Thursday, July 31, 2014

Miami Beach homicide detective fired after testing positive for cocaine will get his job back

An arbitrator has ruled that a Miami Beach homicide detective fired after testing positive for a controlled substance should get his job back.

Detective Reinaldo Casas was fired last year after testing positive for cocaine following a random drug screening.

Casas defended himself by claiming that he never knowingly used cocaine and blamed the positive results on a "sexual aid cream ... provided to me by a friend to assist my sexual performance."

From a Nov. 2013 Miami New Times story:
Casas was flabbergasted. He then evidently picked up a thesaurus to properly annotate his state of mood in a grievance he filed shortly afterward. "I was baffled, perplexed, and confused as to how these [results] could be possible," Casas wrote March 13.

"However, over time, heavy deliberation and the insight of others, I was able to pinpoint the cause," wrote Casas, who didn't return requests for comment for this story. "[It's] a sexual aid cream/gel... The sexual aid cream was provided to me by a friend to assist my sexual performance, and he never told me it contained [redacted drug name]. My girlfriend has used/applied the gel."

In an interview with Miami Beach PD's Internal Affairs Unit, Casas' friend testified he got the cream "from an old Cuban guy."

The story was sordid enough to make it into at least one British tabloid.

But now an arbitrator has ruled that Casas should get his job back.

In a ruling dated July 29, the srbitrator wrote: "The City did not have sufficient just cause to discharge Grievant Reinaldo Casas."
[Casas] is to be returned to his position as a Detective in the Homicide Unit of the Miami Beach Police Department with unbroken seniority. [Casas] is awarded back pay at his regular rate of compensation for all regular hours he was denied by reason of his discharge. No award of overtime pay is made. To be deducted from the back pay award herein are any sums [Casas] received from Unemployment Compensation which he is not obligated to repay, and any compensation he received through employment he undertook as a result of being discharged by the City

Your lunch hour time waster

Miniature Dachshund playing fetch with an automatic ball launcher.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Miami FBI Shootout - The Lost Tapes


April 11, 1986, approx. 9 a.m.: A squad of more than a dozen FBI agents in 11 cars are about to conduct a stakeout of banks along South Dixie Highway.

Nine days later, on April 20, 1986, the Miami Herald published a reconstruction of the first 15 or 20 minutes of their stakeout and the shootout that followed. Before the day was out, it was being called the bloodiest day in FBI history:
It was a bright clear morning, just after 9 o'clock, and the poky traffic was up to its usual tricks on South Dixie: stop, start, stop, start. A typical mess. It had been this way for several Fridays now. The FBI agents in their big, comfortable cars. Fighting the traffic. Watching, waiting and making small talk on the car radios.

There had been nothing.

No sign of the bank robbers whose peculiar brand of gratuitous violence prompted the FBI and Metro-Dade police to flood the Suniland area of South Dixie Highway with agents from a high-priority task force. Fridays are paydays; Fridays are best for robbing banks.

"Attention all units," the FBI car radios crackled. "We're behind a black vehicle, two-door, Florida license NTJ-891. We're headed south on South Dixie, no, north on South Dixie."

It was Grogan. Every agent in South Florida knew his bark, the precise, gravelly voice clipping each word. Special Agent Benjamin P. Grogan was something of a legend in the FBI's Miami field office. He had been with the bureau 25 years, and he had done it all.

At least one of the agents that morning - Grogan perhaps - also had a radio tuned to the Metro Police Department's Southwest District frequency.

At 9:20 a.m., a Metro police supervisor gets on the air and asks the dispatcher to advise all Kendall units of the FBI stakeout.

Twelve minutes later, at 9:32 a.m., an FBI agent using the unit number 2960 comes up on the county frequency to advise that he and his fellow agents are behind the bank robbery suspects' vehicle and traveling north on U.S. 1.

Five minutes later, at 9:37, the dispatcher advises units that calls are coming in about machine gun fire at S.W. 120th Street and 82nd Ave.

Her calls to FBI unit 2960 go unanswered.

At 9:41 a.m. a Metro police supervisor arrives on the scene and advises the dispatcher that there are "five on the ground."

Within weeks of the shootout, cassette tapes of that morning's radio transmissions were being circulated within South Florida's law enforcement community. However, very few civilians have ever heard the entire tape.

Until now.

Embedded below, are the first 30 minutes of the morning's radio transmissions. [NOTE: If you're unable to see the embedded audio file below, try accessing it by clicking here.]

(NOTE: The audio of the radio transmissions ends at the 29:55 mark. At the 31:23 mark, the tape picks up with audio of the calls that the 911 center started receiving from witnesses at 9:36 a.m.)




Herald Staff Writers

Two FBI agents and two bank robbery suspects were killed and five more FBI men were wounded Friday morning when a wild shoot-out -- the most devastating in FBI history -- erupted on a residential street in Kendall.

More than 100 shots from automatic weapons, shotguns and pistols tore across the suburban Miami street just south of the Suniland Shopping Plaza. The shooting, which started at about 9:35 a.m., lasted more than five minutes.

Agents in front of a white house at 12201 SW 82nd Ave. tried to protect themselves with big white bulletproof bibs -- to no avail. When it was over, only one of eight FBI agents emerged unscathed.

12201 SW 82nd Ave. today. 

Both robbers -- who were driving a car they had stolen from a man they had robbed and shot at a West Dade rock pit last month -- were sprawled in the street, dead.

So were the two agents who had chased the suspects up South Dixie Highway, behind the Dixie Belle shopping center and onto the narrow street of large, single-story homes.

The two slain agents were identified as Benjamin Grogan, 53, an FBI man for nearly 20 years, and Gerald Dove, 30, an agent since 1982.

Benjamin Grogan, left, and Jerry Dove. 

