Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Billy Corben is on jury duty

Miami filmmaker Billy Corben is on jury duty this week.

And I, for one, couldn't be happier.

Billy's been sharing some random thoughts on Twitter and Facebook on the creaky machinations of Miami-Dade's justice system as it's practiced at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building.

Here's what Billy shared yesterday:
  • "The Richard E. Gerstein Justice Bldg. in Miami-Dade County, Fla. was built 40 years ago for 8-10 judges. It now has over 45 judges and 1 working elevator."

  • "Richard E. Gerstein was a 6-term (1956-1978) Dade County State Attorney who investigated the Watergate burglars and allegedly had ties to Meyer Lansky. Later, Gerstein defended Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) when he was charged with indecent exposure at a Florida adult movie theater."

  • "The WiFi works better on the Miami-Dade County, Fla. Metrorail than it does at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building."

  • "The jury room movie today is NOT 'Cocaine Cowboys.' I wonder if they have a public performance license to show these DVDs... Miramax?"

  • "I got picked to be on the jury in a criminal trial starting tomorrow. On the bright side, mañana's lunch special at the courthouse is sautéed bistec with white rice and red beans."
  • Today, Billy kicked off a day of Facebook status updates and tweets with this observation:
    "Ironically, the view from the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building is of one of the greatest crimes ever perpetuated on the people of Miami-Dade County."


    Keep 'em coming, Billy!


    A few moments with Ozzie Guillen

    View more videos at: http://nbcmiami.com.

    Ozzie says he's not crazy: "People think I am crazy. I'm not crazy. Listen, I never beat my wife, I've been married for 30 years with the same woman, my kids all have college degrees, I've never been caught drinking and driving, I pay my taxes."

    Ozzie on the National Anthem: “The National Anthem is 10 minutes before the game starts. We’re going to start in 10 minutes and you’re late? National Anthem, they’re going to be there…That’s the only [rule] I have. You’re not going to go by that easy one? We’re going to have problems. A lot of people have been killed trying to make this country free for us. You should be there for at least two minutes. Respect that, especially if you come from another country. You should be there an hour before. I think it looks good for baseball if you’re in the stands and you look at the team respecting the flag and the National Anthem. Kids can see that, the respect.”

    Ozzie on the new Miami Marlins logo: "Sometimes when this thing closes it looks like 'Mami'"

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    How the Miami Herald's David Ovalle broke the story everyone is talking about

    Ovalle
    Here's how the Miami Herald's David Ovalle found and broke the story of Miami Beach House Rep. Richard Steinberg's "sexxxy" text messages.

    From Howard Goodman of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting:
    The story almost didn’t happen. As Herald courts reporter David Ovalle relates, he spotted a search warrant while on a routine check of the clerk’s office in the Miami state courthouse, something he does every couple of weeks. He doesn’t usually find big stories there. “Mostly, they are run-of-the-mill drug seizures or hydroponic labs, or maybe a drug or domestic murder,” Ovalle told me in an email.

    The name Steinberg didn’t leap out at him. Maybe an anonymous ticket lawyer, Ovalle thought. “I took a copy anyway just to be sure,” he said. “On my drive to the office, I Googled the name and my jaw dropped.” Ovalle had actually talked to Steinberg once or twice, back when the state representative was a Miami Beach commissioner.

    The next day, Ovalle called Steinberg’s office, which wanted proof he was under investigation. Ovalle sent them a copy of the warrant, which left no doubt the Secret Service knew the messages came from him. “Within two hours,” Ovalle said, “Mr. Steinberg had admitted he sent the texts.”

    That was Wednesday. Two days later, Steinberg stepped down.
    Click here to read the full story at FCIR.org.



    Monday, February 27, 2012

    Death pays a visit to the Fontainebleau's LIV [UPDATED x3]

    UPDATED at 6pm, Feb. 25: The Miami Herald's David Smiley reports "a delay in emergency response may have contributed to the death of [Gomez."]

    UPDATED at 1:15pm, Feb. 25: Victim's name is Albert "Floppy" Gomez. His friends are tweeting condolences on Twitter.

    UPDATED at 10am, Feb. 25: The New York Post's Page Six reports that friends of the victim told Miami Beach police he had been "drinking and doing cocaine earlier [in the evening."] The Post says the 31 year-old man and his friends arrived at LIV after attending the Heat/Knicks game Thursday night.
    ...
    Earlier this month, it was announced that the Fontainebleau's swank nightclub, LIV, came in at #5 on Nightclub and Bar's 2012 list of the highest grossing nightclubs in the country.

    One website says, "With over 18,000 square feet of striking architectural design and lavish decor, LIV sets the stage for the ultimate nightlife experience. A voyeuristic design throughout the nightclub gives guests a bird's eye view of the celebrities, VIPs and Miami's most beautiful crowd."

    In other words, LIV's clientele are there to escape reality.

    But, early Friday morning reality paid a visit to LIV. According to several witnesses, a man collapsed in the club.

    Miami Beach police spokesman Det. Juan Sanchez told me late Friday that Miami Beach Fire Rescue responded to the posh club "shortly after 2am Friday morning."

    A male, according to Sanchez, was transported to Miami Beach's Mount Sinai where he later died.

    Sanchez was unable to reveal the man's name or age and whether or not his next of kin had been notified.

    At least one non-police source familiar with Miami Beach's nightclub scene reports that the man may have suffered a drug overdose.

    Former Miami Beach police chief Carlos Noriega is reported to be working at the Fontainebleau as head of security.

    I'll update when I get more details.


    Your mid-morning time waster

    Best red carpet moment from last night's Oscars: "Sacha Baron Cohen -- dressed as Admiral General Aladeen, his character from the upcoming comedy "The Dictator" -- spilled an urn filled with "Kim Jong-il's ashes" all over E! red-carpet host Ryan Seacrest before the Oscar ceremony on Sunday night."



