Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Will spraying for Zika bring about a silent spring?

monarch butterfly
Already dwindling populations, are we irreparably
harming our butterflies and bees?
While watching the news this morning, I was alarmed by the reports of almost frenzied aerial spraying of insecticides in Florida in hopes of eradicating the Zika virus.

Is it wise to douse every living thing with poison?

While I understand that this illness must be eradicated, I can't help but worry about the long-and- short term effects. Is this overkill?

The Zika virus has been around for a long time, discovered in monkeys in the Zika Forest in Uganda in 1947 with the first human case five years later. Cases were reported in Africa and Asia, but not until 2015 was it discovered in South America. There are now reports of cases in southern Florida and more widespread instances of Zika-carrying mosquitoes throughout the southern United States and beyond. The disease is spread by mosquito bites, and as recently discovered, through sexual contact, and possibly by blood transfusion. Despite its long history, more than 60 years, there remains no vaccine.

While I understand the need to control the spread of this disease, which can cause microcephaly, a severe fetal brain defect, in infants. There are also increased reports of Guilllain-Barre syndrome, a disease where "a person's own immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC). But I can't help but worry about the effects of widespread use of insecticide.

Will we see a Silent Spring in seven months from now?

Zika is an "international health emergency," say the CDC, as new countries affected are added almost daily. According to a timeline published by Reuters, the first baby born with microcephaly in the U.S. was in Florida June 28 of this year. Today, it says the CDC reports 400 pregnant women in the U.S. with evidence of the infection, up from 346 a week before. Three more babies have been born in the U.S. with birth defects, bringing the total to 12. Infected babies were also born in New York City, Spain, and Honduras.

Cases are declining in Brazil where the Olympic games are about to begin. Numbers are falling--from 3,710 to 3,741--a week ago.

The first Zika death has been reported in Puerto Rico in April where there are also 683 suspected cases, including 65 pregnant women and five suspected instances of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Spain reported its first case of a brain-defect related to Zika in May.

Surely widespread spraying of insecticide cannot be done worldwide. Wouldn't it be more prudent to encourage individuals to protect themselves from being bitten by infected mosquitoes?

There are scientific solutions on the horizon, such as the controversial genetically-modified mosquitoes, but for a myriad reasons, not the least of which are funding and uncooperative public agencies, that is not happening.

We find ourselves in a potentially deadly situation at present, but what about the solutions causing irreversible damage to the environment? 

The most commonly used fogging agents used in Florida to kill adult mosquitoes are pyrethroids.

This man-made chemical is similar to the natural occurring compound in the chrysanthemum flower. Large amounts of this chemical can cause dizziness, headache, and nausea that can last for several hours. Larger amounts might cause muscle twitching, reduced energy, and changes in awareness. In larger amounts, it could cause convulsions and loss of consciousness. Exposure might be capable of causing cancer, according to the Toxic substances portal of the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry of the CDC. 

We have already seen a decline in the number of bees and butterflies, as well as other pollinators essential to the production of food and essential plants. According to Nature World News, "Now new research has determined that sprays commonly used to control mosquito populations in the United States may also be having an adverse effect on common butterfly populations." The publication cites journals: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Science of the Total Environment, and Chemosphere.

This 2015 article, published prior to the massive spraying due to Zika, sounded alarms to the use of insecticides.

"It was already known that these chemicals were toxic to many species past a certain concentration," according to the report. It adds that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already lists insecticides as toxic to aquatic organisms and honeybees.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz under fire, rightly or wrongly

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Debbie Wasserman Schultz,
former head of the Democratic
National Committee (DNC)
Apparently the hubbub about Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, now the former head of the Democratic National Committee, has passed. The news died down in short order once the first night of the Democratic Convention commenced.

Unity may never truly occur between the Sen. Bernie Sanders' supporters, which Wasserman Schultz is accused of slighting over support for the party's ultimate nominee, Hillary Clinton. Aside from the voters that flat out dislike Clinton, many of the Sanders' voters are young. They are feisty and want to dig in their heels. It appears that most of the Bernie or Bust folks are prepared to follow the lead of their mentor who suggested they switch their support to Hillary Clinton. The alternative, a Donald Trump administration is undesirable to most and a third party vote could dangerously result in a Trump victory.