Five more FBI agents who had responded almost immediately to a call for help were shot, three of them seriously injured. Agents John Hanlon, 48, who suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh, and Gordon McNeil, 43, shot in the chest, were at Baptist Hospital, where both were listed in serious condition.

At South Miami Hospital, agent Edmundo Mireles, 33, was in critical but stable condition with a bullet wound to his left forearm.

Two other agents -- Richard Manauzzi, 43, and Gilbert Orrantia, 27 -- were treated at Baptist for surface wounds and were released, the FBI said.

"This went down so fast it was unbelievable," said witness Billie Holloway, who lives down the block from the crime scene. "We heard a few shots and then a little quiet. We went outside and heard the car crash. Then the shots just opened up.

"Living in Miami, you know, Miami Vice, I figured it was another drug bust," Holloway said. "It's Miami. You just try to stay alive."

The FBI men were the 28th and 29th agents to be killed in the line of duty. The last time two FBI agents were killed in a single incident was in 1979.

In Washington, FBI Director William Webster called Friday the darkest day in the agency's history. Never before had so many agents been killed or wounded in one incident.

"Miami has had a very difficult time -- a lot of different problems," Webster said. But, he added, "I would certainly not characterize it as a place to stay away from."

Along 82nd Avenue, there were bullet holes everywhere, in the sides of cars, in the concrete wall behind the shopping center.

"Phil Donahue had just come on when it happened," said May Stemas, who lives nearby. "I thought it was a war."



Herald Staff Writer

One color of death was bright yellow.

Yellow were the police ribbons that stretched from tree to tree, to keep people away. The ribbons fluttered in the morning breeze, and crisscrossed in mock gaiety the Kendall neighborhood. Outside the ribbons, crowds stood and stared. On the inside, men with radios and clipboards and tape measures and cameras moved grimly from one corpse to the next. There were four corpses in all.

Yellow was the color of the plastic sheets that covered the two FBI agents, who lay dead in the shade of a black olive tree. Occasionally the breeze would lift the sheets, and a policeman or federal agent would hurry forward to cloak them again.

The dead killers lay bloody and uncovered.

Incredibly, seven agents had been shot here. It was the bloodiest day in the FBI's history. A federal prosecutor who knew the dead agents watched and wept. He was not alone.

From an elevated parking ramp, reporters, photographers, TV cameramen and dozens of bystanders looked down on the tableau, at the intersection of Southwest 82nd Avenue and 122nd Street. Construction workers drank beer and guessed about how it had happened. A lady shopper with an Instamatic snapped a picture.

It was a bright cloudless day, a day when all the colors of death were vivid.

The broad bloodstain in the middle of the road was already burgundy, turning to brown in the heat.

A shotgun lay nearby, five empty green shells shining like emeralds on the pavement. A few feet away was a black-barreled pistol and, beyond that, what looked like an automatic rifle.

During the chase, two cars had crunched into a bottle-brush tree, its blossoms crimson; beneath its outer branches were two cream-colored FBI Buicks, one pocked by bullet holes. The brake lights were still on.

Once all this had been noted and absorbed, there was little else to see. The shooting had lasted only minutes. It had been quiet for hours now, and still we stood and watched. The wounded were gone, the dead were silent.

Up the ramp came several Palmetto High School students, some skipping class, others taking an extra-long lunch break. None of them was clowning around, but the distance from the bodies made casual talk an easier thing.

A blond teen-ager in a sleeveless T-shirt watched for a few minutes, then turned to go. "Death in Miami," he said to some friends. "It's nice to know we live in such a nice city."

Another student, Mark Saymon, asked to borrow a photographer's telephoto lens, to get a closer look. He said this was his third shoot-out scene; the others were a bank holdup and a Farm Store robbery. "Nothing like this," Saymon said. "I can't believe they let that dude lie in the sun."

The dude was dead, of course. He was one of the suspects. Pot-bellied guy with black hair. He lay on his back. His left arm was taped where the paramedics had tried to get some fluids going before giving up; the chubby guy's clothes were soaked with too much blood. A man wearing rubber gloves fished through the dead man's pockets.

What grips onlookers at such times is the proximity of recent death. The danger is past, but the aftermath transfixes.

On television, blazing shoot-outs are followed by commercials. Real-life murder scenes do not dissolve so easily; not in the eye, not in the mind. The color of death is unforgettable.

There is also a ponderous ritual to investigation; the more victims, the longer it takes. On Friday the dead men lay where they fell for four hours.

Finally the killers were placed in the back of a light-blue van and hauled off to the medical examiner.

The agents were taken away in separate hearses.

The color of death was jet black.

In 2001 a portion of SW 120th Street was dedicated  
to the memory of Agents Jerry Dove and Benjamin Grogan.
(Click to enlarge.)

________ FBI Miami Shooting, April 11, 1986

YouTube: FBI Training Video, Firefight & Personal Reflections

Monday, July 28, 2014

Would you pay $9.95 a month to watch Sarah Palin?


Sarah Palin, the woman who couldn't come up with the name of one newspaper that she read on a regular basis, has now started her own online news channel.

The former half-term Alaska governor former Republican vice presidential nominee, "announced the Sarah Palin Channel, a subscription-based Web site that she says will offer news, video chats with her and behind-the-scenes glimpses of speeches and political events she attends."

The cost? Just $9.95 a month or $99.95 a year. (Good luck with that, Sarah.)

Although I might consider paying if I can see a whole lot more of this.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Tampa Bay Times investigates Florida sugar, Gov. Rick Scott, fat cat Republicans and secret trips to a Texas hunting ranch


“Do your own job."Susan Hepworth, Republican Party of Florida spokesperson to a Tampa Bay Times reporter.

Susan Hepworth, Republican Party
of Florida spokesperson. 
A few months ago two Tampa Bay Times reporters were following the money. They were trying learn details about trips taken by Florida Republicans to an exclusive hunting ranch in Texas.