    Sunday, February 26, 2012

    Stuff we like

    Dana Point Dolphin Stampede - 2,000 plus dolphins racing a whale-watching boat off Dana Point, Calif.



    Friday, February 24, 2012

    Coral Gables Police Chief Dennis Weiner takes city taxpayers for a ride

    Click image to enlarge.

    Miami Herald columnist Jose Lambiet reports today that Coral Gables Police Chief Dennis Weiner - in less than a year on the job - has been taking the City Beautiful's taxpayers for an expensive ride.

    Lambiet recently learned that Weiner - who makes $140,545 a year - has been making a daily, 180 mile round-trip commute from Juno Beach to Coral Gables in his city-issued Ford Crown Victoria.

    Since March 2011, Weiner has logged 31,300 miles on his unmarked Crown Vic in addition to using $5,391 in taxpayer-supplied gas.

    When he was hired, Weiner promised city administrators that he would move to Coral Gables from Juno Beach, where he was also the police chief. He hasn't.

    Lambiet, a former Palm Beach Post gossip columnist, has racked up a lot of scoops lately for the Herald and for his website, GossipExtra.com...some of them having nothing to do with celebrities.

    A few weeks ago Lambiet reported that Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle supplemented her income by lending "$50,000 to a Key Biscayne homeowner at 12 percent interest."

    And, last year Lambiet broke the news that a search of the Broward County Property Appraiser's office "turned up 871 people receiving property tax exemptions years after their death."

    Lambiet told me today that he was tipped to Chief Weiner's expensive commute while attending an event in Coral Gables a few weeks ago.

    Lambiet said Gables City Manager Pat Salerno stonewalled him at every turn as he attempted to learn how much Weiner's daily round-trip was costing Coral Gables taxpayers.

    Click here to read more of Lambiet's scoops at GossipExtra.com.

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Miami Beach politician tries his hand at sexting...fails miserably


    From the Miami Herald:
    Miami Beach House Rep. Steinberg under investigation by feds for bizarre texts

    by David Ovalle

    Federal agents are investigating Florida House Rep. Richard L. Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, for sending a series of suggestive and harassing text messages to a married Miami female prosecutor, court records show.


    Steinberg and wife, Micky Ross Steinberg
    The dozens of messages, sent over the course of more than three months last fall, were sent from a phone that used software to disguise the number. The victim, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos, repeatedly begged the anonymous texter to leave her alone.

    When U.S. Secret Service investigators traced the Yahoo! screen name, “itsjustme24680,” it led to a phone and home internet account registered to Steinberg, a former Miami Beach commissioner whom Fernandez-Karavetsos knew only through professional circles.

    Late Wednesday, Steinberg — in response to a request for comment from The Miami Herald — admitted in an email that he was behind the messages.

    “I acknowledge and take full responsibility for sending inappropriate and unsolicited messages to Mrs. Marlene Fernandez-Karvetsos, whom I have known for more than 15 years. I deeply regret and wholeheartedly apologize for the disrespect that I have shown her, her husband and my constituents,” he said through a spokesman.

    “Most importantly, words cannot express how sorry I am to my wife, for the disrespect I have shown her, and my entire family.”

    Click here for full story.



    photos of marlene fernandez-karavetsos photos, pics, video, photos of richard steinberg's wife, Micky Ross Steinberg, Micky Ross Steinberg photos pics


    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Your late afternoon time waster

    Last night, Jimmy Kimmel observed that Mardi Gras "turns normal, everyday people into drunken lunatics who’ll trade their dignity for 9 cents worth of beads. And then once it’s over, everyone goes back to being normal."

    Then he sent Cousin Sal out on the street to ask women if they'd ever flashed anyone.

    Stick with this for a surprise ending.




    President Obama sings "Sweet Home Chicago"



    From ABC News:
    President Obama showed off his vocal abilities once again tonight, singing a few lines of “Sweet Home Chicago” during the finale of a blues concert at the White House.

    “We were trying to get you to help us sing that because I heard you singing Al Green,” blues great Buddy Guy urged the president from the stage, referring to Obama’s infamous performance at the Apollo last month when he sang a few lines of “Let’s Stay Together.”

    “So you’ve started something. You’ve got to keep it up,” Guy said.

    A reluctant Obama ultimately obliged.

    “Come on… Baby don’t you want to go,” Obama sang, mic in hand, as the crowd swayed around him and the first lady cheered him on. “Oh come on, baby don’t you want to go.”

    The president then held the mic up briefly for the legendary B.B. King to sing the line “… that same old place,” before Obama brought it home “… sweet home Chicago.”

    The president joined the band in the closing moments of a concert by music legends and young stars in the East Room that was part of the White House Concert Series.



    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    The way we were...Cracking down on jaywalking in Miami Beach -1970

    Miami Beach, 1975. photograph by Flip Schulke.
    The date: May, 1970.

    The place: Washington Avenue and 14th Street, Miami Beach.

    Miami Beach police officer Frank Marzullo - the "Dirty Harry of the Crosswalks" - is nabbing jaywalkers and issuing $3 tickets like he's handing out candy at a kid's birthday party.

    On hand to record the action is a crew from a kinder, gentler Channel 7, including reporter George Skinnner, who was surely a contender that year for "Mr. Congeniality."

    From "Two Feet To the Grave" - WCKT, Channel 7, May 28, 1970 (Part 1)


    (Part 2 - watch for Marzullo's interaction with the old guy at 0:25)


    (Part 3)



    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    MiamiHerald.com: Where hate speech thrives


    If you spent any amount time on the Internet last month, you no doubt saw a few of the surveys that rate cities based on various criteria.

    America's Worst Drivers: Travel+Leisure says Miami has the worst drivers.

    America's Most Miserable Cities: We're #1 according to Forbes Magazine. We even beat out Detroit!

    America's Rudest Cities: Miami is number two in this category, behind New York but ahead of Washington DC.

    But, if you drive on I-95 or the Palmetto with any regularity you don't need a list to tell you Miami's drivers are the worst...or the the rudest.

