On Marco Island: Independent Reporting, Documenting Government Abuses, Exposing the Syndicate, Historical Records of Crimes Against the Environment

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Educational Obsolescence

The state of Florida, via your governor, has substantially cut back funding to colleges and universities. These drastic cuts have forced all Florida institutions of higher learning to curtail many programs and reduce staff. In fact, the largest and best university in Florida, Florida International University (no, not FSU and UF for you football fans) had to eliminate 23 degree programs, six research centers, and 38 faculty members. The largest public school system in Florida, Miami-Dade Public Schools, is debating proposals to dismiss more than 2,100 employees and close many schools. The Collier country school district is in a similar financial boat.

One could effectively argue that reducing funds for schools in Florida is a good thing. Florida public schools (K-12) consistently rank 48 out of the 57 states (in deference to our next president). Florida universities, aside from FIU, are great party schools, produce good football teams and a plethora of viruses (lawyers). Considering these facts in conjunction with the avalanche of tax payer dollars that has gone to public schools, seemingly for naught, cutting back funding seems like a good thing. But is it?

Reducing funds to educational institutions and forcing them to “tighten their belts” is an utterly irresponsible, incredibly naïve and capriciously politically motivated shenanigans. For the most part, Florida educational institutions are clueless on how to be frugal, on how to optimize services and on how to eliminate bureaucracy. Hence, eliminating funds cold turkey is like denying a life-long smoker of cigarettes and saying, “hey, just stop smoking.”

But here is another angle worth considering. Who cares and who needs education anyway? Seriously, when it comes to public policy, does being educated – meaning, the ability to learn – really matter? It doesn’t seem like it.

Take the national “debate” du jour. The energy (lack of) policy in this country is atrocious. The talking heads on all sides of the debate (why it’s a debate at all is a mystery) spew out “facts” and spins that nearly in totality are devoid of a scientific base but are replete with sound-bite “facts.” For proof, look at (post taking Dramamine) the ethanol-based “flex-fuel” whale-sized SUVs migrating on the highways. But yet, a decision by osmosis will be made, and off we go into the realm of $6 per gallon of gas, $3 per tomato (from Mexico of course), and a carbon footprint tax by the end of next year.

And yet another example, consider the noise on the island. The syndicate effectively convinced the majority that sewers were needed based on a mix of lies, pseudo-facts (“there be fecal in the canals”), taken out of context politically motivated studies, non-existent governor proclamations and of course threats. By the time a very few of us did the research and proved that no such fecal contamination – or trace thereof – existed or could ever exist, and the Florida Keys study proved the pollution was from the shallow injection wells and the cesspools, and we received confirmation from the governor’s office that he never proclaimed anything about the sewer project, the fix was in.

Today, the same idiocy prevails – the new bridge, the bridge toll, owning our own power grid or power plant (hope it’s a nuclear one …), and invariably our own international airport – are issues being “debated.” All courtesy of junk “science” suffused with spin and packaged with threats and slurs. The pols in elected and non-elected office are for the most part clueless when dealing with the complexities of power grids and engineering, so they rely on “staff” and those who benefit from perpetuating the iron triangle. Relying on citizens with expertise, especially those that they disagree with – a true sign of objectivity and interest – is not in their mindset or allowed by their handlers.

This author recalls with humorous indifference to the days when being denigrated for raising the indisputable facts of the toxicity related to the dewatering, and the asbestos dumping. The error, in retrospect, was introducing the facts as supported by references, when nothing would have stemmed the tide of the syndicate’s bent on implementing their plan for the island. Ergo, education matters not.

As with the nascent global warming religion, the “debate” – why there is also a debate on this issue is more of a mystery – centers not around science, but on money and spin (sound familiar Marco Island?). Anyone who dares to even pose a benign question as to the veracity of the “facts” supporting the man-made global climate catastrophe to come, is ridiculed, besmirched, attacked personally (sound familiar Marco Island?). Go against the mantra of the syndicate, albeit local or national, and your education is purely inconsequential, obsolete.

Educational obsolescence is part and parcel of the zeitgeist. Keep denying money to scholarly institutions in the hope that they somehow auto-morph into efficient business-like entities. Keep denying money to schools without mandating through executive decree the elimination of social engineering programs (e.g., teaching condom use to 7th graders). Forgo the much needed decimation of the plutocracies replete with “educator administrators.” And keep complaining when you go to a fast food joint, give the thing behind the counter $10.01 for a $5.01 charge and expect something other than a deer-stuck-in-the-headlights response.

