Monday, February 19, 2018

Big Sugar lobbyist now making dietary guidelines for United States ... by gimleteye

Donald Trump -- the most ethically challenged president in US history -- recently granted a waiver for a former corn syrup lobbyist to write the nation's dietary guidelines for the USDA. (Prior to that, she worked for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on sugar subsidies, and earlier, cut her teeth working for the Koch Brothers.)

Kailee Tkacz represented the Corn Refiners Association, which consists of the four biggest corn syrup producers in the nation: Archer Daniels Midland Company, Cargill, Ingredion and Tate & Lyle Americas, whose European operations were sold to the Fanjul's Florida Crystals empire in 2010.

The New York Times points out today in an editorial, "Trump's 'Best People' and Their Dubious Ethics":
President Trump’s White House has been so scandal-plagued that controversies involving cabinet members and other high-level officials that would have been front-page news in any other administration have barely registered in the public consciousness.

Floridians health and environment is being sacrificed for sugar, one of the most heavily subsidies agricultural commodities in the US Farm Bill
There should be no need to remind that the costs to US healthcare from over-consumption of sugar exceed $1 trillion ANNUALLY, or, that excess sugar consumption can trigger inflammation of all kinds, from diabetes to cancer. At Eye On Miami, we've written extensively on the corrosive influence of Big Sugar on Florida politics and, in particular, a water management system converting once pristine natural resources into pale and toxic remnants.

According a recent report by the International Business Times:
(Kailee) Tkacz was director of food policy for the Corn Refiners Association, a trade group for corn syrup manufacturers, for two years before immediately leaving for the Trump administration in July 2017, according to her LinkedIn profile. Before that, she lobbied for the Snack Food Association and the National Grocers Association. Prior to her lobbying days, she spent a year as a research analyst on tax policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of corporations and conservative lawmakers that work together to craft business-friendly model legislation, and a year at the Charles Koch Institute, named after its billionaire founder and the CEO and part-owner of the global fossil fuel and materials conglomerate Koch Industries.
Voters for Republican office-holders are to blame for the Trump and GOP fiasco.

But Democrats are under Big Sugar's spell, too. Outgoing Florida state senate president Joe Negron complains the absence of Democratic support, except for Jose Javier Rodriguez from Miami-Dade (now running for Congress), caused his 2017 Everglades reservoir bill to pass without sufficient storage and cleansing marshes to guarantee protection of water quality from Big Sugar's toxic farm runoff. Big Sugar hit the Democrats hard, like senate minority leader Oscar Braynon.

The cost of the Negron misadventure, not to mention delayed decade, to fix the badly damaged Everglades and estuaries? At least $1.6 billion.

Remember Michele Obama's campaign "Let's get America moving!", to reduce childhood obesity through healthy school dietary programs? Big Sugar killed that initiative, too, thundering in the White House political office it wouldn't hesitate to use its political muscle in key midwestern states where corn syrup in king. (The Dems who lost, anyway, might consider developing a pair of balls when it comes to Big Sugar.)

In the Farm Bill Florida's sugarcane growers cannily tie their own subsidies to the price of corn syrup, guaranteeing that they have the protection of the midwest voting bloc to protect their corporate welfare.

