Saturday, January 21, 2017

A few photos and videos that perfectly capture the mood of yesterday's inauguration

Why so glum?
President Trump and first lady Melania attend the Inaugural luncheon
at the National Statuary Hall. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Melania Trump presents Michelle Obama with a gift and Michelle's reaction speaks volumes.

If looks could kill....
Click image to enlarge.

Some photographs really need no caption.

And Hillary catches Bill looking at someone he probably shouldn't be looking at.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A mother's letter to her children on Inauguration Day

Allie Merzer Fleming is the daughter of retired Miami Herald senior writer Marty Merzer.

This morning on Facebook she shared a letter she wrote to her children.

I've been given permission to re-post it here.

A letter to my children regarding the Trump Inauguration:

Dear Solly (8) and Sophie (4),

Your father and I met 13 years ago when I was working for the Florida Democratic Party and he was volunteering for the Kerry campaign. Sol, you were 5 months old when you joined us to vote in an Obama onesie and Sophie, you voted for Obama’s second term when you were only 6 weeks old. You both participated as your parents helped local and statewide campaigns and with my job you are a familiar face at City Hall. This year, you danced when Katy Perry sang at the Democratic Convention, you watched the debates on our laps, you wore your Hillary stickers to vote with us on Election Day and you stayed up late (as late as we would let you) as daddy taught you how to track the votes online.

On November 9th, you came into our room like it was Christmas morning, excited to hear the results. I shook my head “no” and you crawled onto the bed and cried with me.

Since then you have had a lot of questions. Through the whole campaign your dad and I have been forced to discuss things we were weren’t quite ready to – how can leader be so angry? How is he allowed to say such mean things? Does he hate babies? Does he want to kill everyone in black? Your eyes and ears see and hear things differently than we do – snippets distorted by your own understanding, your own views and your own relationship with the world.

I’ve been forced to explain why we don’t “hate” our new President and that hate is a bad word in our house, even when we have strong feelings about him and the election. I’ve explained that even though “Miss Hillary” lost, we will continue to spread love and understanding because that’s what we were voting FOR and that our three branches of government will work the way it was designed and it will all be ok.

But I am lying.

I don’t know that it will all be ok.

I am scared. I am sad, I am angry and I am lost.

I have tried to come to terms with this as the new reality but I cannot… for that makes it seem like I’ve come to terms with hatred, bigotry, racism and sexism and I have not and will not ever accept those horrible attributes in humankind as “ok”.

I have tried to make peace with those who didn’t vote for Hillary thereby putting him into the Oval Office but I cannot… for that makes it seem like all the reasons I voted FOR her weren’t worth the fight.

I have tried to ignore the news and social media and only focus on puppy pictures and local politics but I cannot …for that makes me an uninformed citizen and leaves me powerless to protect you.

On this day the world will change forever and all I can do is be honest.

I honestly don’t know what will happen. I honestly don’t know that we will be ok.

What I do know is that there are a lot of people in this great country who will fight with every breath they have to protect you – not just because you are Jewish, or because you are female, or because you are middle class – but because you are a person with rights and responsibilities not dissimilar to any other person of any other color, gender, religion or creed.

What I do know is that you are loved and that you have been taught to love. You are surrounded by a community that cares for each other and your family works in that community, as you will too one day.

What I do know is that we can affect change, big or small, one street or one state, one law or one action at a time and that I will try my hardest to ignite that light in you, even when my own spirit is dimmed by current events.

What I do know is that your father and I will protect you and your rights as Americans to the end of our days. We will provide for you and teach you to provide for others, we will educate you and teach you how to communicate with others; we will keep you safe from harm and hold you harmless from the chaos that may consume your country for the next few years.

I wish I could kiss this hurt away like any other boo-boo, hold you in my arms and promise that you will feel better tomorrow. You might or might not. Honesty is all I have to give. I wish someone would hold me and tell me that I will feel better tomorrow and that they could actually make it better tomorrow. And then maybe I might or might not. But I would like to think that because we have each other – that we all have each other -- I am better off already. And so that is all we are left with – we have each other; tomorrow will be a better day.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

I need your help

If you like what I do here, and you'd like to see it continue, then I could really use your help. I hope you'll consider making a donation to help keep this blog going.

Just click on the Paypal "donate" button at the top of the right-hand column and follow the instructions.

Thank you for your support and continued readership.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Giant gator goes for a stroll at a nature center in Polk County.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is preparing to run for Governor of Florida by reading a widely discredited book about the state that's full of myths and made up 'facts'

In 2013, during his first run for Miami Beach Mayor, Philip Levine promised in one of his campaign ads to "get the city's finances under control [and] end corruption." Levine won the election, and a second term in 2015.

But yesterday - less then a month after the city discovered that $3.6 million had mysteriously vanished from its bank accounts without anyone noticing - Levine announced that he will not seek a third two-year term.

Instead - in a video posted on YouTube - Levine strongly hinted that he'll run for governor in 2018.

