South Florida’s out-of-control “Oxy Express”; pill mills run willy-nilly

I don’t know that I have ever seen a more startling statistic than this:

Doctors in Florida prescribe 10 times more oxycodone pills than every other state in the country combined.

That’s right; a state with 6.1 percent of the population accounts for over 90 percent of its oxycodone prescriptions. The rest of the country’s pharmacies would need to jack out their output by a factor of about 150 in order to keep the other 49 states in step with Florida in this dubious regard. Even by the standards of the most comprehensively ludicrous state in the nation –Florida is to the rest of America what the Insane Clown Posse is to pop music — that is dumbfounding.

Rather than opine further, I leave you with NPR’s story and Carl Hiaasen’s column about the issue, which centers on a truculent governor named Rick Scott who, prior to being elected, amassed his personal fortune as the head of a healthcare company that last year proved responsible for the most egregious Medicare fraud ever perpetrated. Hiaasen warned voters of the menace in their midst prior to the gubernatorial election last fall, and true to form, they elected Scott anyway. After Scott won, Hiaasen again predicted serious problems, and the oxycodone mayhem is only the first.

Life again imitates Carl Hiaasen’s art (or, Facebook claims another victim)

When I first happened across Carl Hiaasen’s offbeat and wildy entertaining mysteries, I assumed that in concocting his characters the longtime Miami Herald columnist was drawing on his experiences as a journalist and exaggerating what he had seen. I was half right; having since spent a few years as a resident of South Florida, I now understand that if anything Hiassen tones down his adaptations from the real world in order to make his fiction more believable.

One of Hiaasen’s novels–all of which are set in his home state–mentions, in passing, a center on a high-school basketball team who, unbeknownst to his opponents if not his coach and teammates, is 27 years old. Now out of Tampa comes this story: Continue reading “Life again imitates Carl Hiaasen’s art (or, Facebook claims another victim)”

Wilma turns four

As a New England native, I’ve lived through a number of ice storms, but nothing so terrifying as Hurricane Wilma, which struck Florida four years ago this weekend in the fall of 2005.

I’d already been introduced to Florida’s destructive potential. I first moved to the state, to a town just west of Fort Lauderdale, in August of 2004, right before four storms hit within a period of a month or so–Charley (which did most of its damage on the West Florida coast), Frances, Ivan (which ripped apart Grand Cayman Island and was more of an Alabama storm than a Florida one), and Jeanne. Frances and Jeanne hit land at almost the exact same place, near Stuart, halfway up the coast. We lost power for a short spell owing to Frances and Jeanne. I had to wonder, loudly, why anyone would willingly live in that state, but I was following a girlfriend at the time, so what did I know?

Wilma was far more destructive. By then, in the dubiously record-setting hurricane year of 2005, we (the dog, the girlfriend, and myself) had moved north a bit into Palm Beach County, to the infamously betitted city of Boca Raton. Hurricane Katrina had already done its thing in August, passing mostly through Key West en route to its terrible destination in Louisiana. (I rarely went to the beach during my whole stay in Florida, but was always fascinated by the phenomenon of parasailers, so I was right there off A1A when Katrina hit, watching apparently mindless people fly high into the air.)

Several days before Wilma hit the state, I was extended an offer by a friend across the state to stay there for the duration of what promised to be a devastating event. My girlfriend, enrolled at classes at the time and with family in the area, had no interest in going anywhere. So I figured, fuck it, the building is up to code (not something one can always count on in South Florida), and we’ll ride it out.

On the morning of October 24th, I think it was, the storm–already recorded as the strongest ever in the Atlantic basin–washed ashore near Naples, on the Gulf Coast. It didn’t take long for the hurricane to cross the state and draw a bead on Boca Raton, which was exactly what the NOAA had been predicting for days. I was up all night waiting for this shit to happen, and got a call from my dad at roughly 6:30 that morning. He was tracking the storm online and saw that Boca was about to get nailed. I managed to correspond with him for about 10 minutes, until the power predictably blew out, followed in short order by my cell phone (at the time I was a T-mobile client, and we lost all service, although I’m not sure what difference being a subscriber to this particular provider made).

At about 7 a.m., things got nasty. I’d been listening to the winds picking up outside without necessarily giving it a lot of consideration, other than the damned dog’s endless pacing (bedroom? Living room? Bedroom? Living room?). Then the wind quickly got worse than any I’d ever experienced.

