Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Miami Beach Security Contractor Threatens Workers

Received this press release from Eugenio H. Villasante who's the Communications Manager for the Service Employees International Union.


Miami Beach, Fl –The City of Miami Beach’s security contractor has been charged with intimidating workers for exercising their rights to organize, and threatening them with discharge for their legal union activities. The charge, filed by 32BJ SEIU – the largest property service workers union in the country -- is against Security Alliance of Florida, Inc. which employs 75 security officers in public spaces and buildings at the City of Miami Beach who earn as little as $10 an hour with no access to affordable and quality healthcare.

“Interrogating and threatening low-wage workers for trying to improve their life is shameful, especially in midst of this economic crisis,” said Eric Brakken, 32BJ SEIU Florida Director. “This type of worker abuse is what the Employee Free Choice Act, if passed by Congress, would stop.”

“Security Alliance is not playing fair,” said Jean Baptiste, a security officer who has been working for Security Alliance for the last 3 years. “They will have to hear our voices, most of us want a union, we have rights and they cannot intimidate us.”

According to Cornell University, 90% of private sector employers resist their employees’ efforts to unionize during the election process, and a quarter illegally fire union supporters. The Employee Free Choice Act would stop management abuse by restoring to workers the right to unionize through majority sign up, rather than allowing management to dictate the process. Union workers earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers and are 60 percent more likely to have employer-paid health insurance.

With more than 100,000 members in nine states, including Florida, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.

Miami reporter still kicking butt in S.C.

UPDATED: Hear Lush discuss the story here on NPR.

Tamara Lush, the Miami-based AP reporter who once worked at Miami New Times, has been doing some great work since being dispatched to South Carolina last Friday to work on the Mark Sanford story.

But today she's outdone herself by scoring an exclusive that's sure to be leading all of the cable news shows today. The NY Times blogs about the story here.

What's unique about this is that Lush, who's only been in S.C. four days, is beating journalists who have been covering Governor Sanford day in and day out for years.
By TAMARA LUSH and EVAN BERLAND - Associated Press Writers

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is admitting more encounters with his Argentine mistress than he previously has disclosed.

In a lengthy, emotional interview with The Associated Press, the governor described seven meetings with the woman, including their first in 2001. Sanford says there have been five over a 12-month period, including two multi-night stays with her in New York.

It was the first disclosure of any get-togethers with her in the United States and contradicted a public confession last week during which he admitted to a total of four encounters in the past year.
Repercussions are already reverberating throughout the state capitol due to Lush's scoop.
"S.C. State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, called Tuesday for Gov. Mark Sanford to resign.
"Sheheen’s statement came just minutes after The Associated Press released a story in which Sanford admitted to meeting his Argentine mistress more often than previously acknowledged, including twice in New York City, the first meetings in the United States Sanford have disclosed."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Miami reporter kicks butt in South Carolina

UPDATED Sunday at 10:10pm: Tamara scores another exclusive!

My friend, Tamara Lush, is a reporter for the AP based in Miami.

Tamara Lush
She got shipped up to Columbia, SC the other day to help out with the Luv Gov story.

And now she's filing scoops left and right!

Way to go Scoop!

Celeb flashback

Some recent South Florida news stories prompted me to search my photo files.

Heat set to hire Alonzo Mourning for front-office job

Emilio and Gloria Estefan gain stake in Miami Dolphins

And this is what I found. A couple of years ago I was invited to shoot photos as another photographer shot Gloria and Alonzo for the cover of Ocean Drive magazine.

The above image is one of the many I shot that day.

Below is the resulting cover. Regrettably, I do not recall the name of the Ocean Drive photographer.

Paparazzi payday

If you've already maxed out on the coverage of Michael Jackson's tragic death, you might want to consider staying away from any supermarket checkout counters next week.

Jackson's death will no doubt dominate the covers of all the celeb mags and rags in the weeks to come.

(TMZ reports that TIME magazine has rushed a Michael Jackson commemorative issue into print that's due to arrive at newsstands on Monday.)

Random Pixels talked with a high level tabloid industry insider and we've learned that some big bucks were paid for the last photo of Jackson as his life slipped away.

My source tells me that Entertainment Tonight paid $100,000 for what's being called the "Exclusive last photo" of Jackson as paramedics attempted to resuscitate him as he was being transported to UCLA Medical Center in an ambulance.

My source also says that OK! Magazine won the bidding wars and the right to run that same photo in its U.S. and U.K. editions by paying a whopping $500,000.