But Republican Party of Florida spokeswoman Susan Hepworth wasn't in the mood to talk, even though, according to her, she was the only RPOF official who could answer questions about the trips.

"I can tell you 100 times over and over that we follow the letter of the law. Do your own job," Hepworth told a reporter.

And so they did.

Tampa Bay Times staff writers Craig Pittman and Michael Van Sickler have a story in this morning's paper that's the culmination of a months-long investigation into the secret trips taken by Florida Republicans to a Texas hunting ranch, financed partly with contributions from U.S. Sugar to the Republican Party of Florida.

Click to enlarge.
From the story....
"A Times/Herald analysis shows that since late 2011, U.S. Sugar paid more than $95,000 to the Republican Party of Florida for at least 20 weekend trips — destinations unspecified on public documents — within days of more than a dozen Florida politicians registering for Texas hunting licenses.

"By not disclosing their King Ranch trips, officials and sugar lobbyists have avoided any scrutiny of their private dealings with each other and whether their relations influence decisionmaking on state agricultural issues, including the future of the Everglades."

On his Facebook page Pittman says this of the story: "It's like the Fight Club of one wants to talk about it."

Pittman and Van Sickler write: "Scott won’t answer questions about his trip. After weeks of requests from the Times/Herald, his campaign staff released a one-paragraph statement on Friday saying he had gone to King Ranch 'in support of his political fundraising efforts.' "

Pittman covers the environment for the Times. (He's also the go-to guy on anything having to do with Weird Florida.)

Yesterday I emailed him five questions about his work on the story:

1) How long have you and your colleagues been working on this story and whose idea was it to do the story in the first place? Were you tipped off? Also, can you give us an idea of how many pages of documents you filed requests for and what was that process like?
We got an anonymous tip about it in May and worked on it through June and most of July. The big breakthrough came when Mike Van Sickler came up with the brilliant idea of requesting Texas hunting license records. We checked scores of names, and then were able to compare the dates they got their licenses with the dates listed in Republican Party campaign filings that said that's when the sugar companies paid for flights and lodging.

2) Why is this story important and why should voters care about what politicians do on their days off?
It's important because it shows how Tallahassee really works. Big industries take the politicians off somewhere well away from public scrutiny and wine them and dine them and nobody knows about it. Then they pass legislation that benefits the businesses and leaves the taxpayers holding the bag.

3) Were you surprised at the amount of stonewalling you encountered in reporting this story?
Yes. You'd think at some point someone would say, "Boy, we look really bad by refusing to talk about this." But if anyone ever did say that, it didn't change anyone's minds about opening up. Personally, I hope that every time one of these guys shows up in public, at a campaign rally or an editorial board meeting or just out shaking hands with the public, someone will ask them to explain about these trips.

4) Anything strange happen while you were reporting this, i.e., late night hang-up calls or dark cars with tinted windows following you? Anything else funny or unusual happen?
The door being shut in Van Sickler's face was pretty amazing. His transcript of the encounter left me shaking my head. Gov. Scott's aide tried to body-block me at the groundbreaking, [see video above] but I slipped around her and grabbed his elbow to get his attention so he had to respond to my question (although it was just to brush me aside). And the U.S. Sugar spokeswoman who e-mailed me to say they wouldn't comment, and then added, "I hope you find this helpful." Reporting a story like this rarely involves meeting people in parking garages or anything like that. Instead it was a lot of phone calls and e-mails and building a timeline so we could compare when things happened.

At one point I consulted a guy I know in the Justice Department. We went to high school together, and he tracks down financial info on drug dealers and so forth now. He had some good ideas for getting the info we wanted, but unfortunately they all required having the power to issue subpoenas. He's got that, but we don't.

5) I notice in the video you were wearing your fabled seersucker suit when you tried to buttonhole Gov Scott. If this story goes on to be your Watergate moment, would you consider donating the suit, along with your notes and papers to some journalism school?
Sure. That's tax-deductible, right?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Your lunch hour time waster

Bear tries to open a bear-proof trash can at a testing facility near Yellowstone National Park.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Miami media get all sentimental over the closing of Jumbo's and miss part of the story

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Miami Herald, July 23, 2014.
(Click to enlarge. )
Landmark restaurant Jumbo's is serving up its last plate of shrimp today.

The eatery, a Miami mainstay at NW 7th Ave. and 75th Street, is shutting down after almost 60 years in business.

And every single media outlet in town is covering the story. The restaurant's closing even made page one of today's New York Times.

But it would be an understatement to say that much of the coverage of Jumbo's closing is a bit mawkish. (See Calvin Hughes' report above for proof of just how mawkish.)

There's no denying that owner Bobby Flam broke ground in the 1967 or 1968 when he bucked the trend in Miami and hired three black workers.

And in the video below, Flam explains that in early 1968 he stopped the practice of forcing black customers to order their food at Jumbo's back door.

But what's not mentioned in any of this week's coverage of Jumbo's closing is that downtown Miami lunch counters were integrated in August 1960.

(Integration of Dade County schools began as early as 1959.)

Flam was a little late to the party.


WTVJ news film of integration of downtown 
Miami lunch counters in Aug. 1960.


Also missing from the fawning and syrupy coverage of the past few days is the fact that for years, Jumbo's was not exactly a groundbreaker when it came to restaurant cleanliness.

In 1973, a WTVJ cub reporter named Bob Mayer followed Dade County restaurant inspectors around Miami for a series of reports he called "Not On the Menu."

One inspector told Mayer that a meat slicer at Jumbo's hadn't been cleaned in a year. Mayer closed out his report by noting that the inspectors had given Jumbo's a sanitation rating of "filthy."