It is a system that stinks to high heaven, all for a commodity that is more addictive than cocaine. Sugar. Republican voters -- and Dems, too -- should remember that, next time they head to the polls.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Florida’s sugar industry just posted one of the best years in its history, even as the Everglades and virtually everyone in South Florida suffered one of the worst. It’s not a coincidence. Managing water in Florida means picking winners and losers. When there’s a drought, losers go thirsty. When it rains, losers drown. In 38 years of public records, sugar has yet to lose.
The Everglades lost on both sides in 2017. Barely a trickle flowed south into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay for the first five months of the year. River mouths dried up, brackish estuaries became saltier than the ocean, seagrass meadows collapsed. Guides reported miles of lifeless, stinking water where some of the most productive shallow fisheries had thrived for years.
The Caloosahatchee and its massive Gulf coast estuary and the seagrasses that support it weren’t getting enough freshwater, either. But locks from Lake Okeechobee stayed closed, holding water back for the only customer getting all it needed. Even as residents around the region faced watering restrictions, sugarcane fields stayed wet all spring. As South Florida went brown, all signs in the Everglades Agricultural Area pointed to a record sugarcane crop.
Meanwhile the Florida state legislature delivered more good news to the industry, rewarding its relentless lobbying campaign to block relief for the Everglades and estuaries by forcing the EAA reservoir to use public land and suspending eminent domain for the project. That limited the reservoir’s capacity to send more water to the parched Everglades and absorb discharges like the surge that wiped out the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries a year earlier.
Then a foot of rain ended a six-month drought almost instantly, leaving the sugar growers with more than 100 billion gallons of water they wanted off their fields, because sugarcane can’t thrive in standing water for even a few days. Off it went, overwhelming treatment marshes and Water Conservation Areas, flooding into the Everglades, drowning everything that couldn’t swim, trapping the rest on a handful of tree islands without enough food to survive. Then-FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron said at the time, “This event is so catastrophic that if we don’t act, we may not have anything left to save.” We’ll never know how much wildlife was sacrificed for the 2017-18 sugarcane crop.
The chart below traces the water that the industry's 395,000 sugar-producing acres got, needed, and dumped during the 2017-18 growing year. Water levels stayed high as the industry needed to flush roughly 250 billion gallons of runoff into the Everglades between May and August. Then the hurricanes came.
Chart: Sugarcane used up all the water, then flooded the
The estuaries had no chance. Lake Okeechobee had been rising all summer. The sugar industry didn’t need any more water--its runoff was already filling the flood control system. When Irma sent lake levels above the dike’s safety threshold there was nowhere else to put the water, so it went to the rivers. In the St. Lucie, lingering oyster populations that somehow survived the Toxic Summer of 2016 died off completely. The Caloosahatchee sent black water deep into the Gulf, pushing the estuary miles offshore.
While continuing to pump runoff into the Everglades and into the lake--even as USACE conducted daily inspections for signs of a breach--sugar executives claimed their lucky run was over. They asked for almost $400 million in hurricane relief--more than half the total value of their annual crop.
Doubts about the claim surfaced in December when a commodities trader told Reuters his firm expected strong production from Florida’s sugar industry, saying I don’t think the hurricane had any impact.” Last week USDA confirmed it: the industry’s production of 1,992,000 tons was third-best in the past 15 years and seventh-best since USDA records began in 1980. Even better, the crop yielded 5 tons of sugar per acre--fifth-best on record. If 2017-18 turned out to be a sugar yield for the ages, it still didn’t stop the industry from keeping its hand out for federal aid. Add its reported $382,603,397 insurance claim to the annual take, and Hurricane Irma might have given the sugar industry its best year ever.
Meanwhile the collapse of Florida Bay continues. Clearing water in the St. Lucie has revealed a sprawling moonscape where grass flats used to be. The Caloosahatchee is in crisis. And phosphorous levels on Lake Okeechobee are spiking with resuspended nutrients stirring to the surface after decades of accumulating in bottom sediment, providing far more fuel for toxic algae than in 2016. Florida’s water managers picked one winner and a host of losers last year, and their decisions will be felt for years to come.
The sugar industry is a legitimate stakeholder in South Florida’s water management system, and no one seriously questions its right to protection. But we should question, at the highest levels, what and who should have to die for its profit?
-Bullsugar.orgP.S. If you can, please click here to join today and become part of the solution.

We need your children and your grandchildren to be responsible For Change. By Geniusofdespair

Get them off the video games and phones long enough to talk to them

The coddled masses between 18 to 25 have to be coerced now. Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad -- they have to vote in EVERY SINGLE DAMN ELECTION. Take away the car, the cell phone, the video games. They have to start standing up. When I was young I was out there with impeach Nixon signs and going to Washington getting pepper sprayed, shouting: "We don't need your fucking war." What are your spawns doing? The government is not listening to older folks and they are betting on the young not to do shit because that is what most of them do: Nothing to help on important issues. Yet, the young are 10 times more effective.

What are your kids doing? Are they voting in every election? No? Sit the damn kids down and teach them how they can make change happen. We don't need assault rifles on the street. No one needs such a weapon. No one.

Do you see these jokers below. We need them out of office. Let the kiddies read what they said. Even they can comprehend how stupid they are. Send this blog to your kids. Tell them an old lady thinks they are lazy do nothings.

And you my adult friends, do what my friend Kenny did, he sent a campaign check saying in the amount line "a quote from them that you think is appropriate". Or a quote from you if you would prefer. We need to start a movement. Vigils are nice but this has to be sustained. If we can outlaw pitbulls in Miami Dade, we can get rid of assault rifles in Florida. You don't even have to know how to shoot with an assault rifle, you just aim and it fires so many bullets you are bound to hit someone.