You got your reduction in property taxes. The state had to cut that shortfall from somewhere – instilling efficiency and eliminate waste is not an option for the kakistocracy at the state or local levels. Then, acknowledging that education does not seem to matter much when it comes to public policy, and since Florida education is consistently at the bottom of the barrel, perhaps your legislators came up with the brilliant conclusion that being educated matters not in effecting the best solutions for a community, state or country. The irony is that education has been rendered obsolete where it matters most.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Unintended Consequences

The State of Florida via your governor has just agreed to purchase U.S. Sugar for approximately $1.75billion. The motivation seems to be an effort to eliminate the reason Florida Bay has been dying, and the grounds for the Everglades’ related pollution and water problems.

But thank God for the law of unintended consequences.

By eliminating the country’s largest sugar producer, and one of Florida’s economic triads, the state has also eliminated one of the reasons for the United States to continue to "look the other way" as to the Cuban murderous dictatorship. With no sugar industry to protect any more, there is no reason to keep the despots in power! So ... one step in getting rid of the thugs so we can return to pre-1959 Cuba and THE world’s greatest producer of high quality sugar – where we were drowning the world in inexpensive white gold.

Next to be eliminated and another element of the triad for keeping the Cuban people enslaved – Florida tourism.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Other Cities Get It ...

(click to enlarge)

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Government Of, By and For the Businesses

For sale: America's infrastructure
Posted: June 07, 2008 1:00 am Eastern

By Henry Lamb

In the 1960s, the people of Florida borrowed a bunch of money to build a highway from Naples to the East Coast. To repay the construction costs, the state charged a small fee to each traveler who used the road. The idea worked so well that in the 1980s, they borrowed another bunch of money to widen the road to four lanes to meet interstate highway standards. The toll was increased to repay the construction costs.

The construction costs are now repaid. What should be done about the toll fee?
A. Eliminate it, since the debt is repaid.
B. Reduce it to an amount sufficient to pay maintenance costs.
C. Increase the toll for 50 to 75 years, to line the pockets of private investors.

The correct answer, of course, is "C," according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

Chicago built a toll-way; it brought $1.83 billion, leased for 99 years to a foreign financial group.

Indiana built a toll-way; it brought $3.85 billion, leased for 75 years to the same foreign financial group.


Texas wants to build a toll-way; the offer is $7.2 billion for 50 years.

Governments are going berserk looking for highways, bridges and other municipally-owned revenue-producing infrastructure that may be leased to private operators for big bucks up front. Government officials praise the idea as the perfect answer to budget shortfalls. The idea is sort of like manna from heaven for the current officials; they get tons of cash to spend, but will be long gone when the people who are paying the bill begin to want accountability from their government officials.

This idea of selling off (long-term leasing) of American infrastructure is fundamentally flawed.

In Florida, the toll-way up for grabs is "Alligator Alley," a 78-mile stretch of I-75 between Naples and the East Coast. At a toll of $2.50 per vehicle, the construction costs have been paid, and the road is now generating annual profits of about $23 million. Why should users of the toll-way be forced to continue paying the toll now that the construction debt is paid? If any toll can be justified, the amount should not exceed the amount needed to pay for maintenance.

The state is not considering reducing the toll; the state is chomping at the bit to negotiate a long-term lease that will surely increase the toll. When the state built the road, it acted as trustee for the people who paid for the road. Now, rather than acting as trustee for the people who rightfully own the road, the state government claims ownership and wants to force the very people who have paid for the road to now pay an additional fee for using it.

Back when Alligator Alley was first proposed, the elected officials of Collier and Broward Counties had to approve it, and pledge their county's portion of the fuel tax to the retirement of the construction debt. The Collier County commissioners sent their chairman, Tom Henning, to a recent meeting scheduled by Florida transportation officials. The message he brought in behalf of the county's elected officials: "We are opposed to leasing Alligator Alley." About 100 area residents cheered in agreement.

This decision by the county's elected representatives of the people who paid for the project should end the discussion. But it will not.

It will take a major rebellion by the people to prevent this gross injustice. The people have formed the Citizens Transportation Coalition to mount that rebellion. But it will take more than the people of Collier and Broward Counties to stop this money-grab by Florida's government.

People in every state should be concerned. At least 14 states have now passed legislation that allows governments to sell or lease infrastructure for which the people have already paid. Every sale/lease deal of American infrastructure, whether to foreign or domestic private financiers, forces the people to pay again and again and again for the privilege of using their own infrastructure.

The elected and appointed officials who promote the sale of infrastructure know they are likely to be out of office when the toll rate begins to rise. In Indiana, for example, the deal negotiated required the toll rates to remain relatively static for the first 10 years, before rapid increases were authorized. Who can be held accountable then?

Despite all claims to the contrary made by government officials that they will protect the interests of the toll road users, there can be no lease deal that will not penalize the users and force them to pay again and again for using the road the road they have already bought.

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