Mayer returned to Jumbo's with inspectors a few days later and interviewed Flam, who astonishingly told him that he wasn't aware of how to "maintain cleanliness" in a restaurant.

Jumbo's manager Bobby Flam being interviewed in 1973 on his
restaurant's lack of cleanliness. "I wasn't aware of what to do."

But that was then.

Forty years later, as the saying goes, "old habits are hard to break.

On September 27 of last year, State restaurant inspectors temporarily shut down Jumbo's after citing the place for 37 violations that included things like rodent activity.

And just last March, inspectors found 27 violations - 8 of them "high priority."

I'm sure Jumbo's regulars will miss the place, but the sad fact is this dump should have been closed 10 years ago.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Miami TV news operations exist for one reason: To scare the sh*t out of you!

So there I was scanning my Facebook newsfeed for important news stories when this headline jumped out at me: "Davie girl OK after bite by garden snake."

I clicked the link which led me to the website of a well-known Miami TV station ... you know, the one with "Plex" in its name.

The only reason I clicked is because I figured there had to be more to the story. After all, if it was a non-poisonous snake and the girl was OK, where's the story?

Here's what I found:
A South Florida girl and her father had a scare Tuesday after she was bitten by a snake in her neighborhood.

Davie resident Martin Castro said he and his daughter were walking outside their home, along Southwest 71st Terrace and 40th Court, when suddenly she started crying.

Castro said he picked her up and saw what had happened. "I started panicking because I didn't know exactly what it was, but I saw the bite on her leg, and that's when I noticed it was a snake because she was pointing it out to it, and I got a little, I got scared."

As it turns out, Castro's daughter had been bitten by a common garden snake, which is not venomous.
That's right, there was no story.

However, there are about a dozen phrases that send Miami TV newsrooms into overdrive...and "snake bite" is one of them. "Shark attack" is another. You get the idea.

But in South Florida, there's a higher likelihood that someone will die a horrible death in a fiery car crash on I-95 than there is that someone will die from a snake bite. (A four-year-old boy from Bryceville, FL, died last month, one week after being bitten by a timber rattler.)

Deaths from snake bites are extremely rare. In the United States, about five people a year die after being bitten by a poisonous snake.

But don't take my word for it.
It has been estimated that 7,000–8,000 people per year receive venomous [snake] bites in the United States, and about 5 of those people die. [Source: CDC]

Thousands of people are stung by insects each year, and as many as 90–100 people in the United States die as a result of allergic reactions. [Source: CDC]

The fact is you have a greater chance of dying from a wasp or bee sting than you do of succumbing to a snake bite. But no Miami TV reporter will ever include those facts in a story of this kind.


Because TV news directors have a dirty little secret that they don't want you to know: TV news operations don't exist to inform. Their sole mission is to scare the sh*t out of you.

Here's how another TV station covered the story. They even scrambled a helicopter.

Listen to Local 10 reporter Neki Mohan describe how the snake "jumped out of the bushes."

Wow! A jumping snake?

Tell me more, Neki!

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Your lunch hour time waster

Dean Potter, famous rock climber, high-liner and human flyer, wingsuit BASE jumps with his dog, Whisper, from the Eiger, Switzerland.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Michael Putney rips Rick Scott for disrespecting Florida voters

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During a brief phone conversation today, veteran Miami Herald political reporter Marc Caputo told me that many voters usually wait until two or three weeks before an important election before deciding who to vote for.

If you're in that undecided category when it comes to choosing between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist in the upcoming gubernatorial race, here are a few things to consider.

Last March, a Tampa Bay Times editorial said this of Scott: "In three years Scott has done more harm [to Florida] than any modern governor."

Not convinced?

How about this? During Scott's 2010 campaign, he got a dog. After he won the election, he gave the dog away! We all know what good judges of character dogs are, and "Reagan" - that was the dog's name - apparently couldn't stand to live in the same house with Scott.

This time around Scott is showing his "human" side by Tweeting lots of pictures of his grandson.

Hopefully he won't put the little tyke up for adoption if he's re-elected.

And here's one more thing to consider:

Imagine you're stopped at a red light in a sketchy part of town at 11:30 at night.

You're a bit distracted because you're shuffling through some papers in your briefcase which is sitting on the passenger seat.

Suddenly you hear a tap on the window. You look over and see the guy on the left, peering through the window and holding up a sign: "Got Any Spare Change?"

What would you do? You'd hit the gas, of course.

So why would we want to hand over the keys to the Governor's Mansion for another four years to a guy who looks like that?

But on a more serious note, why would Floridians vote for a candidate who disrespects them every chance he gets?

Over the weekend, Local 10's Michael Putney closed out his Sunday show by talking about the many ways in which Scott disrespects the people whose votes he seeks.
Before we leave you this morning, a personal perspective about our Governor Rick Scott, and his refusal to answer direct and legitimate questions.

He just doesn't do it, and that is troubling.
Now let's be clear. We're not talking about inconsequential, or questions that are too personal. Any politician can ignore those with impunity. The questions Rick Scott ignores, or simply refuses to answer, are legitimate.

For example, on Friday, one day after a judge in the Keys ruled that Florida's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, I asked the governor about a statement that his office had issued. Take a listen. 
Putney: "Aren't gay people, people of the same sex when they try to get a marriage license, and can't, is that not discrimination? Scott: "I'm against any discrimination. But in 2008 the voters decided this would be a traditional marriage state." 
Well, he is against discrimination and for traditional marriage....that's his story and he is sticking to it. 

[Read the full transcript of Putney's exchange with Gov. Scott below via the Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog.]

You ask Rick Scott a question, he will fix you with a big smile and recite a prepared response that usually is evasive and off point. Ask him again, he says virtually the same thing word for word.

He repeats his talking points to the point of stupefaction. And this week, [CNN's] Anderson Cooper ridiculed the governor for doing that. He says Scott's repetitive canned answers "insult our intelligence."