Levine told the Miami Herald that "he plans to go around Florida on a listening and learning tour this spring before making a final decision."

On Twitter, Miami Beach-based filmmaker, and frequent Levine critic Billy Corben, reacted to the news of a potential Levine candidacy: "Florida man who can't handle Miami Beach budget thinks he can run the whole state."

Levine told the Herald “over the coming months, I plan to travel the state to listen, learn and “find Florida,” he said. “I am actually reading T.D. Allman’s book “Finding Florida.” I will make my decision in the spring.”

But before Levine "finds Florida," he might want to look around and find a better reference book on Florida.

At the Miami Book Fair last year, Levine met Allman, had his picture taken with him and called him a "fantastic author."

Levine apparently made that assessment without doing any research.  Allman's "Finding Florida" has been widely discredited by both critics and historians.

A photo posted by Mayor Philip Levine's (@mayorlevine) on

James Clark, a lecturer in the History Department at the University of Central Florida criticized "Finding Florida" for being "grindingly negative." In 2013 Clark wrote that if Allman had "been willing to do more research and provide a complete picture, this could have been an outstanding book."

When I told Tampa Bay Times writer Craig Pittman that Levine planned to read Allman's book, he chuckled.

Pittman, a Florida native who has covered Florida's environment for the Times since 1998, is arguably, an expert on all things Florida. (Pittman is the author of "OH, FLORIDA! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.")

In 2013 Pittman and colleague Jeff Klinkenberg read Allman's book and found it full of "forehead-slapping errors."

Here are just three:
• About the naming of the state: "It was not because of any profusion of flowers. Look into any Florida backyard; even today you'll see a somber palette of greens" (p. 7). The guidebook Florida Wild Flowers features 500 colorful entries such as scarlet morning glories, meadow beauty and purple passionflowers.

• "Palms ... are not native to Florida" (p. 119). The Florida silver palm, the Keys thatch palm and the sabal palm — the state tree — are natives.

• "Rita Mae Brown had become the most successful Florida-born author since Zora Neale Hurston ..." ( p. 443). A two-fer: Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Ala., and Rita Mae Brown in Pennsylvania.

On, Pittman posted a longer list of errors and omissions contained in Allman's book, including this: "The omission that truly amazed me was the life and death of Harry T. Moore, the first civil rights leader to be martyred to the cause. Moore's valiant life and death are covered ably by Gilbert King in the Pulitzer-winning Devil in the Grove, a far, far superior Florida history book than this one."

Today I asked Pittman if he had a list of books he'd recommend that Levine read.

Here's his emailed response:
"If you want to learn about Florida, here's a list of 10 books that would be better than that other one."
--"Seasons of Real Florida" by Jeff Klinkenberg
--"Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams" by Gary Mormino
--"Backroads of Paradise" by Cathy Salustri
--"Fringe Florida" by Lynn Waddell
--"Up for Grabs" by John Rothchild

--"The Man Who Invented Florida" by Randy Wayne White
--"Orange Crush" by Tim Dorsey
--"Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston
--"Hoot" by Carl Hiaasen
--"Condominium" by John D. MacDonald

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Audra Burch is leaving the Miami Herald for the New York Times

The bad news: the Miami Herald is losing Audra Burch, one of the paper's most talented journalists. 

The good news: She will remain in Miami  where she will report for the New York Times.

Here's an email Herald bosses sent to the paper's staff:


Time to announce some bittersweet news that many of you probably have heard: Audra Burch, our extraordinarily talented enterprise reporter, has accepted a job with the New York Times, writing enterprise stories for the national desk.

Audra came to the Herald in the mid-1990s after stints at the Sun-Sentinel and the Gary Post-Tribune.

At the Herald, she has distinguished herself over and over, starting as a consumer reporter, shifting into features, where she developed a beat covering the American South, including the funeral of Coretta Scott King and the spate of church burnings in Alabama, before migrating to the Metro desk, where she continued to produce journalism of the highest quality, including a sub-beat on veterans.

Her narrative writing talents are legendary. A few highlights include her coverage of the killing of Sherdavia Jenkins, a 9-year-old girl struck by a stray bullet while playing on her doorstep, and a ticktock on the shooting death of NFL star Sean Taylor.

And then there is Innocents Lost. Audra and Carol Marbin Miller collaborated on the project that painstakingly examined 477 deaths of children who perished despite being under the protective umbrella of the Florida Department of Children & Families. The series led to an overhaul of DCF's leadership, new legislation, and won a boatload of prestigious awards, from Harvard's Goldsmith for investigative excellence to the University of California's Selden Ring to Neiman's Worth Bingham Award to the Online News Association's public service prize. The impact of the series is still reverberating.

The good news is that Audra will remain based in South Florida -- and she will be around for a couple more months working with Carol on another project that should be a fitting capstone to her career here.

Please join us in congratulating her.

Mindy, Rick and Casey