The photo has almost certainly been shopped around to publications in other countries. By the time this is over, the photographers involved, stand to make a tidy sum.

All for one photo.

Footnotes: If you've been waiting for the inevitable South Florida connection to this story, your wait is over.

Newseum.org has archived over 800 Michael Jackson newspaper front pages.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Today's Miami Herald

On some days it seems like the editors of the Herald are a little too fixated on Cuba and the impending demise of Castro.

But they may have gone a little overboard with today's paper.

Sources tell me that some Herald subscribers got this edition of the paper today.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Random thoughts on the death of "The King of Pop"

Met up with a friend for coffee on South Beach a few hours after the death of Michael Jackson was announced.

He immediately said what had been on my mind since hearing the news. And that was that it probably won't be long before the inevitable parallels start to be made between Jackson's passing the death of Elvis.

One of those comparisons is already starting to surface; that being Jackson's alleged abuse of prescription drugs. Elvis battled drug addiction most of his adult life.

Jackson's death is being mourned by fans who never met him. As was Elvis's.

And of course there's the fact that Jackson and Presley died young. Jackson was 50 and Presley was 42.

Later I took a quick tour of Ocean Drive at around 7:30pm and except for a few TV's tuned to news channels most bars had a baseball game on.

Finnegan's on Ocean Drive

Passed by the Clevelander and a Michael Jackson song was blasting at about 120 decibels. Further down the street the strains of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" drifted out to the street.

I never was that big of a fan of Jackson's although his music was catchy.

I'm a baby boomer and Elvis was and is still the King as far as I'm concerned.

But I'm sure the same superlatives that were used to describe Elvis in 1977 are alredy being used to describe the life and death of Michael Jackson.

And that's as it should be.

Neil Rogers redux

UPDATE: I have compiled a DVD of approximately 115 Neil Rogers shows that span from Sept. 2007 to Apr. 2008. I can send you one for a donation of $45.00. Email me for details.

Miami Herald photo

Uncle Neil has hung it up. Or, at least that's what he says.

I've listened to Neil for over 20 years.

And I've photographed him twice.

The last time was almost 20 years ago, for a story that the legendary Rick Bragg wrote for the St. Petersburg Times.

There's a pretty good chance you didn't see the story when it was first published in September of 1990.

So I'm posting it below.


Tapping into the anger of Miami

St. Petersburg Times Staff writer

Sept. 16, 1990

MIAMI-This is a town of people who call someplace else home, who left memories and neighborhoods behind to live in a place where it's warm.

This is a town where vandals last week broke into a church and decapitated a statue of the Virgin Mary; where smash-and-grab robbers hurled a concrete block through the windshield of a tourist's car and hurt a little girl.

This is a town where the worship of money is practiced in obscene excesses, where bejeweled women in rhinestone-studded cowboy boots and snakeskin bikinis sip $6 glasses of water at sidewalk cafes and drive away in Porsches.

This is a town where people of one accent don't trust people of another accent, where hate and paranoia thrive, where some days it seems like the whole thing will implode on its hollow center and shrivel like a shrunken head.

This is Neil Rogers' town.

It speaks through him, the icon of South Florida talk radio, leaching its bitterness into the airwaves one angry, frustrated caller at a time. Then it falls like rain on the Victim of the Day: the elderly, immigrants, police, or anyone who doesn't fit into a caller's world.

That has prompted some to call Rogers - this harmless-looking man who eats lunch with his Jewish mother every Tuesday - a hatemonger. While Rogers didn't create this monster, he has tapped into its power.

For 15 years, his top-rated call-in show has been a sort of mirror for Miami and South Florida, a reflection of its mind-set.

Often times, that mirror image has been frightening. When Rogers was in his heyday in the mid-1980s - railing against unbridled Cuban immigration, warning of a wholesale Anglo exodus - one of every nine people who listen to radio in South Florida tuned in to him. He was the prophet for their phobias, the keeper of their fears. It led to hate on both sides, and even Rogers was disgusted by it all.

Now, as he has mellowed, the ugly side of South Florida - the phobias, fear, prejudice and hopelessness - comes through less frequently. But it comes. It comes in the callers who want to bad-mouth newcomers who haven't learned to speak the language or old people who get in the way.

But, as Rogers says, it's just radio. In a world where boredom brings bad ratings and bad ratings bring sudden death, Rogers never bores. He angers, entices, stimulates and insults, but never bores.

It is why he is the king of the ratings today and has been for more than 10 years, despite that he is a pudgy, balding, homosexual, liberal Jewish atheist.

His listeners forgive him everything, as long as he validates their feelings, or makes them laugh.