And he is right. They certainly do. One reason the governor can get away with this is because reporters are held in slightly lower esteem than politicians. 
We understand that. But what you should remember is that we are your surrogates. We are asking these questions because that's our job, that's what you want to know. And when the governor doesn't answer, he's really refusing to answer you. 
I will keep asking Governor Scott questions that matter on your behalf. And when he refuses to answer just understand, it is not me he is disrespecting, it's you.
One last thought: If Scott is this evasive and vague during an election campaign, just imagine the bullshit that awaits us if he gets re-elected.

From the Herald's Naked Politics blog, by Marc Caputo:
What used to be well-known only to political print reporters in Florida is now seeping into local TV news across the state: Rick Scott won’t directly answer questions about most topics of the day.

The most-recent example: Gay marriage and the decision Thursday by a Florida Keys judge to declare the 2008 voter-approved same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. On Friday at two events, the governor wouldn’t really say what he thought of the ruling or Florida Attorney Pam Bondi's appeal.

“Nobody wants discrimination in our state,” Scott said in Bonita Springs, adding that he believes “in traditional marriage” and citizens’ access to the courts.

Gay-rights groups say the same-sex marriage ban discriminates against them, but the ban’s backers say their votes are being discriminated against by judicial activism.

So what discrimination is Scott against? Scott won’t say.

“Aren’t you trying to have it both ways?” WPLG’s Michael Putney asked Scott Friday in Miami. “People have different view about it in our state,” Scott replied. “But in 2008, the voters decided that this state would be a traditional marriage state. It’s going through the court system. But what’s important to me is I don’t want anybody discriminated against.”

Putney: "Aren’t gays being discriminated against?"

Scott: “I’m against any discrimination. But in 2008, the voters decided this would be a traditional marriage state.”

Putney: “Are you…”

Scott (cutting him off): “Let’s talk about jobs – 37,000 jobs in a month! It’s the biggest jump! Michael! Michael! This is our biggest month since I got elected,” Scott said. “We’re over 620,000 jobs [created]. When I ran in 2010, I said seven steps to 700,000 jobs over seven years. And a lot of people questioned whether we could do that…. We’re at 620,000. What’s so exciting is 37,000 a month. I mean I just still think about my dad, watching his face when the only car we had got repossessed. That’s what I want to help with.”

Putney: “Well, congratulations on these numbers.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

How to raise a wimp

America's moms and dads, according to one academic, have micromanaged the lives of their sons to such an extent that they're not prepared to do much of anything ... except live at home with mom and dad.

Via NPR: According to Michael Kimmel, a professor at Stony Brook University and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, "Millennial males are significantly more likely than millennial females to live at home. We are talking about 40 percent compared to 32 percent."

["Millennial males are] also the most over-parented generation in history. They've had their parents micromanaging every nanosecond of their life." - sociologist Michael Kimmel

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

'I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses...the fear on their faces...'


Adam Kwasman Mistakes YMCA Campers for Migrants

Chief Dan Oates and The Mangos Incident [UPDATED x2]

UPDATED on July 16 at 7:50 a.m.: Statement from Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police on off-duty employment embedded below or click here to read.

UPDATED at 4:45 p.m.: Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates announces changes in his department's policy regarding officers working off-duty jobs at Miami Beach nightclubs.  

Click to enlarge.


Every TV station in Miami had the story on their 6 o'clock show last night...

Local 10: Miami Beach police sergeant gets drunk at off-duty job, police say

WSVN: Miami Beach officer suspended for allegedly working drunk

CBS4: Miami Beach Cop Accused Of Being Intoxicated While Working Off-Duty Job

And every station - with a few minor variations - pretty much had the same story:

Someone saw a Miami Beach police sergeant, in uniform, at Mangos on Ocean Drive. The sergeant appeared to be drunk, so the person called the police department to report him. The midnight supervisor showed up and the sergeant was taken to the hospital for tests. Every station reported the sergeant's involvement with the infamous July 3, 2011 ATV crash.

But if any of those stations' viewers were wondering why a uniformed Miami Beach police officer was working at an establishment at 4:30 in the morning where alcohol was being served, they didn't get an answer from any of the TV news reports.

Only one news outlet chose to dig deeper, providing more detail and context to the story.

In this morning's paper, the Miami Herald's Chuck Rabin, Christina Veiga, and David Smiley reported:
An audit of the Miami Beach Police Department, released in late June, recommended prohibiting officers from working regular off-duty assignments.

“Among other things, officers can develop a sense of allegiance to a secondary employer and choose to ignore their sworn duty in order to protect a source of steady, supplemental income,” auditors warned.

In a city where clubs thump with music and drinks are poured until sunrise, auditors reported Miami Beach officers work 85,000 hours of secondary employment per year. That’s “the equivalent of having nearly 41 additional full-time police officers in uniform and working,” according to the report.

Auditors recommended establishing an office apart from the police department to coordinate off-duty shifts, with details assigned randomly by seniority.

Another recommendation: to prohibit command staff officers from working details because it “diminishes their standing.”
The department is still studying the recommendations in the audit, [Chief Dan] Oates said.

“Generally, I’m receptive to a lot of the recommendations,” he said.

Chief Oates, who's been on the job a little more than a month, gave an indication yesterday on how he intends to run his department.

Police spokesman Bobby Hernandez tells me that when Oates was notified of the incident shortly after it occurred, one of his first decisions was to have Hernandez issue a press release. "I want the public to hear it from me first. I don't want them to find out about it because of a leak," Oates told Hernandez.

Oates' next decision will be a little tougher. He has to decide whether or not he wants to take steps to ensure an incident like this never happens again.