People are denying Sandy Hook--calling it the "Sandy Hook Hoax". The tragedy of 20 dead elementary children and 6 adults: a hoax. Do you think that is okay? What are you going to do about it, go to a vigil, shake your head, post on Facebook? We need action not stupid bullshit.


Educate your children and your grandchildren so we can live happily without the worry of OUR kids getting murdered at concerts, clubs, schools and movies.

This just came out:

“People are saying that it’s not time to talk about gun control. And we can respect that,” Kasky added. “Here’s a time. March 24th in every single city. We are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives.”

Called "March for Our Lives...


Friday, February 16, 2018

Traffic Study Conducted When Schools Are Closed? WHAT? By Geniusofdespair

We previously reported on traffic studies paid for by developers. Here is a questionable study. Were nine schools actually closed for the summer in the study area? How is it possible that Homestead Hudstead allowed and accepted this study? The Kingman Commons Traffic Study for SW 152nd Avenue and SW 320 Street in Homestead -- dated August 1st 2014. The Study is 252 pages long. It looks very official (Scrolling through it, I am sure no one read it). I wasn't going to read the damn thing, am I assuming too much from the date of the study and the (July 17th date I found) that schools were closed? I don't think so.

Traffic studies are just cover for developments.

Transit: Metro Mover Sucks. By Geniusofdespair

First time I took the metro mover was last night about 7 pm. The metro mover I was on stopped at a station and remained stopped. The minutes passed. It turned to a quarter hour. People were leaving in drips and drabs. My though turned to the Clash Song: "Should I Stay or Should I Go." No information to speak of, like an announcement that it will be rectified shortly. Giving up, I decided I should go. No sooner did I get out of the car, the doors closed and it went. Why not an announcement like "We are resuming service"? There is only one track up there so you are at their mercy. You either go back to the street in some zany place or you hope the line starts running again.

Roulette with commuters. Can't do that. I was due somewhere at a certain time. Remember: MY FIRST TRIP. I ended up taking a Lyft through traffic. Streets were closed all over the place. It took me an hour to get a few blocks. Why didn't I walk you might ask? I was with a person afraid to walk in downtown. Nightmare!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

This works for me, watch the damn video: Sums it all up. By Geniusofdespair

End of the World Part II has been updated to include today's problems, it is TRUMP, climate change, Russians, it is all here (it is hysterical and tragic rolled into one) You will want to share it.

Send your friends a link to my blog, put on facebook. Want to test our faithful readers. Just hit below on Facebook or Twitter, that will share it.

Michelle: It doesn't look like you. By Geniusofdespair

Michelle Obama's bottom lip is bigger, her eyes are also larger, chin too broad in painting, amount of skin between eye and hair line too broad in painting, cheek bone almost goes to her mouth, not in painting, eyebrows lift at middle of eye then more sharply descend in the photo..... etc., there are other problems.

As a portrait painter I think a portrait should at least be recognizable of the one it portrays. I don't think it has to look exactly like the person you are painting but I think it is incredulous that likeness seems unimportant here, that this very important portrait doesn't look like the person it represents. If the painting weren't in the National Portrait gallery, I would not know it was our former First Lady.

Definition: a likeness of a person, especially of the face, as a painting, drawing, or photograph.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Philip Stoddard is Still South Miami's Mayor. By Geniusofdespair

With 6 precincts in, I would say it is a slam dunk for Philip Stoddard. I guess Disbarred Steve Cody's misuse of the Me-Too movement in a robocall turned other people off, not just me. I didn't like the Me-Too card played so blatantly to try to get a political advantage.

Final tally 929 Feliu and 1,227 for Philip. In group one might be a runoff don't know how South Miami works. But Luis J. Gil was the top vote getter, final at 28.89%. Sandra DiMarie-Vivar got 20.87%.  In group four neither candidate got over 50%. Walter Harris got 49.26% (1,028) and Mark Lago got 47.01% (981). I guess that is a run-off too.

Mayor of South Miami Philip Stoddard

Not final, one precinct missing - Close enough.

George Lindemann Jr. v Maggy Hurchalla, cont. by gimleteye

My comments and following notes from Donna Melzer, a Martin County activist who is attending the ongoing trial of Lake Point v. Maggy Hurchalla.

My comments: the Lake Point v. Maggy Hurchalla is a proxy for a larger battle that should make all Floridians sit up and take notice. The larger battle has several fronts: first and foremost, a decadal assault by Big Sugar and large sprawl developers against growth management in Florida.

