Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Detroit: What a surprise! By Geniusofdespair

I decided to go to Detroit when I got a $66 round trip fare. How could I go wrong? Never been and I was pleasantly surprised. The food was good, their people mover was great and the Lyft drivers the best...except for the one that obviously had been smoking pot, but hey you can't get everything you want. The downtown is becoming very hip. There are trendy shops and restaurants even on the outskirts of the Downtown proper. In mid-town Selden Standard was one such place. No they are not making pizza. They are making roasted vegetables. The place was over-booked, popular. Tasty fresh food.

This is a clothing store near Selden Standard and a famous store called Shinola, where they sell bikes, leather goods, watches and shoe polish. I bought loose tea there.

Here is the rest of my trip in photos...

Michigan is freakishly close to Canada. What does that mean? My Michigan friend's mom went over to Canada to have her baby because it was cheaper. Also, during the Slave Trade they made a law that Slaves were not safe in Northern States anymore, they had to flee to Canada. Michigan's people helped many slaves to reach freedom in Canada.

Detroit has some awesome architecture. No this is is not a church unless you worship money. It was once promoted as “the Cathedral of Finance.” It is a building that has a history of finances: The Guardian Building.  They say "The Guardian Building is one of the most significant and striking Art Deco skyscrapers in the world."

Then there is the Henry Ford Rouge Factory just outside of Detroit. They build some stupid pick up truck here that everyone seems to like...the F-150.  You can tour the assembly line. I found it pretty incredible. They wouldn't let you take photos. But every worker has a yellow cord to stop the line to make further adjustments. We saw the line stop several times.
The accordion like square under the car goes up and down with each worker to make it easier to perform their task. They work 4 10 hour days. They have a half hour for lunch and I am not sure, but I think one 23 minute break.

They have a green roof over the Rouge plant. I believe it is the world's largest green roof. It was sort of brown when we were there --- you know winter. Below is the green roof and the solar panels that just heat water.

This is porous asphalt that allows the rain water to pass through the the parking lots at the Rogue Factory.  Good idea for South Florida's aquifer.

Back in Downtown Detroit.

This is Greek Town. We got there on the People Mover. It was a great area, like Little Italy in New York. We ate at the Pegasus and had an excellent meal.

Well I would say the $66 fare was worth it. Especially when Frontier Airline sent us a $25 dollar voucher because our plane was late. That brought down the round trip airfare to $41. Great way to spend a long weekend.

Also, they have one of the best Art Museums in the Country. There are two Diego Rivera Wall Murals of the assembly line at the museum and a Titian, Van Gogh and Gauguin I have never seen.  Here is "The Pickers" by Van Gogh.

The auto industry brought massive money to this area. A lot still remains that we all can appreciate, invest here.

In Alabama, sanity won by a scary thin margin ... by gimleteye

Key quote from the NY Times editorial this morning: "Some Republicans have taken to describing Mr. Moore as a type of biblical plague visited upon them. That ignores the complicity of a party in thrall to its extremists. At every pivotal moment, Mr. Moore was aided by party leaders unwilling to take a united, moral stand against him."

That statement of GOP weakness is as true of its support of Donald Trump as of Roy Moore. The Republican Party allowed extremism in service of corporate profit and greed to overwhelm logic and common sense to the point that citizens must do their own work of reversing everything that the GOP claims in order to ferret out the truth.

There will be a day of reckoning for inflicting so much chaos on the United States, on values we cherish that once made us the standard bearer of liberty around the world. Something different is happening as a result of Trump: despots and dictators are embracing his traits and tactics like calling journalists "fake". The reckoning approaches and it has a date: November 6, 2018.

Roy Moore Loses, Sanity Reigns

That Alabama’s voters chose Doug Jones for the United States Senate is cause for celebration. A triumph for decency and common sense in a state that seemed for a time at risk of abandoning both, Mr. Jones’s win narrows the Republicans’ Senate majority and delivers a deeply deserved rebuke to President Trump. It is hard to get too intoxicated by a slim victory over an atrocious candidate, a suspected sexual abuser with bigoted politics, but Alabama, the Senate and the nation will be a whole lot better off with Mr. Jones than with Roy Moore.

Alabama’s deep-red politics argued against Mr. Jones’s chances. A former federal prosecutor, Mr. Jones won convictions of two Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four girls, and no Democrat had won a Senate race in two decades. But a report in The Washington Post in which four women accused Mr. Moore of sexually harassing or abusing them as teenagers turned the race into a close contest. Mr. Jones’s victory came thanks to overwhelming support from Alabama’s African-American voters.