None of the imperfections in the political system happened overnight. None of them will be solved overnight either.

What really ails the Democratic Party is years of apathy and inattention to politics. This lack of interest is partly responsible for the chaos that guides political parties today. The idea that new voters have awakened is a good thing, but political experience and/or knowledge of history is helpful when guiding decision making. It is helpful to fully understanding how things have been done and how they need to be done. There is never a need to reinvent the wheel.

Many of the young people excited by the notion of a political revolution, led by Sanders, are also members of the instant gratification generation. That kind of comfort just doesn’t bode well in the political arena where long, measured actions and reactions are the norm. Politics is about getting all the ducks in a row; it is about dealing with people, a difficult task because the Democratic Party consists of so many people from different backgrounds and cultures, with differing ideas, and independent thoughts. A political party deals not with just the candidates, but everyone else associated with elections, from the staff, volunteers, and voters. It takes finesse to get everyone on the same page.

There is little to indicate that Democratic Party Chairman Debbie
Wasserman Schultz did anything to require more than an apology to Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Granted, her actions were an embarrassment, but that is only because Sanders was so once-in-a-lifetime successful. Had he been just another candidate, nothing would have come of this.

Wasserman Schultz was already ruffling feathers when just before the convention her emails were released by Wikileaks. They provided embarrassing evidence.

Who expects a personal email to fall into the wrong hands? Who expects their words to be read beyond the intended recipient? Anyone would be embarrassed. Who is to say how, and more importantly why, and by whom this information was leaked. That is another story for another time.

The DNC is being accused of slighting Sanders’ campaign. That may be, but they why is also important.

Consider the fact that Sanders has been an Independent candidate and only chose to run as a Democrat for this Presidential election. That proves a stark contrast with Clinton, who has been a staunch Democrat for most of her political career, spanning decades.

When she lost the Primary to Barack Obama in 2008, it was evident that she would seek the Presidency again. It was almost inevitable that she would run and win this time. Following the first black President, Hillary Clinton could become the first female President. It would be historic. The Democratic Party wanted that to happen, long before convention planning had commenced.

By contrast, Sanders campaign began when he announced his intentions. It was almost out of the blue. Few took him seriously at first.

It seemed early on that the primary would be just going through the motions. By the time Bernie and Martin O’Malley entered the race, Wasserman Schultz and the DNC were already geared up for a Clinton Presidency. In hindsight, a Clinton win was premature, but by then, the ducks were already lined up. There is probably not a single person, including Bernie himself that could have predicted the dynamics of this primary battle. Everyone was surprised at the country’s apparent distaste for politics as usual.

So, if Wasserman Schultz and the DNC are guilty of anything, it is bad timing, premature judgement, and the inability to stop a runaway train. They were ill-equipped to predict the success of the Sanders campaign. Once it was finally realized that Sanders was a real threat to Clinton's candidacy, the train was already barreling down the track and it was too late to flip the switch.

Politics is not a spontaneous sport. An election is a huge undertaking that requires cooperation, understanding, and generally being on top of every little detail. And there are lots and lots of details. It also requires people skills since there are so many individuals involved in races, staff, and volunteers all across the country.

As the DNC Chairman, Wasserman Schultz was charged with doing what was best for the Democratic Party, not just the presidential race, but the entire party, which includes a whole host of governors, state officials, as well as U.S. Congressional candidates. How could she have known early on that Bernie Sanders was going to “knock it out of the park” in terms of fundraising, support, and visual turn-out for rallies? Such a phenomenon is unprecedented!

Much of Sanders’ support came from young and enthusiastic first-time voters. Others are from the far left, progressive fringe of the Democratic party. Then there are the natural Hillary haters that have bought into the quarter-century of lies and innuendos told by Republicans in hope that something will stick.

Together, all those voices made up a pretty strong force.

Admittedly, Wasserman Schultz and the DNC should not have been biased against Sanders in favoring Clinton. But then when Trump became the GOP nominee, it became urgent to boost the candidacy of whomever Democratic Party presumed to be their best candidate. They had been burned before.