Oates will no doubt be looking at one section of the police department audit referred to in the Herald story:
Many of the clubs in South Beach employ off-duty police officers to enhance security. Any number of issues can arise during the conduct of such details. The majority of these issues are similar to the same issues with which a police department is challenged on a daily basis.

The most serious of these issues involve secondary employment where a conflict of interest is present and a police department has approved the detail. Officers who work agency-approved, secondary employment are a legal extension of the approving police department, carry the same power and authority as on-duty police officers, are acting within the scope of their authority as sworn, certified police officers, are working as agents of the police department, and are directly accountable to the agency, as well as the community, for the performance of their duty while actively engaged in off-duty paid details. Because the agency has approved the secondary employment, the agency and its home jurisdiction (the City of Miami Beach in this case) have assumed the liability for the officers’ performance and may incur worker compensation costs for any injuries and/or disability suffered by officers working off-duty details. The city may also be exposed to legal liability for any challenged officer behavior while he/she is employed on the detail. It is therefore critically important for the city government and police administration to ensure adequate control over members of the department who choose to engage in secondary employment. Off-duty employment can be a source of a pattern and practice of officer misconduct. [Emphasis mine.]

There's one more thing Oates may want to consider when making his decision: The largest police department in the southeastern United States, the Miami-Dade Police Department, prohibits its officers from working any off-duty jobs at nightclubs or bars. The reason why can be found in the last sentence of the above paragraph.


17 years ago today Andrew Cunanan murdered Gianni Versace on Ocean Drive

The way we were...the day The 'Sharks' tried to take over Ed's Market in Overtown

Fifty years ago this week a gang of kids tried to move in on Ed's Market on NW 5th Avenue in Overtown.

The "Sharks," was a gang with a membership of three girls and two boys, and its leader, an 18-year-old thug named Robert Russell.

The Miami News reported that all three of the boys were armed when they entered Ed's tiny market at about 7:15 p.m. on the evening of July 13, announcing, "We're taking over."

But while the "Sharks" had the muscle and the firepower, they apparently hadn't given much thought to what they were going to do after they took over the place.

Instead of demanding money, the News reported that the gang's "stolen 'loot' consisted of numerous bags of peanuts and potato chips."

Miami News, July 14, 1964.
(Click to enlarge.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Watch Rick Scott avoid answering a question FOUR times!

Few politicians can look you in the eye and completely ignore what you just Governor Rick Scott.

Miami Beach police sergeant under investigation for being intoxicated while working an off-duty job was demoted and suspended in 2011

Miami Beach Police Sergeant Michael Muley
Photo via WSVN

The Miami Beach police sergeant under investigation for being intoxicated while working an off-duty job at the Ocean Drive nightclub Mangos, was demoted and suspended in 2011.

In 2011, Sgt. Michael Muley was demoted to police officer, and suspended for 80 hours without pay for failing to properly supervise the two officers involved in the infamous July 4, 2011 ATV crash on Miami Beach.

In that incident, Miami Beach police officer Derick Kuilan took a woman on a drunken joy ride on the beach on his police issued ATV. Kuilan met the woman after he and a fellow officer, who were both on duty at the time, crashed a bachelorette party at the Clevelander Hotel in 2011.

Kuilan was fired and was recently found guilty of reckless driving and sentenced to 18 months in state prison.

At Kuilan's trial last month Muley testified that "he was surprised by Kuilan's behavior after seeing a picture of the officer and law enforcement colleague Rolando Gutierrez partying with the bachelorette and her friends at the Clevelander Hotel right before the joyride."

In 2002, Muley was awarded a Letter of Commendation by then Miami Beach Police Chief Don De Lucca, "for rescuing three people in less than 30 days - all while he was off-duty," according to an Aug. 1, 2002 Miami Herald story:
In his free time, Miami Beach Police Detective Michael Muley saves lives.

The detective was awarded a Letter of Commendation last week for rescuing three people in less than 30 days - all while he was off-duty.

``Three lives in a month is amazing,'' Miami Beach Police Chief Don De Lucca said. ``Most people don't save a single life during their lifetimes.''

On July 14, Muley , 36, was walking his dog near his home in Davie when he heard a car lose control and plunge into a canal. He called 911, found the crash scene in the 4300 block of Southwest 142nd Avenue and rescued a passenger who had escaped the vehicle but was disoriented in the water, according to the commendation.

Muley jumped back into the zero-visibility water and pulled a passenger out of the window of the submerged car, which was underwater on its side.

Muley returned to search for a third passenger, but was unable to locate her after several attempts. She was later found by a rescue diver, but she died in the emergency room at Cleveland Clinic in Weston.

That rescue effort was the second time in one month the Special Investigations Squad detective saved somebody's life.

On June 19, Muley and another officer rescued an Orange County police officer who had collapsed of heat exhaustion during the Florida Law Enforcement Games in Tampa. According to a report of the incident written by Sunny Isles Beach Police Chief Fred Maas, Muley helped bring the exhaustion victim out of shock by shaking and placing ice on him.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

When cops attack...each other [UPDATED x2]

Miami Police officer Marcel Jackson and Miami Police Internal Affairs Lt.
David Ramras scuffle near West Flagler Street and 18th Ave. late last month.

(Click images to enlarge.)

Late last month Miami Police officer Marcel Jackson was on his way to a call when a car sped past him.

Jackson pulled the car over at West Flagler Street and 18th Avenue.

Blogger Al Crespo recounts what happened next:
In late June Officer Jackson chased down a speeder, capturing the entire event on his [personal dashboard-mounted] ] Go Pro camera. The portion below is just a small part of the [55 minute video] video that I obtained about this incident.

The guy in the white shirt you’ve probably figured out if you looked at the entire clip turned out to be somebody important. In fact, it was a City of Miami policeman, and not just any old policeman, but Lieutenant David Ramras, assigned to Internal Affairs.