"When you live here," Rogers said, "anything that makes you think you're still alive is a public service."

It's a Tuesday morning in the studios of WIOD Talk Radio, an AM station on the shores of northern Biscayne Bay.

Most of the phone lines are lit. The Phone Gods are smiling on Uncle Neil today, like most days. He seems to have some kind of charm, some talisman of the airwaves that draws people to him, station to station, night or day.

It is called talent. It is why his radio station pays him somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000 a year to be mean with flair.

A caller, a young man with a New York accent, is complaining about old people who don't look before crossing the street.

Rogers, his voice calm and clear, friendly and almost soothing, lets the man know it's okay to feel that way, because Uncle Neil does, too.

Rogers calls it the "Kamikaze Shuffle."

"They want you to put them out of their misery," he tells the caller.

"I'll go get my truck," the young man answers.

To listen to Rogers, a large part of Miami's older residents are bitter, nasty, angry people who steal the Sweet 'N Low from the restaurant dispenser and wait to die.

There are other targets.

Rogers on immigrants: "This country has no immigration policy. They come here on a rubber raft ... somebody hands them a Green Card and a beat-up Chevy ... and we turn them loose."

Rogers on police: "Pigs."

Rogers on gay rights: "I came out of the closet 14 years ago. I've got a good job, I make a lot of money, nobody messes with me. How can you vote for someone's rights?"

Rogers on his own audience: "They're a bunch of butt kissers ... who have nothing to say."

Rogers, who is an atheist, is of Jewish extraction, on organized religion: "It's terrible."

"He's a mean son of a b----," said one elderly Miami Beach resident, who refused to give his name because he was afraid Rogers would attack him on the airwaves. In fact, finding anyone to openly criticize Rogers is almost impossible. He is a powerful man, with thousands of loyal followers called "Neilies." And, every day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., he owns the airwaves.

"That's just the way people in this town are. They thrive on hate, on stirring the pot," Rogers said.

His current market share is 5.5 percent, a remarkable number when you figure that Miami's radio market is flooded with Spanish-speaking stations.

That 5.5 translates to 150,000 people a week.

For the most part, his callers seem to be young, male and white, without - as Rogers concedes - much to say. Their most intelligent comment is usually, "How you doin', Neil," and declines from there.

For instance: The caller who wants to complain because he pulled into a gas station and the "fat, disgusting" man who was pumping gas didn't speak English.

Or: "Neil, how you doin' ... I'm a Mets fan ..."

Rogers' intellect has to carry them - and his intellect, even his critics say, is considerable. Rogers snatches up their mundane comments and runs with them, cracking jokes, hurling insults, the words tumbling forth without an iota of dead air time.

The Miami Herald always has excluded Rogers from its list of most influential people in Dade County. It shouldn't, said Tom Jicha, longtime radio writer for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. When Rogers makes a public appearance, thousands of people show up.

"He has always been a conduit for their anger, their feelings," Jicha said. He has the power, a tremendous power, to sway public opinion.

People who dismiss him as mean and shallow are selling him short, Jicha said. Rogers has adopted the Camillus House, a shelter for the homeless, as his pet charity. Over the years he has helped raise thousands of dollars for it, donating his own money as well as organizing fund-raisers.

Others find no good in him. He is the only talk show host banned by a city. Sweetwater did it in the mid 1980s, because he was seen as anti-Cuban.

Neil "Banned in Sweetwater" Rogers only thrives on such things. They are good for ratings, and the higher the ratings, the greater the power.

But if it really is lonely at the top, it can be even lonelier if you are Neil Rogers, the celebrity who performs in an empty room. Rochester, N.Y.

Neil Rogers is 47 years old and looks like your uncle. He used to be fat, really fat, but a recent stroke forced him to change his eating habits and, perhaps, to tone down his shows.

"I can't do that screaming stuff anymore," he said.

He looks so benign, behind his conservative glasses, under his conservative haircut, it's hard to believe this man and his legend are one.

"You were expecting a madman," Rogers said and smiled.

It started with a tape recorder and a dream in Rochester, N.Y. Ten-year-old Nelson Roger Behelfer sat in front of the television and practiced play-by-play during baseball games. But in his mind he wasn't little Nelson Behelfer, he was Neil Rogers, Radio Announcer. Ta-Daaaaa.

He got his first radio job when he was 17 and worked his way through a variety of jobs in a variety of northern stations before landing in Sarasota in 1973. There, he became a talk show host by accident. The elderly man who was supposed to do the show had high blood pressure and developed a nose bleed before air time. Rogers, who was spinning records at the time, took over.