Mr. Jones received support from various luminaries, including Barack Obama, as well as an unexpected assist from Alabama’s senior senator, Richard Shelby, a Republican. “I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore,” Mr. Shelby said. “The state of Alabama deserves better.” Maybe it shouldn’t count as statesmanship to oppose a cartoonishly unfit candidate, but during the degrading and hyperpolitical Trump presidency, it does.

Mr. Moore’s campaign has been a shame for Alabama, one of the nation’s poorest states, whose need for better-paying jobs, health care, education and infrastructure he almost entirely neglected. He did not abandon the race even as the sex abuse charges multiplied; instead, aided by the political nihilist Steve Bannon, he doubled down, insisting the women were lying, part of a plot by the “establishment” and “fake news” to prevent him from changing Washington.

Mr. Moore was twice removed from Alabama’s Supreme Court, once for flauting a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument that he’d commissioned for the court building, later for ignoring the United States Supreme Court’s protection of gay marriage by ordering Alabama probate judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses, saying it was their “ministerial duty.” After that uproar, he decided to run for the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, when Mr. Trump appointed him attorney general.

Mr. Moore repulsed many Alabamians even before the campaign. He has referred to Native Americans and Asians as “reds and yellows,” called gay people “perverts” and homosexuality “an inherent evil,” and falsely claimed that Shariah law exists in Illinois and Indiana.

Until Mr. Moore (and Mr. Trump) came along, it was difficult to find many candidates so unfit that credible charges of child molestation could seem only the latest disqualifying feature. Their popularity underscores some Christian conservatives’ seeming determination to apply the law, constitutional or moral, only to their opponents.

Some Republicans have taken to describing Mr. Moore as a type of biblical plague visited upon them. That ignores the complicity of a party in thrall to its extremists. At every pivotal moment, Mr. Moore was aided by party leaders unwilling to take a united, moral stand against him.

“Roy Moore will always vote with us,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Election Day. Alabamians said there was more at stake in this race, choosing a candidate whose record was cause for pride, not shame, one who spent his career battling bigotry, not exploiting it.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Democratic candidate for FL governor Chris King WON'T TAKE MONEY FROM BIG SUGAR! ... by gimleteye

MASSIVE dislocations to democracy through Facebook and social media platforms ... by gimleteye

If Roy Moore wins today in Alabama, the result will have been substantially influenced by social media platforms like Facebook. We know from the results of the 2016 election of Donald Trump that focusing messages to likely voters through social media was enough to deliver an outcome turning "free and fair" elections into a mythic illusion. The effect of these distortions is to create a firestorm, which is exactly what we face today. Read the following from a former top executive at Facebook: he's telling the truth.

From Quartz:

GUILT TALKING: Former Facebook executive has sworn off social media because he doesn’t want to be “programmed”
By Hanna Kozlowska

Life as Laboratory
December 11, 2017

While Facebook’s business is booming and the company continues to expand its tentacles to every corner of the internet, its early employees and investors are growing more and more vocal about the damage it has wrought among its users.

Former Facebook vice president of user growth Chamath Palihapitiya said that social media is “eroding the core foundations of how people behave” and that he feels “tremendous guilt” about creating tools that are “ripping apart the social fabric.”

During a talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in November, Palihapitiya echoed the words of other Facebook dissenters who have recently taken their guilt and grievances public. (h/t The Verge)

“You don’t realize it, but you are being programmed … but now you got to decide how much you’re willing to give up, how much of your intellectual independence,” he warned the audience. He said he didn’t want to be programmed himself, emphasizing he “doesn’t use this shit” and his kids are not allowed to use “this shit” either—also recommending that everyone take a “hard break” from social media.

Palihapitiya joined Facebook in 2007, and is now the CEO of venture capital firm Social Capital, which he founded in 2011.
“The things that you rely on, the short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created, are destroying how society works: no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth,” he said.

His fear is that bad actors can manipulate large groups of people, and that as users, we compound the problem in our quest to create an idealized version of ourselves:

We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection because we get rewarded in these short-term signals—hearts, likes, thumbs up—and we conflate that with value, and we conflate it with truth. And instead what it really is is fake, brittle popularity that’s short-term and that leaves you even more—admit it—vacant and empty before you did it, because then it forces you into this vicious cycle where you’re like “What’s the next thing I need to do now because I need it back?”

Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president, spoke last month about the way the platform exploits human psychology, much in the same terms, and said the founders of the company “understood consciously” what they were doing.

Palihapitiya agreed that “in the back, deep, deep recesses of our minds” they knew something bad could happen.

Monday, December 11, 2017

1PM TODAY: Live oral arguments in 9th Federal District Court on Climate Change ... by gimleteye

Art Basel Miami: Isaac Cordal ... by gimleteye

There are as many opinions about art at Art Basel as there are artists. Fair enough. But my favorite artist is Isaac Cordal who I met for the first time at the Pinta Fair (Latin American art, mainly).