The DNC experienced a heated primary in 2000 when Ralph Nader took votes that could have boosted Al Gore's candidacy. Instead George W. Bush invariably won the tight race through the back-door with help from brother Jeb and his political cronies in Florida coupled with a GOP-laden Supreme Court. The justices took control of the election and handed it to Bush. In the back of their minds—the DNC—burnt badly in 2000, would guard against that ever happening again.

So on the eve of the convention of what might be the most important Presidential Election after all she has put into it, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has announced her resignation

Hillary Clinton has offered Wasserman Schultz an honorary position in her campaign, as chair of Clinton's 50-state strategy. This is not, as some are charging, a Quid-Pro-Quo. Instead it is an opportunity for Clinton to utilize the best and brightest talent for a job that needs doing. Wasserman Schultz has experience in politics and her help will likely be invaluable.

Like many, I’m personally disappointed in how this entire Bernie Sanders campaign issue has been handled. But it is time to learn from mistakes, get stronger, and move forward. I would like to see Sanders continue his efforts to coalesce like-minded folks, who one day can continue a real political revolution. That will take very hard work and long hours however, since nothing in politics or for that matter, anything of substance, happens overnight. I’m enthused to see this political movement grow. I’m excited to see Hillary Clinton prove to her adversaries that they have been wrong about her. I believe she can be a great President. And, I’m excited to finally see a woman occupy the White House.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Politics as I see it

This has been the most exasperating election season I can ever remember.
Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton,
Democratic Nominee
for President 2016

That wasn’t the way it started out for me. Early on I was excited to see such a great field of Democrats vying for President.

Republican politics has just never appealed to me. 
It would take a pretty great person for me to vote for a Republican. It has happened in the past, but not very often. I just do not share the same philosophy with the party of ‘bigger is always better.’  This year’s candidates almost seemed like jokesters to me. I could hardly relate to any one of them. One seemed worse then the other, and there were a whole host of them. To me, the worst of the bunch were Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz. Not only did none of them impress me, but they aggravated and annoyed me.

I admit I was partial to Hillary Clinton at the start. In simple terms, I was excited about the prospect of the first female President, but I also felt that Hillary has worked hard for the opportunity to serve as President. I felt she was deserving and completely prepared for the job. These are tough times, so I am not sure there is ample time to break-in a new President. It really would be advantageous to have a candidate hit the ground running, so to speak.

Despite support for Hillary, I related completely to the words of Bernie Sanders. He echoes my own feelings about what is wrong with government. I know I’m not alone there. I have plenty of friends and family members that have also been taken with the notion of a Sanders presidency. Lots of people out there “feel the Bern.”

I was also pretty impressed with Martin O’Malley, who I felt could have easily succeeded Barack Obama. I’d like to see him advance his political career. He seems to share the kind of common sense that is necessary to deal with today’s problems. And, he is a good speaker, something the American people need in a leader.

A very important primary election
I admit that due to some personal problems that have kept me very busy, the inability to connect with the clerk’s office to obtain an absentee ballot, and being in a quandary about who to support, I admit, for the first time, publicly, that I did not vote in this state’s primary election.

The primary is over now and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presumptive nominee, though who knows how secure that position will be, with every effort on the Republican side and even some on her own team, trying to destroy her. As I write this, I see increasing animosity toward Clinton by the Republicans, but also by the folks that support Sanders. Have they just finally been swayed by the relentless attacks by the GOP?

It is time to think hard about the future
With the national convention where a nominee will be officially named, this primary season is now at a crossroads. It is impossible for anyone to make a prediction, based on the news, lack of news, lies and innuendo, too many political pundits—both professional and amateur—as well way too many opinions on social media, television, and elsewhere. The information available is as varied as it can possibly be.

Bernie Sanders has finally endorsed Clinton for President, but that may not be enough since his supporters are so vehemently opposed to a Hillary Clinton Presidency. They still hold out hope that she will fail and he can be whisked in at the last minute to become the nominee.