He came to South Florida in 1975 and hopped eventually to WKAT in Miami Beach. His popularity kept opening doors. "We're all whores in this business. We go where the money is," he said.

It was there that he took a major risk with his popularity and his whole career. He came out of the closet on the air, and his ratings dropped like hanged men.

Rogers had known since he was 10 that he was a homosexual, but - like a lot of radio personalities afraid of backlash - kept it hidden until Dec. 17, 1976. He gambled that his popularity would overcome it, and eventually it did. People still call him up on the air now and then to call him names, but he just cuts them off.

The bottom dropped out of his ratings once more, but it was a hellish fall.

The climb to the ratings mountaintop came in 1984, when Fidel Castro agreed that 300,000 more Cubans would be allowed to emigrate. Most of them would wind up in South Florida.

Calls started pouring in at Talk Radio WNWZ, where Rogers was the star. The Miamians were scared. One caller said to shoot them before they land, and the anti-Cuban sentiment - egged on by Rogers, who called on his listeners to end mass Cuban immigration - became thicker and meaner every day.

As many as 300,000 people a week called, and pretty soon people forgot the issues - like what in the world South Florida was going to do with them all - and just started calling names. It became insane, so out of control, that one day Rogers just couldn't stand it.

In some ways, maybe, he had created it. But like Frankenstein, his creation was somehow deformed by forces beyond his control. He decided he wouldn't give it any more air time.

The phones lines stopped lighting up.

If Neil wasn't nasty, no one wanted him.

Over time - over many lonely nights of staring at mute phones - the people came back to him. He was still mean and nasty, maybe not as much as before, but still meaner and nastier than anyone else.

He has yet to achieve the overwhelming popularity of the hate and fear years, but has regained his place at the top and sits on it to this day.

That doesn't mean the loneliness has all been brushed away.

He is a celebrity who is worshipped from afar. To most listeners, he is only The Voice. After hours, he usually just goes home to his satellite dish - he is a rabid Cubs fan - or to the track to bet the nags.

He has friends, but even those friends are kept at a distance.

When he suffered a mild stroke in his sleep five months ago, he didn't even know it until he came to work, leaned into the microphone, and tried to talk.

The words came out, but instead of the smooth, well-modulated delivery, it was creeping, crawling abomination - slurring, distorted words. After a few days it went away, but for at least a while Rogers, The Voice, stared into the possibility that his career was over.

That doesn't mean it turned his life around and made him a saint. He still hangs up on people on the air, still plays a cassette of pig noises to show disgust, still refers to city leaders in Miami as "all standing out on the beach waiting for a rubber raft to wash up, or ... trying to learn a second language," still refers to old people as "trying to get across the street without spilling their prune juice."

Still nasty, after all these years.

But it's just radio, right?

"When I leave every day at 2 o'clock, I erase it," he said. "It's all just a show."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Do your cellphone pictures look like this?

Great post on the New York Times photo blog Lens today featuring the cellphone pics of Shawn Rocco, a professional photographer for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC.

He shoots with a Motorola E815, a 1.3 megapixel cameraphone.

Gotta love those wacky Republicans!

NEWS ITEM: Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford arrived [at] the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this morning, having wrapped up a seven-day visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, he said. Sanford said he had not been hiking along the Appalachian Trail, as his staff said in a Tuesday statement to the media.

Perhaps South Carolina should consider changing their state song:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Screwed by the Herald

Since 1951 the Miami Herald has won 20 Pulitzer Prizes.

Many of those were won because the Herald chose to stand up for rights of the wrongfully accused and society's less fortunate; including the most recent prize for photography that showed the appalling conditions in Haiti after hurricanes ravaged the island nation.

In 1983 the paper won a Pulitzer for editorials that campaigned against the detention of illegal Haitian immigrants by federal officials.

In early 2006 the Herald covered the struggle of University of Miami janitors - many of whom earned as little as $7 per hour - and their fight to earn a living wage.

The Herald printed numerous stories and signed opinion pieces detailing the janitors' plight.

In a March 18, 2006, opinion piece Herald columnist Ana Menendez wrote,
"Now that the University of Miami has promised them [janitors] higher pay and healthcare benefits, praise also goes to President Donna Shalala , who after weeks of pressure from faculty, students and others, proved that in difficult circumstances, decent people can be persuaded to do the right thing."
Menendez closed her column with these lines:
``The Shalala effect has reached City Hall,'' [Tomas] Regalado said. ``The UM thing was a wake up call for everyone.''