The world record for surface wind speed is 231 miles per hour, recorded 75 years ago on the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire during a gust that snapped the anenometer gauge, rendering the actual force of the blast open to question. Human bodies become obligatorily airborne at far slower speeds. Reported gusts during Wilma reached a “mere” 120 miles an hour (in nearby Pompano Beach), and that was enough. Our apartment building had all sorts of fake terra cotta (I think that’s the term) crap on top of it, and in the early morning that day, it was being torn off the roof and being blown into the driveway, with sounds resembling shotgun blasts. For some reason, the woman next door had chosen to park in the space my girlfriend ordinarily did. She got a young banyan tree on her Honda’s roof for her trouble.

By 8:30 I, having been up all night, had had enough, and went to sleep myself, next to a deeply troubled German Shepherd mix and a girlfriend who seemed remarkably unconcerned. (I recall sleeping to the left and on top of them both in the event the window blew in, unlikely as the prospect may have been.) This was more or less at the height of the storm, but as our power had been lost by that stage, I was no longer keeping good track.

I woke up at around 12:30, by which time the hurricane had come and gone. We (the three of us) went outside into an uncommonly cool, dry day. I immediately saw that every hanging traffic light in the city within visual range was on the ground, a finding later confirmed and expanded during a drive around town. Power poles had been abundantly sheared off at their base. I thought about playing Mr. Rogers and taking one of those light complexes into my apartment, but there were at least two problems with this: 1) I couldn’t have wired any of those bad boys up given the damage, and 2) those fuckers are a lot bigger than they look when they’re dangling a couple dozen feet off the ground.

A quick survey of the immediate and nearby neighborhoods offered further ugliness. A row of 12-15 newspaper boxes had been toppled. A couple of airplane hangars at the Boca Raton Airport had been crumpled as if they had been made of aluminum foil, which they may well have been. Fallen trees blocked virtually every major intersection. On a run that afternoon (don’t ask), I saw a sign that had been torn off an overpass on Palmetto Park Drive and planted itself in the median strip. Those fucking things are also bigger than you think. This sign had to be 25 feet wide and must have weighed…a lot. It was stuck by one corner in the grass, and the force responsible for ripping it off the bridge isn’t something I like to consider. There were wires, most but not all them dead, on the ground, several offering a congratulatory hiss to idiots intent on getting a run in that day.

It would be two weeks before we would get our power back, although a local Publix supermarket opened only two days after Wilma blazed through the city.

South of us, where Colleen’s parents live, the damage was worse. Being
on the southern lip of a hurricane is never good, since winds travel counterclockwise and are therefore additive in an eastward-moving storm at such locations. Broward County was, as a result, very heavily smacked. Several of Fort Lauderdale’s larger buildings were hugely damaged; Colleen’s parents’ yard, including their pool and its caging, was more or less destroyed.


One Financial Plaza in Fort Lauderdale after Wilma

The city of Miami was mostly spared–this time. When a Saffir-Simpson Class 5 windstorm hits South Florida and its six million residents–and it’s only a matter of time–it will make Katrina’s impact look like a fouled-off fastball. There are only three real escape routes from the area (I-95 to the north, I-75 to the west, and Florida’s Turnpike) and people are generally too stupid to use them anyway.

All told, Wilma killed close to 60 people in Florida and caused close to $21 billion in damage.

21 polo horses doped to death in Florida

This is one of the more revolting stories I’ve seen in a long time.
In spite of my connections to endurance sports, I’m not a fan of the combined horse racing-polo scene (yes, I realize these are two different forms of exploitation, and don’t get me started on dog racing), and this is as unfathomable as it is infuriating.

The head of a Tallahassee-based pharmacy admitted Thursday that it incorrectly mixed a medication that was given to 21 horses that mysteriously collapsed and died before a polo match over the weekend.
Jennifer Beckett, chief operations officer for Franck’s Pharmacy, said an internal investigation revealed the strength of an ingredient in the medication was flawed. In a written statement, she did not name the medication or the ingredient involved.
”We will cooperate fully with the authorities as they continue their investigations,” she wrote. “Because of the ongoing investigations, we cannot discuss further details about this matter at this time.”
The news came as the politically-connected Venezuelan multimillionaire who owns the 21 horses indicated he suspects his team’s own veterinarian may have played a role in the deaths of some of the polo ponies, according to a letter from a Philadelphia lawyer.