But there is another spoiler entering the fray—Jill Stein—the Green Party Candidate for President. I have nothing against her, and in fact like what she espouses, but feel she is nothing more than a stick for which to stir the political soup pot. A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump. This is still a country with two parties. Any third party candidate is a spoiler. Stein will take votes from Clinton, not from Trump. The result could be disastrous, if enough people vote for her. That is what the GOP is hoping for. Siphon enough votes away from Clinton, so they can get Trump to win the contest.

Haven’t we learned this lesson in the past? 
There is a dangerous game being played in Democratic politics and it may serve to blow up in everyone’s face. If Hillary Clinton is not elected, there is only one alternative—Donald Trump as President. No thinking person wants that to happen.

No candidate is perfect 
While I do not agree with Hillary Clinton 100% of the time, she still will have my vote. I refuse to pick her apart by policies—policies that are continuing to evolve—when there is a big picture to look at. We must look at the total package, and not be dazzled by the pretty ribbon tying it together on the outside.

Some people don’t seem to understand that. Often times, folks are just one-issue voters. Some voters are completely inexperienced about how the political system works. Many of these are students and young people that have never seen how long it takes to fight for a cause. Others are complete idealists, refusing to see beyond their own beliefs. There is no compromise for them. They see the world through black and white with no gray area. If there are enough of these kinds of voters, we will certainly face a Donald Trump administration in our future. In my view, that would be a disaster of epic proportion, not just for our country, but for other countries of the world.
While I understand the Bernie Sanders movement, and the enthusiasm he brought to the table, there is no reason to believe the movement is done. It certainly can continue from a seat in the United States Senate. Government and politics are slow-moving. A political revolution, which was promised, is not something that happens overnight. These things take time, nurturing, and planning before they are carried out.

My problem with Bernie Sanders has always been that he has never been tested. We’ve seen plenty of Bernie amid like-minded people, but what would happen to him in a general election with the likes of a Donald Trump, where insults and manufactured information was recklessly revealed on every television station multiple times per day. Anyone can buy an ad. It doesn’t matter if it is truthful. Most times, it completely isn’t. There is no truth in advertising, especially in political advertising. We do know that Hillary can handle it. She has withstood it for decades.

Bernie has painted himself into a corner, by claiming to be a socialist without enough explanation. So many dismissed him as a crackpot, because of their own ignorance and not by anything he did. He did little to educate them.

Let’s give the woman a chance
So much has been said about Hillary and her shifting positions. I’m a woman, so I understand that nothing is ever set in stone. As new information comes to light, even our long held positions can be tweaked, tempered, or even shifted. Everything is a work in progress. Nothing is so perfect that it doesn’t need to be re-thought and re-thought again. We live in an ever-changing world. Things change. I caution against judging Hillary Clinton by the good ole boys of the past. We’ve never had a woman in the White House and it could make all the difference.

I don’t believe all the ugly things I’ve heard about Hillary Clinton, because frankly, there is never any proof—just a bunch of hot air—by people with an axe to grind. People generally don’t like strong, independent women. I do. I want to see Hillary succeed. I want to see what she can do. I think that like Barack Obama surprised some of his adversaries, Hillary Clinton will too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Better to build bridges than to build walls

I realize it has been some time since I posted here, and for that I apologize. Truth is, I've been trying not to be a writer of late. 
Writing has been so important to me for the most recent half of my life, which translates into about 30 plus years. I've always used writing to express my hopefulness and positive inspiration. Thing is, there isn't always hope and inspiration has two sides.

...which brings me to the state of the country and the most recent primary election.

I'm an avowed Democrat, only because I believe in the philosophy the Democratic Party espouses, even if it doesn't always live up to its own values. Then again, as much as we all try, who does? It is hard to hold firm to everything we believe in when outside forces often times make that so difficult.

That said, my inspiration this morning, is a mixed bag. 

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton,
Democratic Nominee
for President of the U.S. 2016
On one hand, I was thrilled to see Hillary Clinton secure the Democratic
nomination for President. First and foremost, I'm proud  of the continuation of a hard-fought progression of this historic undertaking. Woman have fought long and hard for equality, but that doesn't mean they are the same as men. In fact, the differences between women and men and how they think is precisely why I wanted to see a woman in the White House. Equality does not now, nor ever did mean that men and woman are the same. It is just all about fair treatment under the law.