Who knows? The Shalala effect may even reach as far as 1 Herald Plaza: The Miami Herald's contracted cafeteria staff turns out wildly affordable fare, but workers there don't enjoy the same medical benefits I do.
It's unknown if the Herald cafeteria workers have received those medical benefits.

But if Menendez was still at the Herald, (she's currently on leave from the Herald and teaching at the American University in Cairo) she might be inspired to take up the cause of another group of oppressed workers at the Herald: freelance photographers.

The Herald recently presented its freelance photographers with a contract that has both the freelancers and staff photographers seeing red.

Because of recent staff cutbacks and buyouts, the Herald now relies more and more on work produced by freelancers who are considered independent contractors.

This arrangement is nothing unique to the Herald. Many large newspapers and magazines use the work of freelancers.

But as such, freelancers receive a flat rate for their work and aren't eligible for the benefits enjoyed by full time staffers.

Freelancers who shoot for the Herald are also not given expense money, and are not compensated for mileage although freelancers for papers like the New York Times are reimbursed for expenses.

Herald freelancers receive anywhere from $100 to $200 a day depending on the time spent on assignments. However that small amount was offset by the fact that the freelancers owned the rights to all of the images they produced. Some freelancers made money by re-licensing images to ther publications- a common practice.

Under the new contract that would change.

Random Pixels has seen a copy of the contract that states: "Contractor further grants to the Company all of the rights set forth in the immediately preceding sentence with respect to any and all editorial material previously submitted by Contractor to the Company and published by the Company (the “previous
editorial material”).

In other words the Herald wants ownership of all images produced by freelancers and retroactive ownership of any image ever shot by a freelancer for the Herald.

Under the terms of the new contract, freelancers would not receive any further compensation for those images.

Random Pixels has learned that Herald staff photographers are supporting the freelancers' opposition to the draconian contract.

One email circulating says: "If this contract was to be signed by the freelancers, the Herald would have no need for staff photographers."

As a freelancer myself, I've seen contracts like this before.

Five years ago the New York Times introduced a freelance contract that many photographers called "outrageous" and "insulting."

The Times bullied photographers into signing the document that left the photographers earning less and giving up rights to their work. Those who didn't sign...well, you can guess what happened.

My guess is that the Herald, is attempting to build a stable of low-paid freelancers who will eventually do a majority of the work thereby enabling the paper to get rid of their staff photographers or sharply cutback on the number of staffers.

The Herald contract penalizes this small group of photographers - who earn very little to begin with - and punishes them further by asking them to give up even more.

Whether or not the freelancers cave into Herald management remains to be seen.

On March 21, 2006, after the University of Miami reached a deal with it janitors the Herald editorialized:
"The University of Miami made the right move last week by agreeing to give all of its hourly workers pay raises of at least 25 percent and affordable healthcare coverage. That is a significant pay increase and benefits package for which the university and President Donna Shalala are to be applauded. A strike by UM janitors, supported by some UM students and faculty members, put a spotlight on the university and the labor practices of its contractor, Unicco Services Co. The new policy will immediately benefit many - but not all - UM contract workers and address concerns that date back to 2001.

President Shalala said that UM ``listened to our community.'' The compensation makes sense given the tight labor market and the difficulty of keeping workers. While the janitors' strike isn't over, some Unicco workers are demanding more, including union representation. UM deserves credit for responding to employees' needs.
The Herald's history of support for the downtrodden and afflicted is admirable.

But I wonder if there's any chance that management at the Herald will show the same amount of concern for the welfare and needs of their loyal and hardworking freelance photographers as they displayed for the UM janitors?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Neil Rogers leaves WQAM

According the Neil's website he's taken an early retirement:


MIAMI, Florida, June 22, 2009 – Sports Radio 560 WQAM-AM and Neil Rogers, Inc. have announced that veteran talk show host Neil Rogers is giving up his day to day show on WQAM but will consult with the station as part of a new agreement.

According to Joe Bell, VP and Market Manager for Beasley’s Miami Radio cluster, a sports talk show will launch immediately from 10AM-2PM.

Rogers’ agent and attorney, Norm Kent, said, "he has no intention of seeking other on-air work at this time, and has directed me not to seek any such employment, though under our agreement with WQAM, this is not prohibited.”

First hired in 1997, Neil Rogers was the only general talk host on WQAM which is otherwise dedicated to sports. His popular top-rated show aired from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. EST weekdays.

Mr. Bell added, “Rogers was a ratings leader in Miami for years and we’re happy that we could reach a new accord that works well for both parties.”