In the video below, Officer Jackson can be seen approaching Lt. Ramras' unmarked vehicle and begin talking to him [at the 0:40 mark].

Words are exchanged, and 15 seconds after Jackson approaches Ramras' vehicle, [at the 0:55 mark] Ramras tries to force his way out of the car.

And that's when things go horribly wrong.

It's not clear if Ramras ever told Jackson he was a police officer.

Video via Al Crespo.

(In another part of the video shot by Jackson, he recorded himself calling a friend or colleague and telling him about the altercation. Click here for that video.)

Crespo reports "so far there [has] never [been] a Use Of Force Report [filed], a traffic citation [issued] against Ramras for speeding, or an Arrest Report written.

My sources tell me that this entire incident has been turned over to the State Attorney's office, and a criminal investigation has been launched.


UPDATE x1: Miami Police spokesman Napier Velazquez declined to comment Monday morning on reports that Jackson had been relieved of duty. Velazquez said he couldn't comment because the incident is now being investigated by Internal Affairs. 

However, sources tell me that Jackson has been relieved of duty with pay. 

UPDATE x2: Javier Ortiz, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police sent out this statement Monday afternoon: The Miami Fraternal Order of Police has received numerous media inquiries regarding the incident involving two of our members due to multiple stories written via social media. Unfortunately, some of the information being published is incorrect. Some of the conversations and information provided in these stories were not captured by the secret recordings or coming from credible sources leaving some questions which will be answered when the proper time comes.

On the day of the incident, one of our members requested for the FOP to respond. We responded immediately and provided attorneys to both Officer Jackson and Lieutenant Ramras. Neither party has provided a statement. The Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney is reviewing the case and we look forward to this investigation being concluded.


What's interesting about this is that despite it being discussed in detail on a blog frequented by Miami Police officers, nothing has ever been written about it in the Herald or mentioned in any TV news reports.


Read Crespo's entire report by clicking here. 


One veteran Miami cop told me this afternoon that he can't ever recall a case of one officer attacking another.

In fact, one has to go back 40 years to find a case of a Miami cop attacking another while on duty.

In September 1974, a handcuffed black Miami undercover officer was attacked and beaten by two white Miami cops at a Biscayne Boulevard motel.

One of the assailants, Charles Outlaw, was convicted after a trial the following year and given two years probation. 

Miami News, May 12, 1975: Cop goes on trial in beating of officer

The Miami Herald's publisher is desperately seeking people who are desperate enough to work for the Herald

Click to enlarge.
Miami Herald publisher Alexandra Villoch posted this job opening on her Facebook page last Friday.

The Herald is looking for "experienced, aggressive sales professionals" to join a "powerhouse group of proven professionals," she wrote.

My first thought when I read Villoch's post was, who in South Florida is so desperate for a job that they'd want to try and convince businesses to advertise in the Miami Herald?

The irony here is that a newspaper that can't afford to hire enough reporters to adequately cover the news, apparently has plenty of money to hire sales people...and give them generous benefits.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Thoughts on Lebron's exit

Four years ago when Lebron James announced "I am taking my talents to South Beach," I watched TV in amazement as one Cleveland fan - a young man in his early 20's - bawled into the camera, "This is the worst day of my entire life."

Now I'm hearing much the same reaction here in Miami. Really? It's time to get a life, folks.

If you drove home tonight feeling that your life was not going to be as enjoyable and meaningful tomorrow as it was one week ago because some carpetbagger basketball player you never met picked up and left town, then you need some serious and intensive counseling.

Or at the very least, you need to turn off sports talk radio and take up a hobby. Or read a book.

But if you still can't bear the thought of King James leaving, you can always relive the past with one of these prints from the Miami Herald Online Store.

Miami Herald, page 1A. 
July 9, 2010.

The way we were...Miami Beach Police Department had an eye in the sky in 1939

In 1939, before anyone had ever heard of drones, the Miami Beach Police Department was keeping an eye on things with this cutting-edge technology.

And now, for those of you with no's 3 minutes and 31 seconds of video of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at MIA doing absolutely nothing

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Head of Miami-Dade police union tells citizens to 'buy an attack dog' and 'get yourselves some firearms'

Miami-Dade County could end up with hundreds of police officers losing their jobs in a budget proposal made by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Tuesday.
If police department cuts are made, officers from administrative posts would likely shift to the street and certain specialized units that deal with robberies and child abuse cases could see positions vanish. "One of the directions I told the director was that I wanted to have the same number of patrol officers in the street that we have today," said Gimenez.

The Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association fired back after the proposal, saying public safety is paramount and these proposed cuts will have a negative impact. John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, said, "If the mayor's not going to provide security, then my recommendation, as an experienced law enforcement officer for nearly 40 years, is either buy yourself an attack dog, put bars on your windows and doors and get yourself some firearms because you're going to have to protect yourselves. We won't be able to."

Miami Herald: Miami-Dade police and libraries take big hits in mayor’s budget

Your lunch hour time waster

A glimpse into the (not too distant) future of Miami TV news.

Lawrence O'Donnell: 'When it comes to Cuba policy, the American government is still crazy after all these years'

"Our government's best estimates of how many Cubans ever see TV Marti indicate that it is less than one percent of Cubans."

Washington Post: Grounded TV Marti plane a monument to the limits of American austerity

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is now a published author!

Mayor Philip Levine is one of South 
Florida's more modest politicians. 
The Making of the President, 1960, by Theodore White.

Boys on the Bus, by Timothy Crouse.

What It Takes, by Richard Ben Cramer.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, by Hunter S. Thompson.

If you're a political junkie, you no doubt recognize those titles as examples of modern political campaign reportage.

Now comes word of another book about a recent political campaign - one that's destined to take its place on your bookshelf right next to those other classics of political reporting.

