adaptation and then a second to wipe out the virus completely. Given the varying economic and societal situations in the world's countries, it seems rather unlikely that this is possible. I mean, according the Children's Defense Fund, over 9 million children in the US are uninsured, which is one in nine. How can we stop an worldwide pandemic when we can't ensure basic health care to the children living in one of the richest countries?

As I'm scheduled to complete my latest book Letters to Mississippi on this bus and hand it over to the boy for reading, I need to get on that. I'll come back atchya, with some more chemical, industrial ag, superbugs, analysis later on. Probably not until later in the week (maybe on my bus ride back to the district).

But I do want to stress the importance of looking at the problems we face as a nation in a holistic way. Even if you never leave your swanky neighborhood and wade through a creek in rural PA, you are more connected to your environment than you think. And I hope that when you listen to the news about swine flu you don't reach for the antibacterial soaps and the lysol, because that is huge part of why we have superbugs like this in the first place.

Take care.
Renee Claire