Cordal is the artist whose image of bald decision makers jabbering about something as the waters rise (sea level) became an instant viral sensation on social media:

At Pinta, Cordal's installation was stuck at the back of the building. He was born in Galacia, Spain, now lives in Brussels, and before deciding to come to Art Basel Miami, he and his gallerist were promised that his installation, "Follow the Leaders", would be located at the entrance to the Pinta Fair.

Cordal wouldn't venture why his work -- whose political context is the disintegration of hope in mankind's built environment under the eyes of old white men -- was reset to the back of the Pinta building.

Here's my educated guess: Jorge Perez, the prince of the fair whose lounging confidence graced the cover of the Art Basel Magazine, and his Related Companies were selling condos from a booth not far from the entrance to Pinta. Perez, former Miami zoning official turned billionaire-who-conned-his-way-through-the-financial-crisis, may not have been happy with Cordal's work up front. Or maybe, the Pinta curator.

Can't have too much truth next to so much enterprise. It was difficult to buck the traffic, for me to see much of Art Basel. But in the main fair, I was struck hard by the relative absence of art reflecting our disturbed times. For that, Isaac Cordal gets my enduring R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Something medically wrong with Donald Trump? By Geniusofdespair

I am in the Motor City. Writing on the phone.

Since Donald Trump was slurring his speech during the Jerusalem announcement I have been wondering about mini-strokes.

Go to Donald Trumps twitter page, The Real Donald Trump. Watch the December 9th video. Block out 1/2 his face then the other side. He can't even open his eye on your left side and his mouth is drooping. One side of his face is normal for Trump, the other is not. There is visable swelling over one eyebrow. I watched without sound. Look at speeches from last year. Be your own sleuth. Too lazy? Go 9 minutes into this one. Look at the eyebrows move, the jaw etc. Again I shut the sound down.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Why I Am Running for State Office: Part 2. By Geniusofdespair

Not much on looks but plenty of spunk
The second day of Christmas...
(Also see this blog about Duran)

I am retired, except for volunteer work. I don't owe anyone anything and don't care about campaign contributions. I am not going to get appropriations that benefit me or special interests. I will advocate for the environment but not for groups that get money.

Yes, I agree with a mean anonymous comment yesterday: "My campaign is going to crash and burn." Why wouldn't it? I probably have more baggage than Nick Duran my opponent BUT it is different baggage. None of it relates to getting public money or influencing anyone for money. I am just a civic minded person that has written a good government blog since 2006 for no money. That adds up to 5,454 blog posts I have written and I am not even a good writer. Everything is out there. And there is plenty. Since I went to Washington and wore that pink hat, I reluctantly have stepped up because if we don't we are all going to 'crash and burn.'

Then there is my opponent, yes his father-in-law is an uber lobbyist but there is more:

From Politico 2/2016:

The Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, which represents 90 clinics across the state, is in Tallahassee Thursday meeting with House leaders, educating them about the role the clinics play in Florida’s health care landscape and asking for funds to help with their mission — providing health care to uninsured people who earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

To that end, the group had scheduled meetings with House speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, a Land O Lakes Republican, as well as House health care budget chief Matt Hudson, a Naples Republican.

The group's executive director Nicholas Xavier Duran is optimistic that the Legislature will provide funding.

“We have a lot of support with members of the House,” Duran said. “It’s budget negotiation time, so the folks will come together." AND:

The clinics did get $4.5 million in funding in the 2014-15 budget, but Duran said when it was divvied up among the clinics, it came to less than 10 percent of their operating budgets. The remainder of their budgets came from patient fees and fundraising efforts.

The new push by Duran's group comes as the amount of primary care provided at county health departments has dropped sharply — with, on average, a 17 percent decline in patients seen and a 20 percent dip in visits statewide since Gov. Rick Scott took office.
 The problem here is: State Rep. Nick Duran is paid by this  non-profit group. Duran got $139,359.84 in 2016. "The new push" they talk about...maybe it is because Nick Duran is in office.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Why Am I Running For Office? By Geniusofdespair

First day of Christmas:

Because I have concerns.....

My opponent lists as his address:

The owner of the single family zoned, 3 bedroom - 3 bath home is:

If David Olin is renting the house to Duran - Abrams, then I shouldn't be seeing the Homestead deduction. According to the Property Appraisers office, if you rent for more than 1 month in a calendar year, you cannot take a Homestead Exemption for that year, in this case 2016 -- If Duran did live at the Coconut Grove address for more than 30 days in 2016. (David Olin did relinquish his Homestead Exemption in 2017).