The Sun-Sentinel's Tom Jicha has more here. According to Jicha:
Bad blood had been simmering. In May, WQAM fired Rogers' longtime producer, Jorge Rodriguez. On May 18, Rogers, weary of listener comments about Rodriguez, blurted out a profanity aimed at station management. Rogers said he immediately reached for the button that allows seven seconds to delete anything before it gets on the air. However, the button was not working and the expletive aired. Rogers was suspended for three days with pay.

Rogers also said the station was pressing him to give up his relaxed summer schedule, which required him to work only two days a week. Rogers was adamant he wouldn't do this.

Kodachrome discontinued

From the New York Times photo blog, Lens: "Eastman Kodak Company announced on Monday that it would discontinue the manufacture of Kodachrome film, whose name became synonymous with richly saturated color — reds, especially — and postcard-perfect settings."

I can hear all those 20-something photographers out there who've never shot a roll of film asking what's Kodachrome?

Well, sadly, it's too late to find out now.

But, there will always be this:

Miami's condos...full or empty?

The answer to that question depends on what day you read the Herald.

Thursday, June 11, 2009: Downtown Miami condos filling up fast, report says

With dark windows dulling Miami's twinkling skyline, newly built condo towers may look ghostly. But that's changing as the downtown area quickly fills up with flesh-and-blood residents.

Although condo sales remain sluggish, renters are marching in to help lighten things up. Sales are picking up, too.

An occupancy report released Wednesday, commissioned by the Miami Downtown Development Authority, found that 62 percent of the new condos built since 2003 are, in fact, inhabited by humans.
Eleven days later the Herald finds all of those filled-up condos are now mysteriously empty.

Monday, June 22, 2009: Condo dwellers finding empty buildings

Joshua Hamann jokingly compares himself to the last human in a city overrun by zombies. He's not suggesting his neighbors are zombies. The problem is, he has no neighbors.

Hamann dwells in a newly opened condo. And in the six weeks since moving into the gleaming new Everglades on the Bay in downtown Miami, he has felt pretty lonely. Hamann occupies one of only about 50 sold condos in his 49-story tower, out of 409 units.

A couple miles north at Midtown Miami, Alisha Marks knows the same feeling. ''It was pretty much a ghost town when I got here,'' she says.
It might be just a coincidence but Broward New Times has an empty-condo story in this week's issue. Not that the Herald would "borrow" story ideas from another paper.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Miami Dade Transit screws loves its riders

Vicki Mallette, Communications Director for Miami-Dade County responds to last night's post that talked about the elimination of one very important late night bus route:
Here’s some good news for the folks who ride the 88 from Dadeland late at night: we’re bringing back the 12:50 a.m. departure, which should accommodate riders coming in on the last train of the night. It’s going to take a few days to work out the new schedule for the bus operators, so we think it will resume by Monday.

The change happened because our preliminary ridership data suggested that 12:50 run wasn’t being used very much. Once we finalized the data, however, we determined it was worth reinstating. It was that route's bus operator who brought the issue to our attention in the first place.

Based on feedback to 311, there are a couple of other tweaks we’re trying to make to this month’s route adjustments. Stay tuned for more information.

Vicki Mallette
Communications Director
Miami-Dade County

ShamWow Dude can't get a break! CORRECTED

NBC6 picks up my scoop!
NBC Washington picks up my scoop!
NBC Dallas/Ft. Worth picks up my scoop!

Vince Shlomi. better known as the ShamWow Dude, might want to consider staying away from Miami Beach.

Police sources tell Random Pixels that Shlomi was in a car that was involved in a head-on crash last night on the Venetian Causeway. The source says Shlomi was not at fault.

(I reported earlier that this was as a result of the taxi hijacking on South Beach. That was incorrect. This is a separate and unrelated incident.)

Shlomi's run of bad luck started back in February when he got into a nasty scuffle with a hooker at the posh Setai Hotel on South Beach.

Shlomi was transported to Mt. Sinai Hospital for treatment according to my sources.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Miami Dade Transit screws its riders

Miami Dade Transit this week instituted more route reductions and eliminations that have left some riders without a ride home late at night.

Random Pixels evesdropped as two bus drivers on Miami Beach chatted last night about one group of riders who now find themselves without a ride home.

Apparently people who take the last Southbound Metrorail to Dadeland South and then transfer to the 88 bus are now stranded.

The last train arrives at Dadeland South at 12:39am. In the past many of those passengers transferred to the 88 for a ride to 88th St. and SW 157th Ave.