For those who despise Hillary Clinton, I'm sorry you feel that way. There have been stories made up about the Clintons since they entered the national stage. So many of them have been debunked, fallen away like too many foul balls that never made it over the plate. I've heard the criticisms, and I can't help but wonder how many of them are simply made up by men of the opposing party who seem to be unable to cope with a strong woman in a leadership position. Misogyny has proven to be very real, even in this day and age.

Consider the fact that no one, perhaps not even Hillary herself, knows just what she will do or how she will react, when it is she who sits at that desk in the oval office. I don't feel she can be judged necessarily, based on her job as First Lady, past votes in the U.S. Senate or even her deeds as Secretary of State. She was always a part of someone else's administration. It is far different to take someone else's orders than to be the one giving them and being responsible for how and by whom they are carried out.

What president has ever been seen with prior crystal ball clarity, even when it entails their own policies and procedures? Things happen! Pre-planning isn't necessarily the name of the game when it comes to governing a country. The game does, however, require experience, intelligence, ability, and a knowledge of every consequence. The U.S. President has to be able to react in a moment's notice, and with judgment, strength, and understanding, to every disaster and potential crisis thrown at them.

I don't know of anyone on the national stage that is as prepared as Hillary Clinton to do that.

That brings me to the other side of my inspirational need to write about this primary election.

Image result for public images of Bernie SandersWhile Sen. Bernie Sanders has energized many folks, especially young people, his job is far from over. History will not remember that he held huge rallies and scored millions of votes in a primary election. History will remember him for what he does next.

In my view, it is time for him to have a teaching moment with his followers. Many of them are young and inexperienced. They don't know the history, and have likely never participated in national politics before. I would bet most never even participated in their own local politics either.

Bernie said all the right things. I felt the Bern at first as well. I believe all the things he believes. It was so gratifying to hear someone on the national stage and running for President who espoused the same things I believe. It was like he spoke directly from my own soul. But then I started to question how he could get them done. I've seen how government operates. It is a long, drawn out process. It is like the U.S. government operates on dial-up while the rest of us connect at higher and higher speeds. While I am still hopeful that Bernie can get done the things he is passionate about, and that I am passionate about too, it could never be as President. Barack Obama's inability to get things done with an obstructionist Congress is a perfect example of why Sanders would fail.

Sanders has never been tested in the way that Clinton has been tested. The GOP never took him serious enough to try to annihilate his character or demean his very existence as they have with the Clintons. We don't know how Sanders would react to that type of unfair, unethical scrutiny. The opposing media never hammered on his every word. Bernie Sanders was an unknown in that regard.

Bernie Sanders could very well beat Donald Trump in the election, but there is so much more to governing than campaigning.

Bernie has done little to change the membership in Congress or help individual governors get elected. The GOP and especially the tea-party wing of the party has to go. That is part of what a political party does. Bernie has simply not played the game. To a political party, the election of senators, representatives, governors and mayors is almost as important to the operation of a united country as electing a President.

Many of the criticism of the Democratic Party are by some who have never participated in it before. If I were Bernie, I would challenge all my supporters to participate in their own local elections, to run for office themselves if they feel strongly enough, and to study how a local political system operates. That is how things change, from the bottom up. Young people who are interested in how things operate and are inspired to change it, need to stick with it.

There is no place in politics for instant gratification. If young people aren't willing to start at the bottom and work their way up, they don't understand how it works. If real change is going to happen in this country, it will not happen in one election cycle. If this really is a movement, then it is imperative that it continue.

My hope is that Bernie Sanders and all his supporters continue to stay active and involved. Reach out and work with the next President of the United States to make the changes we all want and need.

The most important thing Hillary Clinton said when she secured the delegates needed to clinch the nomination Tuesday, was that it was better to build bridges than to build walls. While she aimed that remark toward Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee she will likely face in November, it is true for all people in all aspects of life.

Isn't it time all Americans come together and fight for what we all want? Don't we all just want a better country and a better way of life for everyone?