    And miserable? If you have any doubts that South Floridians are rude and miserable, just head on over to MiamiHerald.com.

    Click on the link to any story and scroll down to the readers' comment section.  There you'll find examples of abusive ad hominem, vitriol, hate speech and smears rivaling anything that can be found on a Tea Party website.

    And, for some strange reason, the Herald's website seems attracts a fair number of readers who can't figure out how to disengage the caps lock key.

    Yesterday, the South Florida Daily Blog compiled a short list of abusive comments left on the story about the bicyclist who was struck and killed on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

    Like this:
    thetruth99
    4 Words "Roads Are For CARS" Ride on the sidewalk with your gay spandex shorts!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Here's one I found this morning that didn't make SFDB's list.

    It's written by someone whose username is "meinschwanzistsehrgross." (Google Translate will help you find out what that means.)
    "THESE BICYCLISTS IN KEY BISCAYNE ARE COMPLETE IDIOTS. THEY RIDE IN THE ROAD LIKE THEY OWN THE ROAD AND LIKE NOBODY IS EVER GOING TO DARE RUN THEM OVER. THEY ARE COMPLETELY RUDE. THAT GUY GOT WHAT HE DESERVED."
    Got what he deserved? Really?

    Here's a question for those in charge at the Herald: Why do you allow this sort of garbage to flourish on your website? Clearly, having moderators in Bangalore or Mumbai is not getting the job done.

    According to a note on your editorial page, readers sending letters to the editor must include their name, address and phone number in order to have their letters considered for publication.


    You don't publish hate filled screeds by anonymous authors in the paper and I'm reasonably certain you wouldn't publish a letter from a reader - signed or unsigned - who advocated running over and killing someone just because they were riding a bicycle.

    So why allow this kind of crap on the website?

    It's time to end the system that enables this kind of thing. Hate speech and off-topic comments only cheapens your product and brand.

    In 2010, Scott Rosenberg, a Salon.com co-founder, wrote in a blog post about newspaper comments:
    If you opened a public cafe or a bar in the downtown of a city, failed to staff it, and left it untended for months on end, would you be surprised if it ended up as a rat-infested hellhole?
    Why not adopt the comment system that the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers are using?

    Click on the link to any LA Times story and you'll find a comment section that's tied to readers' Facebook accounts. (Who doesn't have a Facebook account these days?)

    It won't stop all abusive comments, but at least it will force the haters to "own" their comments.

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    Jack Blankenship IS "The Face!"



    UPDATED on 2-21-2012: Blankenship appears on the Today Show...

    Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



    On his Twitter page, University of Alabama freshman Jack Blankenship says he's been "Publicly embarrassing myself since 1992."

    Hey, if the kids of Jersey Shore can do it...why not Jack?

    From ESPN:
    Alabama freshman Jack Blankenship has seen the giant heads that fans hold up at basketball games. Usually they're photos of celebrities or tributes to their team's players.

    But he decided he knew a better way to distract opposing players.

    "I thought it'd be cool to find a way to get a picture of myself and bring it to the games and hold it up," Blankenship said. And people noticed.

    At his first game with the giant likeness, ESPN2 announcer Pam Ward highlighted Blankenship in the stands. "This guy ... who does that? I mean, who makes a picture of themselves?" Ward asked.

    "My friends were calling me, saying I was on ESPN2," Blankenship said, excitedly. He popped up in other places. One screen grab from the game has attracted more than 680,000 views.

    In only his second game on Tuesday night, he was captured by Birmingham News photographer Hal Yeager and was shown on the paper's website under the headline, "Is this the SEC basketball photo of the year?"

    The facial expression that seems to stop everyone has its own name. It's called, amazingly enough, "The Face."

    Chris Paciello arrested for DUI on Miami Beach [UPDATE x1]

    UPDATED at 12:20pm with booking mug from Miami Dade Corrections and arrest details from Miami New Times.


    Click images to enlarge.

    Gus Garcia-Roberts at Miami New Times reports: "At 4:29 am, police officers spotted Paciello-- real name: Christian Ludwigsen-- driving recklessly in a dark-colored Jaguar, according to Miami Beach Police spokesperson Juan Sanchez. He headed northbound on Jefferson Avenue at approximately 80 miles per hour. The cops radioed in a description of the car and he was soon pulled over. 'There was a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, and he had watery eyes,' says Sanchez. Paciello refused a Breathalyzer test-- he similarly refused one during an incident in 1995-- and is believed to still be in jail."

    Chris Paciello was arrested on Miami Beach last night for DUI Random Pixels has learned.

    Last year, Miami Herald gossip columnist Jose Lambiet reported that Paciello had returned to his old stomping grounds of South Beach.
    For the first time since he was released from federal prison five years ago, Miami Beach’s fallen nightscape overlord has returned to where it all started.

    Chris Paciello, now 40 and described by some who have run into him as “subdued and humbled,” is settling down at the Delano Hotel.

    He’ll be living there for the next few months as he works to give back to the legendary beachside resort its No. 1 ranking among hipsters and celebrities.
    [...]
    “He’s a very bright, capable guy who has learned a great deal over the years,” said Al Malnik, owner of The Forge. “He’s going to bring back a lot of stars who wouldn’t otherwise be here.”


    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    Is the Miami Herald broken beyond repair?


    Yesterday, two bicyclists were struck by a hit and run driver on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

    One of those cyclists, Aaron Cohen, who had been hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital, died today when he was taken off life support.

    Every TV station in Miami reported the story, but for some unexplained reason the Miami Herald missed, or chose to ignore the story.

    The Herald's been missing a lot of stories lately.

    The story of bicyclists being hit on the Rickenbacker by distracted or impaired drivers is not a new one.

    It's simply inexcusable for the Herald to have ignored it. Responding to spot news ain't rocket science.

    This afternoon, a day and half after the crash, the Herald finally got around to posting a story...complete with a mangled photo caption containing old information that contradicted the story.