But now, the last westbound bus on Kendall Drive leaves at 11:50pm stranding those riders who arrive on the last train.

The bigshots at Transit have discontinued service on the 88 after midnight.

I'm sure there are others who have been affected but this one strikes us as particlarly bizarre.


What's in the water at FOX News?

FOX News anchor Shepard Smith

A Fox News Channel news writer accused of hitting a cyclist in Central Park earlier this month, dragging him four blocks, and fleeing the scene, has been arrested.

And who can forget this?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Who's in charge at CBS4.com?

It's not a big deal, but you'd think that people who write for a living might at least have a basic knowledge of spelling and the rules of punctuation.

It appears that's not the case at CBS4.

"Bachelors" is plural. Adding an apostrophe indicates possession.

DeFede has new details about the cat killing case

CBS4 's Jim DeFede has just posted an item on his station's website that reveals the case against accused cat killer Tyler Weinman may be entirely circumstantial:
"The case against accused serial cat killer Tyler Weinman is based entirely on circumstantial evidence and could depend on the county crime lab's ability to adapt DNA and other forensic tests typically used for human victims to animals.


"While none of the individual pieces of evidence uncovered by investigators provide clear and compelling proof of Weinman's guilt, prosecutors are hoping that when taken in totality, the evidence will point to Weinman as one of the people responsible for the torture and mutilation of at least nineteen cats.

"They are also hoping items found during a search of Weinman's home – including several knives discovered hidden in Weinman's bedroom – will provide them the proof they will need."
Note that DeFede uses the word "hoping" twice in those first few paragraphs.

Loks like prosecutor Von Zamft has his work cut out for him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

South Beach Chatter

If and when the case of alleged serial cat-killer Tyler Weinman ever makes it to trial it's a safe bet that Weinman's attorney, David Macey, will try his best to keep cat lovers off the jury.

Legal experts say that Macey may succeed in barring some cat lovers from serving but he won't be able to keep all feline aficionados from sitting in the jury box.

Michael Von Zamft, (left) and David Macey, (right)

Whatever happens Random Pixels has learned that at least one cat lover will have a hand in deciding Weinman's future.

Justice building insiders say that Miami-Dade state attorney Michael Von Zamft, who's prosecuting the case, is a major cat lover who owns perhaps as many as five four furry kitties!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Arrest of cat killing suspect reveals a lot about Miami

Later this week the news directors of Miami's TV news stations will announce in a joint statement that in an effort ensure that alleged serial cat-killer Tyler Weinman gets a fair trial, they will take the following steps:

  • They will scale back coverage of the story to one report daily.
  • They will not park live trucks on the street in front of the home of Weinman's parents.
  • The stations will refrain from using lurid and sensational on-screen graphics that identify Weinman as the "cat killer." (CBS4 had a graphic this morning that read "Cat Killer Arrest")
  • All TV reporters covering this story will be instructed to only report facts they can verify.

    It could happen.

    And pigs could fly.

    Miami-Dade police, it appears, did some superb detective work in tracking down and arresting the accused, Tyler Weinman.

    The Herald's Ace Crime reporter, Jose Pagliery, has all the details here.

    If all of the allegations against Weinman turn out to be true, then he's obviously one sick puppy.

    But right now, he's only been accused and not convicted.

    But that's not stopping some of Miami's more introspective computer owners from spewing hate on the various comment sections on Miami Herald.com and Miami New Times blog, Riptide 2.0.

    The Riptide 2.0 post has already elicited over 100 comments, some of them anti-Semitic and homophobic.

    It appears that the Herald has disabled comments on their stories.

    One blogger reports that the Herald had deleted almost 200 comments left by readers on the original story by 1pm yesterday.

    The Sun-Sentinel is allowing comments on their story. As of 5pm Monday almost 900 readers had left comments.

    But those commenters are not alone in their stupidity. At least one politician has already decided that Weinman is guilty.

    The Herald reports "Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson, who represents the area, called him 'twisted and depraved, somehow really not right as a human being.' "

    So if it turns out that Tyler Weinman is disturbed, then he's got lots of company.

    And so it goes.
  • Saturday, June 13, 2009

    Stand by Me

    Musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it travelled the globe.

    11,517,455 views and counting.

    via PlayingForChange.com

    Coming soon...

    Gerald Posner

    Over two years after starting work on a book project with a Miami Beach theme, SoFi resident Gerald Posner is telling friends that he's doing some final fact checking and "working on the copyedited manuscript" of what's sure to be a local bestseller.