After his election in 2010 Gov. Rick Scott, his Cabinet, and the Florida legislature crushed the capacity of the state of Florida to order and enforce growth management laws in Florida. Jeb Bush started the destruction, reinforced by serial attacks by the Republican-led legislature against decades of bipartisan consensus. The purposes of the act was to compel Florida's counties to some measure of order and accountability to taxpayers and to a sustainable future.

By the time of Scott's first election, the willingness of the state to protect that earlier consensus had been hobbled. The champions for growth management, who came of age in the 1980's and in recognition of the massive forces at work pitting Florida's sprawl based economy against water resources and natural habitat, dwindled in influence. Among those, Maggy Hurchalla in Martin County stood tall.

Martin County, on the urbanized east coast, embraced the protections afforded by the Growth Management Act through its own comprehensive land use plan. Maggy Hurchalla, as county commissioner, drew on Reno family history and experience with Miami-Dade's rampant sprawl, to author the county's plan in compliance with state law. Thanks to its growth plan, Martin County had retained a low-volume, old Florida character while Palm Beach to the south and St. Lucie to the north buckled under the costs of suburban sprawl.

Lake Point is charging Maggy Hurchalla with interference in its contract with the South Florida Water Management District to provide lime rock aggregate and, importantly, to be able to sell water on its lands as a source of private profit. The exact charges of Lake Point against Hurchalla, even beyond the fine points of growth management, are proxy for a much larger and more significant fight in Florida.

As soon as it is profitable and permittable, Big Sugar will convert sugar farms to sprawl, inland ports, and rock mines. Only the boundaries of state and federal laws hold its investment and its profits, back.

With the Trump White House, Florida's polluters have never had a more favorable environment for tilting toxic pollution water laws in its direction. With Trump's ally, Rick Scott, aiming for the US Senate, Big Sugar has never had a better opportunity to dictate terms to the Florida public.

Lake Point's principal, George Lindemann Jr., had never been a rock miner before his investment, but the ties of Lake Point to Big Sugar's interests are clear enough, as a matter of geography and friendships. That said, Big Sugar is not on trial in Martin County nor is it on the attack.

It is on the attack in Tallahassee, now. It is forcing a multi billion dollar reservoir plan that lacks adequate storage and treatment marshes to clean up pollution it is believed to be primarily responsible for creating, through its fertilizer and agricultural farming practices. In Martin County, too, its shadow hangs over the proceedings no matter how hard the Lake Point legal counsel tries to tightly frame its allegations against Hurchalla.

One of the key achievements in the last session of the Florida legislature was to carve out a new project that primarily benefits the Fanjuls/Florida Crystals' empire: a provision in the Everglades reservoir legislation that allows taxpayer funding to aid and assist in the conversion of Fanjul held land into water storage and treatment marshes that will, in the future, allow the corporation to sell rainwater to South Florida utilities.

This principle is a key point in the Lake Point contract with the South Florida Water Management District, and it is another way that the Lake Point outcome is a proxy for Florida's water future.

Until now, Florida water law has never provided for private corporations to be "water supply entities". Florida's water belongs to the people. Or so it always had.

Last year's Everglades reservoir legislation -- whose nominal purpose was to protect Florida's toxic-choked estuaries and rivers and battered, water-starved Florida Bay -- turns out to have been exactly the Trojan Horse its critics predicted. Floridians are being rear-ended into permitting rainwater and groundwater to be "owned" for re-sale to water utilities and consumers.

From this point of view, the Lake Point litigation - funded by a billionaire's fortune -- not only seeks to crush a civic activist who has been lauded by environmentalists as a Florida hero but also to grind into dust a history of conservation, environmentalism, and consensus that Florida's water resources and natural habitats belong to people and must be preserved and protected for both the economy and a sustainable future.

That revisionism is supported by outrageous settlement terms agreed to last year by the state, and endorsement by the governor and cabinet, in separate litigation by Lake Point against the South Florida Water Management District.

The Lake Point settlement with the District was a tacit blessing by Gov. Scott, worth tens of millions of dollars to Lake Point's owners, : a blanket-endorsement of Florida's water future as a private rodeo for billionaires.