    Click to enlarge.

    There is a bright spot in all of this, however.

    While the Herald doesn't bother to cover news these days, they still have a dance critic.

    And while they have difficulty covering a story on the Rickenbacker, the Herald is still the place to find all the news from Haiti; the Western hemisphere's most dysfunctional country.

    Late last month, Miami Herald executives announced that they'd be moving the paper - at a cost of $57 million - to a new building by May 2013.

    But, if things keep up the way they're going, there may not be much left of the Herald to move to the new building.



    Who will be the next to wear the Miami Beach Police Chief's badge ?



    Miami Beach is poised to pick its next police chief.

    Last December, the Miami Herald reported that nearly 80 people had applied to fill the vacancy left by retiring police chief Carlos Noriega.

    Last week, two screening panels submitted a list of four finalists who are now scheduled to undergo a final screening and interview process on Feb. 22.

    What follows, are thumbnail sketches of each man.


    ______________


    Raymond Martinez, Miami Beach Police Asst. Police Chief and acting Miami Beach Police Chief.

    Martinez
    A 22 year veteran of the Miami police department, Martinez was picked in Oct. 2001 by then Miami Beach Police Chief Don De Lucca to "handle administrative duties such as hiring, training and overseeing the annual budget," according to a Miami Herald story at the time. He has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from FIU.

    Martinez is viewed by those familiar with the inner-workings of Miami Beach politics as a long shot to be the city's next chief.

    Last September, Commissioner Ed Tobin told the Herald's David Smiley, “The present candidate for chief, the assistant chief, [Ray Martinez] has been here for 10 years and I would say that I think the police department needs some fresh blood for a lot of different reasons.”

    In a Facebook post, Commissioner Jerry Libbin wrote, "I am fed up with the continuing revelations about our police department. That's why i have been adamant about the need for a new police chief who is committed to dealing with these issues and restoring confidence in the department. This means bringing in someone from the outside, as opposed to promoting from within."

    Many department insiders view Martinez as someone who stood by and did nothing as the department became embroiled in one scandal after another under previous chiefs, including Noriega. Others fault him for having "zero personality."

    Mark Overton, Hialeah Police Chief.

    Overton
    As police chief of Miami-Dade county's second largest city - one with a long history of corruption - Overton has managed to avoid any hint of scandal in his 28 years as a Hialeah cop. One person familiar with backgrounds of all the candidates calls Overton, "Tim Tebow in a police uniform."

    Overton grew up in Hialeah and attended Hialeah High School.

    In 2007, Overton told the Herald that he aspired to be a firefighter but changed his mind while working as a security guard at Hialeah Hospital in the early 80's. He graduated from the police academy in January 1984.

    Thirteen years later, Overton was a lieutenant in the department's special investigations unit. A 1997 Miami Herald story detailed Overton's efforts to crack down on Hialeah's many illegal bars.
    It's a scene Hialeah police, who have heightened crackdown on illegal bars in the past six months, say they find too often: Many of the same cafeterias that serve up lunchtime rice and beans and cafecitos are also acting as illegal bars, especially at night and weekends.

    The maverick cafeterias become breeding grounds for violent crimes, drug sales and gambling.

    Patrons bet on video games in back rooms. At the counters, employees pass along drugs with booze. Skimpily dressed bar girls who get a commission according to the number of drinks they sell, keep customers' glasses full. Arguments escalate into shootings and stabbings.
    [...]
    Overton estimates that more than 70 percent of the city's 459 licensed cafeterias, tucked away in the city's industrial sections or in plain sight at strip shopping centers, break the law regularly. It's easy and profitable, he said.

    Frank Fernandez, former Miami Police Department Deputy Chief under John Timoney.

    Fernandez
    Fernandez joined the Miami Police Department in 1985 according to the City of Miami's website.

    A 2005 Associated Press story offers some insight into Fernandez's style of policing. When the Miami Police Department announced it was adopting a new strategy against terror the AP reported,
    Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.

    "This is an in-your-face type of strategy. It's letting the terrorists know we are out there," Fernandez said.
    [...]
    "People are definitely going to notice it," Fernandez said. "We want that shock. We want that awe. But at the same time, we don't want people to feel their rights are being threatened. We need them to be our eyes and ears."
    In 2007, as deputy chief under Timoney, 85% of the members of Miami PD's police union cast ballots saying they had no confidence in Fernandez.

    In 2008, a Miami New Times story described Fernandez like this:
    It's tough to find fault with Fernandez's record. In 23 years on the department, his only reprimands have come from minor accidents in his patrol car. And his personnel file shows him as a young sergeant's pet who received accolades for volunteering at seemingly every police event, including helping to run the '92 "Pig Bowl" football game (we couldn't make this stuff up). The schmoozing paid off: Fernandez went from a 19-year-old recruit making $6.94 an hour to his current position, which earns him $174,319 a year.
    In Nov. 2009, Fernandez announced his retirement from the department which coincided with that of Timoney.

    Some MBPD insiders say that Fernandez is is just what's needed to bring "real change" to the department, but "he is hated for his iron fist."

    Tom Hunker, Chief of Police, Bal Harbour.

    Hunker
    Chief of police of the tiny town of Bal Harbour since 2003, Hunker - a retired Miami Beach cop - is arguably the most controversial of the four finalists for the top job.

    There are two camps within the MBPD: those who despise Hunker and those who love him.

    One source tells me that Hunker "does not have the knowledge, skill or ability to be chief and has too many skeletons and too much political baggage to be an effective leader."

    The source charges that "while on a drug raid in the 1970's at the Star Island mansion of the Zion Coptic Church, Hunker stole their custom made flag and displayed it in his office for years."

    Others criticize Hunker for being too close to Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin.

    Last December, the Herald's David Smiley reported that anonymous posters on a forum frequented by cops, "questioned whether Tobin ’s entering the {Miami police] academy had anything to do with his relationship with Bal Harbour Police Chief Thomas Hunker and Hunker’s bid to become Miami Beach police chief.