The compound in question is a substitute for Biodyl, a vitamin supplement that is banned in the U.S. and contains vitamin B, selenium, potassium and magnesium–at least in theory. I am wondering if the horses, all of which perished within four hours of receiving the medication, died of cardiac arrest from the potassium. But magnesium poisoning is nothing to mess with either, and who knows what was actually in this drug.
I wouldn’t go purchasing stock in Franck’s Pharmacy of Ocala and Tallahassee, Florida anytime soon. It’s not clear from the article whether the team vet was in fact complicit in any way; he can’t necessarily be held accountable (although legally he might be ) for the pharmacy frigging up the formulation.
Bizarre, and very sad.

Hiaasen lights up the Florida legislature

And it figures that his voice of opposition is from the one place I refuse to live even under penalty of death:

In particular, Bogdanoff worries about the impact that a cigarette tax would have on convenience stores — not exactly the bedrock of our economy, but these are the establishments where most young smokers buy their Marlboros and Camels.
”Twenty-two percent of all sales in convenience stores are cigarettes,” Bogdanoff said. “We need to look at everything. If they don’t go in to buy cigarettes, they don’t buy the Coke. They don’t buy the chips.”
And if they don’t buy the chips, then they don’t buy the beef jerky! God help us!
The citizens of Broward County should feel proud to have a representative who bravely stands up for capitalism at all costs and says to hell with the public’s health.

Maybe Florida needs a bestiality law after all

First there was this. After that comes a woman from Sarasota County who has a thing for child pornography. Then, things get really strange:

Sarasota County Deputies have arrested a woman who videotaped herself having sex with two dogs.
Deputies say Caroline Willette videotaped herself having sex with two dogs and watching child pornography with a friend.
The 53-year-old gave a CD with the images to an acquaintance, who turned it over to police. Willette is in Sarasota County Jail and is charged with three counts of possessing child porn.
Willette admitted to detectives that she had sex with the animals in her home and watched young girls perform sex acts on the Internet.

Ms. Willette may be the kind of person who, in personal ads, describes herself as “adventurous,” “an animal lover,” and “a film buff.” In any event, I wouldn’t want to be the judge in this case, and I’d want to be the presently unnamed “friend” even less.

Florida lawmakers honking to criminalize sex with animals

As Carl Hiaasen reports, Florida legislators are reintroducing a 2006 bill that would make bestilaity a third-degree felony, punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

The cry for justice first arose from the small Panhandle community of Mossy Head, where in 2006 a 48-year-old man was suspected of abducting a neighbor family’s pet goat and accidentally strangling it with its collar during a sex act.
I wish I were making this up, but the story is true. The poor goat’s name was Meg.tors have re-introduced a bill drafted a couple of years ago that would make bestiality a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

It’s hardly draconian to have laws on the books keeping people from screwing animals; the consequences can, after all, obviously be fatal and constitute cruelty in any case. But this sort of thing emphasizes how lovably clueless some elected officials can be in Florida.

[T]he discussion among lawmakers of this rather delicate topic already has provided a few uncomfortable moments.
As [state senator Nan] Rich’s bill was being amended to make sure that some common animal-husbandry practices were exempt, Sen. Larcenia Bullard of Miami spoke up in puzzlement.
”People are taking these animals as their husbands? What’s husbandry?” she inquired.
The committee chairman, Sen. Charlie Dean of Citrus County, patiently explained that animal husbandry was a term used for the rearing and care of domestic animals.
Still, Bullard appeared confused.
”So that maybe was the reason the lady was so upset about that monkey?” she asked, an apparent reference to the recent incident in which a pet chimpanzee was shot by Connecticut police after it went berserk and mauled a visitor.

And from the “only in Florida” department:

As fervently as we might hope otherwise, the goat-sex attack in Mossy Head wasn’t an isolated incident. Rich says other disturbing acts against animals have been reported throughout the state, including the molestation of a horse in the Keys and of a seeing-eye dog in Tallahassee.
The latter case involved a 29-year-old blind man who four years ago was charged with ”breach of the peace” after admitting to police that he had sex on numerous occasions with a yellow Labrador named Lucky, his guide dog.

Lucky, my ass.