From a State of Florida Powerpoint establishing residency:

The couple did live in Miami Shores, Ne. 4th Avenue Road and other North addresses. The last address Duran gave in April 2016 was 780 NE 69 Street. Could be his campaign headquarters. However, I do not know when they all moved to 2900 Calusa Street. If they moved in before December 1 2016, then Olin owes some homestead money.

Nothing earth shattering here, we have to look at the sugar money, don't want to get into the DUI's....

On the second day of Christmas....More to come,

Art Basel George Lindemann victorious but at what cost? ... by gimleteye

This is surely one of the craziest Florida stories that has never been fully reported: Miami art collector George Lindemann's role in undoing a legacy of Florida water law. It is complicated with many chapters, but the main point is that in Florida -- unlike Texas, say -- rainfall and fresh water is a public resource. You don't get to own rainfall in Florida.

During the Jeb Bush terms as Florida governor starting in 1998, the right to privately own water surfaced as a possibility, through the agency of a subsidiary of Enron, a Texas company closely affiliated with the Bush family, whose spectacular bankruptcy defined the excesses of the boom. Floridians treasure their fresh water resources but to large agricultural interests, if the rainfall they capture or that springs up from underground could be harnessed and sold, it would be liquid gold.

The water privatization story in Florida politics faded with Enron but never went away completely because Texas billionaires like the owners King Ranch know exactly what liquid gold smells and feels like: in Texas, fresh water is private property. The King Ranch owns key parcels in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Now the privatization initiative is gathering steam thanks to a bizarre capitulation of the Rick Scott administration in litigation with Lindemann over his property in West Martin County.

Last year's key piece of legislation signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott and proposed by Senate President Joe Negron actually includes a provision for TAXPAYER money to be used to scope out the engineering challenges of marshaling rainfall water as a PRIVATE utility. It also involves the connection between Lindemann, whose family is the largest private shareholder of Verizon grown out of talc powder business, with Big Sugar billionaires; the Cuban American Fanjul family whose holdings include Florida Crystals.

Lindemann is a relative newcomer to Florida. Before owning Lake Point -- lands he pledged to split into a rock mine for cement products and in part a conservation area, he was a real estate developer in Miami concentrating on the Biscayne Boulevard corridor. The Fanjuls are a vertically-integrated hemispheric force in the sugar business and heavily influence Florida politics through the outsized contribution of the sugar subsidy in the US Farm Bill; the corporate welfare that not even conservatives in Congress have been able to dislodge.

In other words, subsidized sugar -- costing US consumers nearly twice the world market price -- provide outsized profits to Big Sugar that turns around and sprinkles dark money campaign contributions throughout the political system. A similar subsidiary relationship may define the Lindemann / Fanjul connection because the only thing more profitable to Big Sugar than growing sugarcane would be if it could sell the water on its lands; exactly what the Lake Point project became.

Big Sugar acreage -- some 800 square miles south of Lake Okeechobee -- formerly defined Everglades wetlands, provided by nature. They are now highly cultivated private property whose irrigation needs -- not too wet when it rains, not too dry when the rains stop -- drive Florida politics and water management infrastructure. That faulty equation leaves out the Everglades and coastal real estate owners, putting enormous sacrifice on the backs of property owners and taxpayers, that environmentalists like Maggy Hurchalla have spent their entire lives struggling to rectify.

It is also the equation that now engrosses George Lindemann when he purchases Lake Point, with no prior experience in the battle between Big Sugar and Everglades activists. (For a recent article in the Treasure Coast Palm, click here.)

The litigation over Lake Point may have ended between Lindemann and Martin County, but Lindemann seems determined to push Maggy Hurchalla and her like-minded allies into the ground with legal expenses that far exceed the capacity of ordinary citizens.

With so much Big Sugar money filtered like confetti through the legal and political ranks, it is no wonder that the underlying stories are so lightly reported.

Eye On Miami has tried to keep the Maggy Hurchalla story in view. Here is a link to our archive. Interested readers ought to spend time here, especially the "Achiever" interviews with Hurchalla.

We reprint the following with permission of the author.

December 5, 2017

I’m Maggy Hurchala. For the last five years I’ve been involved in a SLAPP suit. That is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Look it up in Wikipedia. They will tell you it is legal bullying meant to intimidate, bankrupt, exhaust and SHUT UP critics.

Martin County and the SFWMD also got slapped in the case of Lake Point vs. SFWMD, Martin County, and Maggy Hurchalla.

I can’t talk about that lawsuit because it is, as they say, “ongoing.“ The trial date has been set and moved three times. It is now set for Feb 5. I am looking forward to the time when we can talk about the issues and facts out loud and under oath.