    "As a 13-year-old Explorer, Tobin came to know Hunker, then a Miami Beach police officer and advisor to the Explorers," wrote Smiley.

    But, chief among the criticisms of Hunker is the role he played as supervisor of a June 1988 undercover drug sting that "went wrong."

    Miami News, June 30, 1988.
    When the botched operation was over, Scott Rakow, a much-admired 28 year-old Miami Beach cop was dead.

    Twenty-four years later, those with knowledge of the case bitterly blame Hunker for Rakow's death.

    In his 1996 book, Forgotten Heroes: Police Officers Killed in Dade County 1895-1995, author William Wilbanks cites a 1989 two-part Miami New Times investigation that "concluded that the sting was 'poorly planned and poorly executed' and should have been called off after several warning signs and that 'disastrous blunders' occurred during or before the sting."

    (Read the full account of Rakow's death in Wilbanks' book by clicking here and then scroll up to page 206 to the beginning of the chapter.)

    What kind of leader will Hunker be if he's picked?

    Highlights of Hunker's tenure as Bal Harbour's chief include his purchase of a $100,000 police boat with seized drug money and increasing the frequency of DUI checkpoints on the stretch of Collins Avenue that runs through his little burg.

    Some police department insiders call Hunker's management style, "reckless." A source likens Hunker to "Jimmy Hoffa."

    City Manager Jorge Gonzalez is expected to select one of the four finalists by the end of this month. He'll then forward his recommendation to the city’s seven commissioners who will vote on who becomes the new police chief.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Is this really a good idea?

    Click to enlarge.
    The Miami Beach Police Department is struggling to repair its battered image.

    Remember the wild west shoot-out last Memorial Day weekend? And who can forget the two cops who decided it would be a great idea to crash a July 4th weekend bachelorette party at the Clevelander....while they were on duty and in uniform?

    It will be years before the MBPD can undo the damage caused by those two incidents.

    So, you'd think those in charge at the department would be careful about doing anything that might give the impression that they're not serious about making changes.

    Guess again!

    This weekend, some folks at the police department have invited South Beach residents to what they are calling a "Meet and Greet 'get together' with your Sector 3 MBPD police officers!" Refreshments and appetizers provided!

    And where is this "meet and greet" taking place? At a conference room at the police department? Of course not!

    Someone in charge decided it would be a good idea for cops and the citizens they serve to mingle at the Finnegan's Way Sports Bar on Ocean Drive.

    Yeah, Ocean Drive...where the world comes to get sh*t-faced!

    But, just because a couple of knucklehead cops couldn't hold their booze... that's no reason to keep the rest of the police force from enjoying some....."refreshments and appetizers" with the good citizens of South Beach. Right?

    Something tells me this is not going to end well.


    Man Steals Rolex Watch at Ft. Lauderdale Airport Security Checkpoint



    Guy steals a watch from a bin at a TSA checkpoint at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport back on Jan. 18. For some unexplained reason the Broward Sheriff's Office is just now getting around to releasing the surveillance video, (above).

    From CBS Miami:
    A watch thief with an impeccable sense of timing stole an expensive Rolex from woman at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

    Last month, Gloria de Regalado was just following the rules like everyone one else when she placed all her belongings in a plastic bin as she went through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint in Terminal 3.

    Regalado said about half an hour later when she went to look at her watch to check the time she found that her $6,500 Rolex was gone. Panicked, she suddenly realized that she had left it in the security bin. Regalado rushed back to the checkpoint, but her watch was nowhere to be found.



    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Happy birthday to us!

    Four years ago next month I started this blog.

    I never thought for a minute that it would last for four months, let alone four years.

    It's been a wild ride. More than a few people in South Florida stop by on a regular basis. And some of those have singled my little blog out for recognition.

    I've broken a few important stories along the way; and I'm proud to say that I played a small part in taking down a certain county mayor.

    At this point I suppose could reminisce a bit and write something about which one of the posts on Random Pixels had the most page views or what operating system or browser my readers use. But, how freaking boring would that be?

    Instead, I decided to draw some inspiration from an Internet meme that's been making the rounds and put together a little graphic that might better explain how I see my blog and how it's viewed by others.

    Click to enlarge.


    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    Miami police officer Fausto Lopez is a serial lawbreaker

    Click to enlarge.

    Last Oct. 11, Miami police officer Fausto Lopez was chased, stopped, ordered out of his police car at gunpoint and handcuffed by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper after she clocked him doing speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour on the Florida Turnpike.

    His lawyer, William Matthewman, said Lopez is innocent.

    The traffic stop was all just "a simple misunderstanding that has been blown out of proportion," said Matthewman.




    However, South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporters Sally Kestin and John Maines have unearthed some information that contradicts Matthewman's claim.

    In Sunday's paper, Kestin and Maines report:
    The cop clocked at 120 mph on Florida's Turnpike last fall offered the trooper a familiar explanation: He was late for work.

    Miami Police Officer Fausto Lopez was often in a hurry, a Sun Sentinel investigation found. Commuting from his home in Coconut Creek to Miami, he routinely blew through Broward County at speeds law-abiding citizens can only dream of driving.

    In the year before his Oct. 11 traffic stop, Lopez averaged at least 90 mph on 237 days.

    He hit speeds of 100 mph or higher on 114 days, an analysis of SunPass transponder records shows.

    Lopez, 36,stood out as the most frequent speeder of all the cops whose toll records were examined by the Sun Sentinel.

    His attorney, William Matthewman, of Coral Springs, said he would have to verify the analysis before commenting.

    “Officer Fausto Lopez is a good driver,'' he said.

    “Certainly, he at no time has put any member of the public in any type of danger.''
    The revelations about Lopez's speeding habits are part of a series of stories on the danger speeding cops pose to the public they serve.