Today, the revisionism is in full swing, funded by Big Sugar marketing budgets through industry sponsored "news" outlets. Independent, investigative journalism should train sharp focus on all the ways the Lake Point litigation against Maggy Hurchalla is a proxy for a hostile takeover by special interests who pushed Growth Management over the edge first and now making an example of Maggy Hurchalla in a Martin County courthouse, seeking a trophy like conquistadores who displayed the severed heads of the vanquished on sharpened, wooden stakes.


LATER TODAY - TUESDAY - George Lindemann, Jr., son of billionaire, and Maggy Hurchalla will testify.
Closing arguments should begin Wed. - but maybe Thurs. if Lake Point goes long again.

DAY 6 - Excellent Day for Team Maggy (sorry this email is so long but lots happened - pages and pages of notes)

Highpoint: Finally, after 5 years in litigation - we heard WHAT "breach" Lake Point sued on!
Maggy is accused of a tortious interference with a contract.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Maggy Hurchalla on trial in Martin County ... by gimleteye

The following is from Donna Melzer, a Martin County activist following the trial of Miami-native Maggy Hurchalla.

We've written about Maggy's contributions to Florida at length. You can read our archive, by clicking here. This week, Miami realtor/rock miner George Lindemann Jr. has been called by the defense as a material witness to claims that his company suffered damage from Hurchalla's alleged interference in a contract that has -- despite the lawsuit -- proven extraordinarily lucrative for him.

Last year the Miami environmental group founded by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Friends of the Everglades, gave Hurchalla its highest honor: Defender of the Everglades. (I am a volunteer board member and conservation chair of the organization.)

COMPLY WITH THE COURT DIRECTION: TREAT THIS AS YOU WOULD A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE. I do not intend nor believe that I am sending to any juror, but just in case...

Yesterday Was the START of Maggy Hurchalla's Story Being Told
(Monday - Thursday were about Lake Point's stories and Maggy's defense to testimony in Lake Point's stories).

(No story found today - maybe later.)

Lake Point is NOT suing Maggy on Open Government law.
Maggy is NOT being accused of Sunshine Laws or Public Records violations.

Lake Point has asserted that Maggy caused them $4Million in lost rock sales -- claiming damages going out beyond 2030.

Lake Point did not produce one cancelled contracts, no loss of existing clients.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Misuse of Transit 1/2 Penny Tax: Mayor has Concocted a Sophie's Choice for Residents. By Geniusofdespair

The Mayor is pitting neighbor against neighbor, bus transit users against rail transit users, because of squandered funds we can't have both. Or can we. Get the funds Mayor Gimenez, it is your job. Stop playing games with the transit union.

In today's Miami Herald (this is an excerpt read the whole article):

Commuters frustrated with Miami-Dade’s traffic woes and the diversion of money intended to pay for new mass transit routes may have a hero or a goat soon in their state government, depending on how things play out over the next few weeks.

Just past the midway point of Florida’s legislative session, a bill that seeks to shift nearly $100 million annually in voter-approved transit tax money out of transportation operations in order to fund new mass transit lines is moving through both chambers. The legislation would force the county to quickly honor a commitment made more than 15 years ago to use money from a “half-penny” sales tax to fund new commuter rail lines — which have mostly failed to materialize since the tax was approved.

Miami-Dade’s transportation department and some elected officials warn that the proposal would force drastic cuts and possibly the elimination of more than half of Miami-Dade’s bus routes. “It would have a devastating effect,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Thursday.

But the group of Miami lawmakers pushing the bill in the Florida House and Senate say that’s a worst-case scenario claim by a government that’s ignored the will of the voters for more than a decade and left the region with a worsening traffic problem.

“If Dade County was doing what they need to be doing, we wouldn’t be in this situation, having to correct a wrong,” Senate bill sponsor René García, R-Hialeah, said in an interview. “A bag was pulled over our heads.”


The men and women of Transport Workers Union Local 291 have worked without a contract for more than three years.

Mayor Gimenez, meanwhile, has tried to blame transit workers for the poor Metrorail and MetroBus service that Miami-Dade residents have been getting.

Today, TWU Local 291 is fighting back with a series of demands for the mayor, starting with the demand that he stop denigrating the blue-collar workforce.

“The mayor should stop trying to blame transit workers for the shabby service,” Local 291 President Clarence Washington said. “It’s quite clear that he is trying to distract people from the fact that he has failed to provide good management, adequate transit funding and reliable equipment. He has simply failed to improve mass transit, and that has caused more and more people to drive. A horrendous traffic situation has gotten even worse because Metrorail and MetroBus are not viable options for too many people.”

Local 291’s Five Demands for Mayor Gimenez: