Category Archives: Democrat

Why Things Are Different (& Better) Three Years Later

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Two evenings in March of 2016 taught me much of what I ever needed to know about Presidential politics, as well as a few things I wish none of us had to ever learn. That spring provided our community and country an amazing opportunity to discuss what is easily the most important challenge that my generation will ever face during our time here on earth: our global climate crisis. That’s when both the Republican and Democratic Party each held nationally televised debates right here in Miami amongst the then six remaining candidates.

Climate change was, as it is today, on a great many people’s minds and yet the media and most of the candidates failed America in 2016. Over the course of those two nights and their four hours of nationally televised “debate”, the candidates spent just 9½ minutes discussing climate change. And what did the national media do to address the most important topic of our time? They asked just two questions, one each night. Talk about a “fail”.

The topic was so overlooked that on one of those nights the question on climate did not surface until 1½ hours into the two hour event. To say it was not a priority to the candidates or media is an understatement and was, in many ways, educational to my then 16 year old self. You can read more about those debates in a blog that I wrote at the time entitled 9½ Minutes by clicking here.

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Fast forward three years and three months later and we have a candidate, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, who is largely running on one single topic: protecting our environment with a specific focus on our climate change crisis. Something tells me that the good Governor himself might just spend more than 9½ minutes on the topic later this week whether the journalists prompt him to or not.

We also now have the New Green Deal, a potentially transformational prospective plan to address our climate crisis that’s being embraced by many of the Democratic candidates.

And perhaps most importantly, each of the candidates, all 20 that will appear on television from Miami later this week, are openly and often even aggressively talking about their plans to address climate change. More than half of them have pledged to not accept money from fossil fuel businesses. All have created plans to address the issue.

In 2016 two candidates, Senator Cruz from oil rich Texas, and the man who shockingly became President, Donald Trump, unsurprisingly never even mentioned climate change. That can’t happen this or next year. At every debate, starting with this week’s two Democratic events here in Miami, the media must press the candidates to speak to the issue. Journalists and candidates have a moral obligation to my generation and all that shall follow to address this topic and make it the priority. Almost 100% of democratic voters believe that our climate change crisis is a matter of great importance to our country and, thus, I hope that NBC News, which is moderating, will act like it understands that people want to hear candidates address the issue. Rather than bury it deep into the night, how about we start each evening’s questions here in Miami by discussing climate change?

In the time since being elected, President Trump and his administration have done everything possible to embrace fossil fuel producers and polluters, roll back America’s Clean Power Plan, pull out of the Paris Climate Acord, tout “clean coal” (there is no such thing, it’s a lie) and diminish scientists and the science, including the Administration’s very own November 2018 National Climate Assessment that (once again) made clear that earth is warming and humans’ use of fossil fuels are the key cause. In places all over America, and especially here in South Florida, we no longer have room for such nonsense. We can’t allow Republicans to sell their souls and our future by supporting gas and coal in return for polluted votes. We must (and we can) elect leaders at all levels of our government that support the absolute elimination of fossil fuel use within my lifetime and, in doing so, transition our economy to sustainable energy. Time is running out.

The stakes over this issue are much greater than those votes in coal and gas rich states or, for that matter, the brief time one would hold an elected office. And, yes, even in those states that still rely on coal and gas, a future of clean, well-paying jobs in sustainable energy should be seen as part of the solution in regions that are often desperate for hope. And, of course, the very survival of places like where this week’s debates will actually be held (South Florida) is also at stake and we need to be discussing that before our region disappears under water to the point where future debates can’t be held here.

So come on NBC News and the 20 assembled candidates that will be in sunny South Florida this week, show us that things are different in 2019! Show us that you are truly serious about taking bold steps to solve our climate crisis and helping transform America. Dig deep and get away from the sound bites and prove that you understand what’s at stake as our climate warms. Voters are watching and this time we expect more than 9½ lousy minutes on the topic that defines our generation.

Business As “Usual”

When I started college I knew there would be times like this where my school work, environmental work, lectures and all else might keep me from posting to my blog as often as I’d like and the last two months have been just that. I’ve been “radio silent” for some time between traveling overseas for an incredible experience that I will soon share with you, final exams, a new job I’ll tell you about soon, and one marine science expedition after another to start the summer. I will be back on the “high seas” on a week long shark tagging trip later this week, but will do my best to write a post or two between now and then given all that’s going on in the world starting with Business As Usual

Cowardly Lion

I was going to title this post Cowards but I generally see myself as a polite, respectful person and thus settled on Business As “Usual” instead.

As much of the world now knows, this week President Trump clearly announced that he’d not have any reservations over accepting information about a political opponent from a foreign government (sound familiar?), nor feel compelled to inform the FBI if ever contacted about such information.

I will leave it to the expert political scientists to evaluate most of the President’s troubling comments but should anyone wonder whether his comments are acceptable (or legal), you need only read the unprecedented statement that the head of the Federal Elections Committee, a Trump appointee, issued while also wondering out loud why her office would even need to explain that working with a foreign government, or not informing authorities about being approached, should be common sense. You can read all about it here from a Washington Post article which starts with the following:

Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub released a statement Thursday making clear that candidates for public office may not receive help from a foreign government, in what appeared to be a warning to President Trump, who said he would consider taking information about an opponent from another country. 

 

 

 

Tweeting her statement, Weintraub wrote, “I would not have thought that I needed to say this.”

The President and his profound lack of character is now well known to the world and frankly I’m over it and him. His record speaks loudly for itself and the sooner we can replace him, the better (November 2020 can’t come soon enough!).

However, what actually concerns me is the fact that nearly his entire political party, yes the Republicans, are so systemically silent in response.

Politics aside, as an American it’s truly troubling that virtually all members of his party run so scared of the man (and why, for fear of an early morning tweet?) that they avoid calling him out over those comments and countless others. Their silence facilitates the fire to grow and grow.

These educated men and women in our Congress and Senate are in prominent positions to act like leaders, to be examples for others, especially young people, to follow. They hold in their hands the morals, ethics and laws of our nation and yet virtually all of them remain silent as a storm that erodes our country rages around them.

Their silence has become their accepted approach to politics, it is how they conduct their business but it does not go unnoticed. And I am certain that I am not alone in these observations nor in thinking that they are cowards to stand silent and by doing so condone his behavior.

I can’t say I am surprised, the Republicans’ silence has for too long been their typical “business” strategy to all things climate change. As they sit silently, or worse when they enthusiastically promote antiquated industries such as oil and coal in places like West Virginia, Kentucky, Texas and elsewhere in hopes of garnering votes and political donations to perpetuate their time in office, Republicans are placing their selfish political interests above serving our country and that, most certainly, is shameful.

In order to solve our climate crisis, all of our elected leaders, no matter their party affiliation, are going to need to become involved in creating meaningful solutions, to actively engage in productive debate over what is happening right before our eyes and in supporting solutions to the problem by helping our country transition away from fossil fuels and to our sustainable futures. To avoid these topics, or for that matter avoid scolding a terribly misguided President, will not make things better and likely makes them worse. And while we can likely tolerate the circus that is the Trump White House until the next election, we do not have any time to waste when it comes to our climate crisis.

To solve the climate crisis we need and deserve patriots and leaders, not cowards.

Business as usual will not work.

Policies and products that emit carbon pollution into our atmosphere and oceans must end. We need elected officials who will make the hard choices to support transformational changes that in many cases will threaten their ability to be re-elected and that put our nation and environment ahead of politics. Avoiding the topic as happened over the last 8 years here in Florida under Governor, now Senator, Rick Scott or is happening in Washington right now, is no longer acceptable.

All of us likely need to be a bit less polite and far less patient when it comes to saving our planet.

And you know what? On second thought, I should have titled this blog Cowards. That’s what those who stand silent and allow this to happen to our country and planet are: COWARDS.

Sleight of Hand: Florida’s Magician Governor Rick Scott

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I love a good magic show and have been fooled by some of the best. When street magician extraordinaire David Blaine made ¾ of a deck of cards disappear in front of my eyes just prior his show here in Miami last year, I was stunned. By any measure, David is an amazing artist and makes his craft look, well, like real magic.

But as wonderful as he is, you know that he’s an expert at deception, at sleight of hand, of making uncomfortable, often impossible things appear normal. Right before your eyes.

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The longer I follow Florida’s Governor Rick Scott the more I become convinced that he’s also a world class necromancer, a magician of sorts (apologies to real magicians). In fact, David Blaine has nothing on our Governor and if you were to wonder why I think this, you need only to consider a few of the tricks he’s pulled on Floridians and our environment in recent years.

Alakazam: Making “Climate Change” Disappear

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Houdini would blush at how Governor Rick Scott made our climate crisis and phrases like “climate change”, “sea level rise” and “global warming” disappear from state records and reports during his terms in office as was widely reported in the media and press (click here to learn more).

Rather than deal with the issue in a direct, decent way, the Governor has insisted that those who work for him should avoid using these terms and others as if the problem does not exist. You can learn more about his tricks and even see him perform by watching the short video produced by Ahead of the Tide entitled Chapter Three: The Political Climate.

The Amazing Power Plant Vote Vanish

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Conjurer, I mean Governor, Scott pulled an especially big rabbit out of his hat in Broward County last month by making a long-expected vote in support of a gigantic new power plant disappear. Scott’s largest corporate donor (giving a reported $ 500,000 to his U.S. Senate campaign), Next Era Energy’s Florida Power & Light (FPL) plans to build the new power plant in Dania, a facility it describes as world class. Unfortunately, we’ve also learned that the planned “Dania Beach Clean Energy Center” plant will produce a “net increase from some pollutants”.

The Governor did not, of course, use his magic to require his friends at FPL make the pollution disappear. Doing that would have been rude considering the price they’ve paid ($ 500,000) for tickets to his “show”.

No, what he did was postpone the long-planned September 11th hearing to approve the plant until after the upcoming election, likely deciding it better that news of the plant, its vote, his support and especially the news that it will actually increase pollution disappear until after the polls close. It’s like watching that age-old trick where the magician asks you to find where the ball is hidden under a set of cups, reliant upon the notion that the hand is quicker than the eye.

Florida’s Climate Change Litigation Levitation

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And that leads me to this week’s long planned legal Hearing in Tallahassee for the climate change lawsuit that seven other Florida children and I have brought against the State, our Governor and others. We filed our case (Reynolds v. State of Florida) in April (you can read about it here).

Late Monday, just three days before the October 4th Hearing and many months after the Judge was assigned the case, Judge Cooper announced that he was recusing himself due to a conflict of interest, turning the case back over to the Chief Justice and, thus, requiring that a new Judge and Hearing date be set. You can read about the Judge’s recent decision in the article from Politico below:

Key hearing in climate change lawsuit delayed after judge steps aside

By Bruce Ritchie

10/01/2018 05:49 PM EDT

A state judge today removed himself from a lawsuit challenging Florida’s inaction on climate change, indefinitely delaying a key hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday.

Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper, in an order recusing himself from the case, said he had a conflict of interest and asked the chief judge to assign one of his colleagues to the matter.

Cooper provided no details about led to the decision and did not respond to requests for comment. He had scheduled the Thursday hearing to consider the state’s motion to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit, filed in April, alleges state officials ignored a constitutional policy requiring Florida “to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty.”

Briefs filed in July on behalf of Gov. Rick Scott several state agencies argue the state constitution is not self-executing and that the court is being asked to involve itself in policy decisions and executive branch functions.

The lawsuit was filed by eight Florida residents ranging in age from 10 to 20 and is supported by the Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, which has been involved in similar lawsuits in other states.

A copy of Cooper’s request can be viewed by clicking here.

 

 

The immediate reaction by many was to ask whether the Governor and politics have played a role in this surprise news just days before the Hearing. Lawyers tell me this type of decision this close to a planned Hearing is unusual but not unprecedented. And, of course, there is supposed to be a separation between our Executive and Judicial branches of government but the recent Supreme Court deliberations in Washington illustrate that that politics and the courts interact in strange and mysterious ways.

Whether the Governor performed some sort of sleight of hand to not face our concerns (and us) just before the election, I can’t say, but as a well-known climate change denier and someone who has spent two terms avoiding the topic he’s likely not unhappy with the news. Having to publicly answer tough questions about his total lack of action on an issue impacting millions of Floridians, one that local communities are already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on to mitigate could and should hurt his chances on November 6th, so the postponement could be seen as welcome news the same way delaying the polluting power plant vote might help.

Political hocus pocus?

Perhaps.

But you can rest assured that our Hearing will be rescheduled and that we will have our day, likely many days, in Court. My young friends and I are resilient, we will NEVER give up until we solve the climate crisis and our society shifts to sustainable energy solutions. Doing that will not require magic but hard work and perseverance to break through established politics and special interests.

Until then, please keep in mind that the real magic this Fall takes place in the voting booth where the Governor can be made to vanish from office and, I hope, disappear from politics all together faster than you can say Sim Sala Bim. The magic wand to make that happen is in your hands and appears on November 6th. I sure hope you use it wisely. Florida’s future depends on it.

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