    In Sunday's paper, Kestin and Maines reported that....
    A three-month Sun Sentinel investigation found almost 800 cops from a dozen agencies driving 90 to 130 mph on our highways.

    Many weren't even on duty — they were commuting to and from work in their take-home patrol cars.

    The extent of the problem uncovered by the newspaper shocked South Florida's police brass. All the agencies started internal investigations.

    "Excessive speed," Margate Police Chief Jerry Blough warned his officers, is a "blatant violation of public trust."

    The evidence came from police SunPass toll records. The Sun Sentinel obtained a year's worth, hit the highways with a GPS device and figured out how fast the cops were driving based on the distance and time it took to go from one toll plaza to the next.

    Speeding cops can kill. Since 2004, Florida officers exceeding the speed limit have caused at least 320 crashes and 19 deaths. Only one officer went to jail — for 60 days.

    A cop with a history of on-the-job wrecks smashed into South Florida college student Erskin Bell Jr. as he waited at a red light in Central Florida three years ago, hitting him at 104 mph. Bell is now severely brain-damaged.

    "Every day, you pray for a miracle,'' said his father, Erskin Bell Sr. "Had this officer's behavior been dealt with, maybe he would not have run into our son.''

    Law enforcement officers have been notoriously reluctant to stop their own for speeding, and the criminal justice system has proven no tougher at punishing lead-foot cops, records show.

    That sense of impunity infuriates many Floridians. Those concerns erupted in October, when a state trooper clocked Miami Police Officer Fausto Lopez driving 120 mph through Broward County on his way to a moonlighting job.

    "They think that they have carte blanche. Who's going to catch them? Who's going to do anything about it?" said state Sen. Steve Oelrich, a Gainesville Republican and former sheriff.

    "Something needs to be done."
    In Monday's paper, Kestin and Maines report that "21 people have been killed or maimed in Florida by speeding cops since 2004." Kestin and Maines also found...
    • Many officers were not racing to a crime scene — they were responding to routine calls, speeding for no valid reason or just rushing to work.

    • Speeding cops are often spared severe punishment in the criminal justice system. Cops found at fault for fatal wrecks caused by speeding have faced consequences ranging from no criminal charges to a maximum of 60 days in jail.

    • Inside many police agencies, speeding isn't taken seriously until it results in tragedy. Even then, some cops are disciplined but stay on the job — and the road.

    • The dead include seven police officers who crashed at speeds up to 61 mph over the legal limit.






    Saturday Night Live parodies Clint Eastwood/Chrysler ad

    Saturday Night Live parodies the Clint Eastwood/Chrysler Super Bowl ad in three parts.







    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    The 'Amazing' Underwater Dog Photography of Seth Casteel

    The word "amazing" is so overused today that it's almost lost its meaning.

    But, yesterday when I saw a series of underwater dog photos taken by Los Angeles photographer Seth Casteel, "amazing" was the only word that I could come up with to adequately describe the pictures.

    Click to enlarge.

    See more of Seth's work at his Facebook page...

    ...and his website, Little Friends Photo.

    -Thanks to Tamara for the heads up.



    Random Pixels presents: Pictures that need no captions


    -Spotted by a friend on Miami Beach Friday.

    h/t: RS




    Michael Putney's 'Liberty City' commentary sparks outrage

    Putney
    Last Sunday, Channel 10's Michael Putney ended his show with a commentary that combined old-fashioned common sense with a healthy dose of harsh reality aimed squarely at Miami City Hall and the residents ZIP code 33127, otherwise known as Liberty City.

    Putney blasted Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones for approving a plan that will waste some $428,000 in taxpayer money fixing up four small businesses along NW 7th Avenue.

    Putney didn't pull any punches as he spoke frankly about the problems that have plagued Liberty City for decades. It's the kind of talk that's long overdue and the kind that residents of Liberty City don't often hear...at least not from their elected leaders.

    In his 35 years as a journalist in Miami, Putney has seen hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars - the equivalent of the Gross National Product of several Central American banana republics - funneled into Liberty City on do-good, feel-good projects that have yielded little or no benefit to the area's residents.
    After the McDuffie riots in 1980, hundreds of millions of dollars poured into Liberty City for promised "improvements." Besides widening 62nd Street, there's not a lot to show for that money. Each layer of government took its cut and so did some unscrupulous community organizers and politicians, black and white.
    Putney expanded upon his Sunday commentary with a column in Wednesday's Miami Herald:
    There are restrictions on how CDBG money can be spent, but if it were up to me I’d use that $428,000 to train Liberty City residents in job skills so they could go to work at the nearby UM Life Science and Technology Park.

    Or for training to get a job at Resorts World Miami.

    Or spend it on after-school tutoring and other programs for Liberty City school kids.
    Reaction was swift. Liberty City residents called a press conference Friday to denounce Putney.

    Leroy Jones of something called the "Neighbors and Neighbors Association" labeled Putney's commentary, "bigotry toward the residents of Liberty City."

    Jones told Channel 10 reporter Jeff Weinsier the $428,000 would "improve the morale" of residents and make Liberty City an attractive place "so that people who don't live in Liberty City might want to come here with their money."



    Ironically, as Weinsier's piece aired tonight on Channel 10's 6pm newscast, Miami police were investigating the second drive-by shooting in as many days in Liberty City.

    Putney ended his Herald column with this sentence: "To spend this money renovating the facades of four Northwest Seventh Avenue businesses is a cosmetic fix for a systemic problem. It’s worse than putting lipstick on a pig. It’s putting a useless Band-aid on a festering wound."

    Putney's right. It's going to take more than paint, new signs and awnings to attract people with money to Liberty City.

    And I'll add - are you listening Leroy Jones? - that Liberty City will become a whole lot more attractive to outsiders when the shooting stops. Just sayin'.



    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Marco Rubio: still telling stale jokes

    As he addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference, Marco Rubio stood by a teleprompter while he ribbed President Obama about using a Teleprompter. Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

    The photo above is from a Feb. 2010 post on the New York Times political blog.

    Back then, the Times' Adam Nagourney wrote,
    [Rubio] offered a riff on why it was such a good thing that Washington was shut down by a snowstorm last week. “And the president couldn’t find anywhere to set up a teleprompter to announce new taxes,” he said to laughter.



    (There's a nice compilation Rubio and other Republicans telling their 2010 CPAC teleprompter jokes by on YouTube.)

    Fast forward two years. The Conservative Political Action Conference is again taking place in Washington.

    And they're still telling the same, stale jokes.

    Yesterday, Rubio spoke to the CPAC gathering - and wouldn't you know it - The Republican Boy Wonder Son of Exiles opened with another knee slapping, Obama teleprompter joke. (Video here.)

    Standing at the podium before two teleprompters, Rubio unfolded a piece of paper and said, "So, I wrote a little speech here..I brought it. I apologize. You know it's hard to get a teleprompter in this town. There's a guy who uses a lot of them." Yuck, yuck!

    Question for Senator Rubio: How can you be trusted trust you to come up with new ideas for running the country when you can't even come up with a fresh joke after two years?





    Thursday, February 09, 2012

    You read it here first

    Thanks to the Miami Herald's David Smiley for the shout out in his story on Miami Beach's search for a new police chief.

    Click to enlarge.




    Wednesday, February 08, 2012

    Search for new Miami Beach police chief narrowed to four [UPDATE x1]

    UPDATED: The Miami Herald's David Smiley Tweets "city's HR director told me tonight list still at 12."

    Call it the Final Four.

    Miami Beach is one step closer to hiring a new top cop for its embattled police department.

    Random Pixels has learned that there are four finalists in contention to be Miami Beach's next police chief.

    Two panels interviewed a slate of 11 candidates this week and selected four to go on to the next stage of the selection process.

    They are:
  • Frank G. Fernandez, former deputy chief under Chief John Timoney

  • Thomas Hunker, Bal Harbour Police Chief

  • Mark Overton, Hialeah Police Chief

  • Raymond Martinez, Miami Beach Police Asst. Police Chief who is now acting Miami Beach Police Chief
  • The four finalists will now meet with a third selection panel whose members include Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus, Miami Beach attorney Victor Diaz, Hugo Barrera, Special Agent in Charge of the Miami office of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Jose Smith, Miami Beach City Attorney.

    The panel is scheduled to interview the four on Feb. 22 and send their recommendation to Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez.

    Miami Police announce DUI checkpoint in Overtown

    From the Miami Police Department:

    MIAMI POLICE DUI CHECKPOINT

    The Miami Police Department will be conducting a Multi-Agency DUI checkpoint and Saturation Patrol on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at NW 3 Avenue & 14 Street.  This checkpoint will take place in the City of Miami’s Overtown  NET Service area.  The checkpoint will be conducted during the hours of 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM. 

    The goal of this checkpoint is to identify and apprehend impaired drivers before they can kill or injure others. The Miami Police Departments will show zero tolerance for motorists who violate Florida’s traffic laws.  Miami Police officers will be on alert to apprehend motorists who are driving impaired and ticket those who are unbuckled. 

    This effort is in conjunction with the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over”, “Lets Eliminate Aggressive Driving” and the “Buckle Up Florida: Click It or Ticket” campaigns. 

    Members of the local media are invited and encouraged to support our effort by passing this information during their local news coverage.  For additional information, please call (305) 603-6525 or visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/Impaired.



    Officer Kenia Reyes
    Public Information Office
    400 NW 2 Avenue
    Miami, Florida  33128
    Miami police DUI checkpoints, Miami-Dade police DUI checkpoints, Miami Beach police DUI checkpoints, South Miami police DUI checkpoints, Hialeah police DUI checkpoints.

    Stuff we like

    From the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Visitor's Bureau YouTube channel...

    This video, taken recently off the coast of St. Pete Beach, shows dolphins keeping up with a guy who's "wake-surfing" behind a boat.



    Tuesday, February 07, 2012

    Newt Gingrich gets the Bad Lip Reading treatment

    He's starting to make sense, now.

    Newt Gingrich discusses hairy chests, Rick James, frilly panties, and more — via Bad Lip Reading.




    Newspaper Headline of the Year

    Front page image via The Newseum.

    The headline writers at the New York Post have come up with another classic.

    In case anyone's interested, I'm siding with Gisele. This is a woman who obviously understands the finer points of the game of football, unlike the wives of her husband's teammates.
    “My husband cannot f**king throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time."

    A veteran team staffer said: “Gisele may have had a point, but she should have left it to the sportswriters and other Monday morning quarterbacks. . . . She already is not liked by many players and their wives due to her arrogant attitude. . . . This sure won’t help improve things.”

    Proof of that came from the wife of a Brady teammate who told me Monday, “Gisele has very few friends among the wives. Of course, many are jealous of her looks and all that, but she doesn’t make it easy to like her — since she obviously feels so superior to all of us.”




    Monday, February 06, 2012

    And the Random Pixels award for the most asinine statement of the week....



    ...goes to Officer Michael Pons of the North Miami Beach Police Department.

    Pons, is also the local representative for the International Union of Police Associations and he's upset that his employer is taking away his take-home police vehicle which will require him to drive to work in his own car.

    The new money-saving policy affects about 89 North Miami beach cops according to a Miami Herald story.
    For about five years, Officer Michael Pons of the North Miami Beach Police Department drove the same patrol vehicle to work from his home in Broward.

    He drove about 56,000 miles in that time.
    Pons believes the city has it all wrong. He told the Herald.....
    ...Officers reporting for their shifts will now be required to transfer equipment such as laptops and safety gear to the city vehicle. He said at the start of each shift, each car needs to be checked for things like tire pressure and oil levels.
    Really, Michael? You check your police car's tire pressure and oil levels before the start of each shift? Cut the crap!

    That is, quite possibly, the most asinine thing we've heard so far this year! You are a dumbass!

    The way we were...'Black Sunday' - 1977

    A couple of clips from 1977's "Black Sunday," made right here in Miami.






    Sunday, February 05, 2012

    Michael Putney rips City of Miami for 'wasting' $428,000 in taxpayer money

    The City of Miami is getting ready to spend part of $428,000 in taxpayer money to 'renovate'
    The Shantel Lounge in Liberty City

    Local 10's Senior Political Reporter Michael Putney was checking his email last Friday when he noticed a "press release" [below] from the City of Miami.

    Instead of hitting the "delete" key like they do in most TV newsrooms, Putney actually took the time to read the fine print.

    On this morning's edition of "This Week in South Florida," Putney talked about what he found in that press release.
    Before we leave you this morning, a personal perspective about wasting taxpayers' money to help a struggling neighborhood.

    The neighborhood is Liberty City, a tough, [African American] community west of I-95 whose main streets are northwest 7th ave and 62nd street.

    After the McDuffie riots in 1980, hundreds of millions of dollars poured into Liberty City for promised "improvements." Besides widening 62nd Street, there's not a lot to show for that money. Each layer of government took its cut and so did some unscrupulous community organizers and politicians, black and white.

    Now, this week I got this "news release" [see below] from Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones saying that $428,000 dollars will be spent for a, quote, "commercial rehabilitation project" in Liberty City.

    What does that mean? That the facades of four small businesses on Northwest 7th Avenue are going to be spruced up. In an "Afro-centric architectural style" whatever that means.

    Could these businesses stand a fresh coat of paint and some new windows and awnings? I'm sure they could. But why are taxpayers footing the bill? And what long-range difference will it make to Liberty City? I'd say, not much.

    Why not take that $428,000 dollars and spend on after-school tutoring, special programs for kids who attend schools in liberty city.... so that they'll have the intellectual and social skills to get the heck out of there if they can.

    Spending this money to fix up four - just four, businesses - is absurd. Spend it where it will make a real difference.... in education.
    Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones Mark the Start of the NW 7th Avenue Commercial Rehabilitation Project in Liberty City

    (Miami, FL February 3, 2012) -- City of Miami Mayor Tomas P. Regalado and Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, District 5, will join Armando Fana, Miami Field Office Director, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the City’s Department of Community Development, the Board of Directors of Neighbors and Neighbors Association, Inc. (NANA), and several area business owners at Duhart’s Daycare Center on Monday, February 6, 2012, 10 a.m., at 5580 NW 7th Avenue, to mark the start of work on the Northwest Seventh Avenue Commercial Rehabilitation Project in Liberty City. The project encompasses the exterior rehabilitation of small businesses along the busy Seventh Avenue corridor, from Northwest 54th Street to Northwest 71st Street. The extensive façade project will be possible thanks to $428,545 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars, provided via HUD.

    Renovations to four businesses will include new windows and doors, fresh paint, stucco work, new signage, awnings and lighting, as well as the installation of protective shutters. The work will be handled in two phases and encompass several commercial buildings. Some of the small businesses to be renovated during the first phase include Duhart’s Daycare Center, Melanie’s Beauty and Barber Salon, Café NanKing Chinese Food, and Shantel’s Lounge. The facades will feature a contemporary Afro-centric architectural style by Design2Form Architecture. Work is being overseen by NANA, a not-for-profit corporation established in 1996 that specializes in assisting small business owners in low-income communities by providing technical assistance with community development projects, business improvement efforts and more.

    Begun in 1974, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program allots federal funding to more than 1,000 municipalities, including the City of Miami, for a variety of initiatives and activities that benefit low- and moderate-income persons. This program helps cities and counties create jobs, increase economic development opportunities, expand home ownership, and provide assistance to the neediest in our society.

    WHO: City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, District 5, HUD Miami Field Office Director Armando Fana, the City’s Department of Community Development, Board members of Neighbors and Neighbors Association, Inc., and several small business owners in Liberty City.

    WHAT: Will mark the start of exterior work on several small businesses as part of the Northwest Seventh Avenue Commercial Rehabilitation Project, made possible with federal CDBG funds.

    WHEN: Monday, February 6, 2012, 10 a.m.

    WHERE: Duhart's Daycare Center, 5580 NW 7th Avenue

    Angel Zayon
    Approved
    azayon@miamigov.com


    2012 Super Bowl ads: Sex, Humor and Dogs...Lots of Dogs

    It's an American tradition that happens just once a year.

    I'm speaking, of course, of the television extravaganza known in some circles as the Super Bowl, when one TV network airs four hours of clever commercials....periodically interrupted by pictures of big men throwing and running on a field with a ball.

    Let's check out some of the best ads.



    Volkswagen - "The Dog Strikes Back"




    Adriana Lima for Teleflora




    Doritos - "Bird of Prey"




    Suzuki "Sled" With 50 Cent




    Audi - "Vampire Party"



    But, if none of those do it for you, here's an ad for Kia that features Adriana Lima doing nothing but waving a checkered flag for 5 hours....yes, 5 hours.


    Newt Gingrich, Moon President

    Check out this brilliant satirical skewering of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's moon colony proposal on last night's Saturday Night Live.



    They said it

    “I think it’s terrible and it’s disgusting and now I’m going to throw up.” -Miami Beach City Commissioner Ed Tobin's reaction to a proposal by Tremont Towing and Beach Towing to raise fees the towing companies are allowed to charge for towing cars.

    “The towing industry has been vilified. There’s been attacks and all sorts of aspersions cast on the industry, which we believe are unwarranted, unfair and which will hopefully cease in the near future.” -Rafael Andrade, Beach Towing’s pro bono attorney.

    “It’s really not this multi-million dollar profiting business that’s been implied, in an way shape or form, at least not in the last four years.” -Andrew Mirmelli, who says his mother recently invested in Tremont.

    Read the complete story by the Miami Herald's David Smiley by clicking here.