This morning, Miami Beach's egotistical, millionaire populist mayor, Philip Levine, unveiled his contribution to modern political campaign literature: a modestly titled magnum opus he calls, "The Journey, Levine for Mayor Campaign 2013." 

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine signs copies of his book,
"The Journey," at Manolo's in North Beach.

(Click images to enlarge)

I can't find the book on Amazon, so I'm guessing this is one of those self-published things. But self-publishing a sumptuous coffee table book, jam-packed with color photos of yourself would be so out of character for a guy who spent $2,000,000 of his own money - or about $355 per vote - to buy win the election as mayor. Right?

But Levine, despite spending all that money, won "the election with less than half a point over the 50% mark in a four-way battle where he outspent the No. 2 runner up, former Commissioner Michael Gongora, about 10 to 1," writes political blogger Elaine de Valle.

Levine posted pictures of himself on Facebook, signing copies of the book for constituents at an event this morning in North Beach.

Blogger de Valle, recently named by Miami New Times as Miami's best blogger, left this comment under one of the photos:

De Valle also points out that during the campaign, Levine "derided [opponent Steve] Berke for what he said was a fake waste-of-time campaign that was really a gimimck for the sake of a 'reality show.'"

"Well, who has got the gimmick now?," de Valle asks rhetorically.

De Valle asked Berke for his reaction to the release of the book. Here's part of his response:
I think the mayor should have called his vanity publication; "The Checkbook: How Philip Levine bought the Miami Beach Mayoralty in 2013."

Ultimately, Philip Levine is a shameless self-promoter. He is constantly bragging on his Facebook page about the 'good works' he is doing, while using everyone from Miami Beach lifeguards to the MBPD to enhance his image. He went to the VFW on Memorial Day and stepped up to unveil the new mural even though he wasn't invited to do so by the organizers -- it was supposed to be done just by the old war veterans. But this is the Levine way.

From lifeguards to law enforcement officers to true American heroes, the mayor rides their coattails for his own glory. 


Random Pixels: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is a Dickhead

How can an airline nearly kill you without crashing?

From the Daily Business Review's John Pacenti:

"First, Allan Campbell’s Air Jamaica flight from Kingston to Fort Lauderdale was delayed. Hours passed. Once given the go-ahead to board, he says, he was recalled to the boarding gate and forced to reschedule to another departure the next day -- when his permanent resident alien card would expire. Air Jamaica charged him a $150 fee to change flights and refused to put him up in a hotel. Terminal repairs left him to spend the night outside, exposed to the elements. As Campbell put it in his complaint, the ordeal took its toll: he was hospitalized with a heart attack after falling ill during the delay, seeking medical help upon arrival, and collapsing at his home."

Your lunch hour time waster

Two Golden Retriever pups catching Cheerios!
One successful, the other not so much!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

It's official: Miami Herald bosses no longer give a sh*t [UPDATED 1x]

"We have transformed our business to become 24/7 information specialists, with the ability to deliver breaking news through a variety of digital platforms in addition to our print newspapers." -David Landsberg, the Miami Herald's former publisher, in a Nov. 2012 email to staffers.

"I can’t tell you exactly how you’ll be getting your news, but I know we’ll be delivering that news. We’ll be here." -Miami Herald Executive Editor Aminda "Mindy" Marqués Gonzalez, quoted in Ocean Drive Magazine.

UPDATED below in red.


Last April when asked about the Miami Herald's future, executive editor "Mindy" Marqués told Ocean Drive Magazine, "I can’t tell you exactly how you’ll be getting your news, but I know we’ll be delivering that news."

What she really meant to say was, "We'll be delivering that news as long as it happens between the hours of 9 and 5...excluding weekends and holidays, of course."

In Nov. 2012, then publisher David Landsberg emailed staffers with the news that the Herald was going to start charging readers to access the paper's website, writing, "We have transformed our business to become 24/7 information specialists..."

Under the reign of executive editor "Mindy" Marqués, covering the news on a "24/7" basis apparently means that newsroom managers leave the building well before midnight, crossing their fingers as they turn off the lights and walk to their cars - and praying to God, or the ghosts of John S. and James L. Knight - that nothing major will occur overnight. But if something does happen, they'll just pretend it didn't, leaving it to the morning crew to play catch up.

The story that appears in this morning's Herald on the boating crash that occurred July 4 near the Dinner Key marina - and that so far has claimed four lives - mentions in the second paragraph that the mishap occurred at 10:45 p.m. Friday night.

But the Herald didn't inform its readers of the accident until shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday morning - more than 10 hours after it occurred - when an intern posted online, a story that she copied and pasted from a TV station's website.


UPDATE: At some point late Saturday morning, someone in the newsroom finally decided this was a big story and maybe they should talk to some witnesses.

Why send a reporter to a news event when it's happening, 
when you can send a Tweet 13 hours later?

UPDATE: After seeing that Tweet, one staffer said, "I've now seen it all. Four [people] dead and we're tweeting for tips instead of reporting."


And a close inspection of the story in this morning's paper reveals that despite the magnitude of the tragedy, almost no effort went into reporting any of the story's developments that unfolded past the Herald's ridiculously early print deadlines.

One Herald newsroom veteran tells me the "handling and time elements look like the piece was written at 2 p.m. yesterday for online and not refocused for print this morning."

For instance, the Herald's story names just one of the crash victims: Kelsie Karpiak.

But several local TV stations apparently had no trouble confirming the names of four of the victims by late Saturday afternoon.

Sadly, it appears the people now in charge at the Herald no longer have any kind of coherent or workable plan on how to accomplish the most basic and essential function of a newspaper: Covering the news on a 24/7 basis.

Either that, or they just don't give a shit.

At any other newspaper in this country, "Mindy" Marqués, her deputy, Rick Hirsch, would have been fired long ago for incompetence. But, unfortunately, the Herald isn't like any other newspaper.