    Miami Babylon: A Tale of Crime, Wealth, and Power is set to be published by Simon & Schuster on October 13.

    A blurb on Amazon.com says that the book is the "untold story of Miami Beach, from the Mariel Boatlift and the cocaine cowboys to the hot and changing city it is today."

    Can't wait.

    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Sarah Palin...dumb as dirt

    Watching Sarah Palin attack David Letterman on cable news teevee for the umpteenth time today, I thought of the quote attributed to Will Rogers, "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."

    Her performance reminded me - in a strangely perverse way - of this classic clip of Barney Fife trying to recite the Preamble to the Constitution.

    New Times editor Chuck Strouse swats a flea

    Miami New Times editor Chuck Strouse is pissed.

    That's not news in itself. Most good newspaper editors are perpetually agitated.

    But Chuck's got a bone to pick with his predecessor Jim Mullin, who now publishes the monthly paper Biscayne Times.

    In a post today on Riptide 2.0 Strouse blasts a Biscayne Times column by writer Jack King that calls New Times "a mere shadow of its former self."

    Says Strouse of Mullin: "I once thought Biscayne Times editor and publisher Jim Mullin was a principled, smart journalist. I don't anymore."


    The man who wrote the hit piece for Mullin is one Jack King, who's apparently a Miami media scene bench warmer, who flits from one failed publication to another, writing forgettable tripe.

    In his BT piece he postulates that Miami's media powerhouses are now impotent because Mullin's paper broke a story last month that no other media outlet in Miami had.

    In his BT piece King uses the word "we" a lot, as if he had something to do with Erik Bojnansky's piece.

    King apparently believes that Mullin's Biscayne Times is poised to fill a huge Miami media vacuum that's come about because of the declining fortunes of the Herald and New Times.

    King neglects to mention that the Herald won its 20th Pulitzer Prize last month and Strouse points out that Miami New Times "has won more awards in the past two years than ever before....What has the Biscayne Times won? Ever?"

    It's no secret that I've faulted the Herald for various journalistic lapses over the past few years.

    But it still delivers good reporting that's not found elsewhere.

    And I've had differing opinions with New Times also.

    Jim Mullin is no slouch. He has taken a little-known monthly paper that was once a nothing more than a decent bird cage liner and turned it into a somewhat interesting read.

    But now and then, dark forces overtake Mullin's normally sunny disposition and bad things happen.

    Jack King's column was one of those bad things. It was a self-aggrandizing cheap shot that served no purpose.

    Disclaimer: I have known and worked as a freelancer for both Jim Mullin and Chuck Strouse.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    New York Times gets punked

    The Daily Show runs amok in NY Times newsroom.

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    End Times
    Daily Show
    Full Episodes
    Political HumorNewt Gingrich Unedited Interview

    From the Miami Herald crime files

    Everglades City, FL

    Got a call today from a filmmaker who was looking for some photos I shot....26 years ago!

    He had found a few photographs I'd shot for the Associated Press at federal court in Miami of drug suspects arriving for their arraignments.

    But this wasn't just any drug bust. This was "Operation Everglades."
    Seems like a sizable number of the inhabitants of the sleepy town of Everglades City, FL (population 524) were supplementing their incomes by importing marijuana.

    One resident told the Herald's Jeff Leen. "Everybody acts like Everglades City is the only town that has smuggling. I guess I'm prejudiced right now because I have three brothers in jail."

    Everglades City resident is taken into custody, July 1983 
    (Miami Herald photo by TIM CHAPMAN)

    And while there was a lot written about the Everglades City smugglers belonging to an era in Florida when things were more relaxed, a federal judge wasn't in a nostalgic mood when in 1984 she sentenced three members of one family to prison terms of 3 to 12 years

    Anyway, the pictures I shot that day are long gone, but I was intrigued enough to look up one of the stories that ran in the Herald more than a quarter century ago:
    Miami Herald, The (FL) - Saturday, July 9, 1983
    by JEFF LEEN / Herald Staff Writer

    In Jane's Restaurant Friday afternoon, four woman were
    discussing "Operation Everglades."

    "They've arrested all the men," said a bartender in her 20s who was wearing a T-shirt with "Florida's Finest Seafood" emblazoned over a bale of pot. "It's going to be a town of women."

    Each woman knew someone arrested Thursday, when 200 federal drug agents and police swooped in and rounded up 11 men and one woman in Everglades City and the surrounding area. Twenty more were arrested in Naples, other parts of Florida, Alabama and Kentucky. Ten others were being sought Friday.

    Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) spokesmen credited the two- year undercover operation with supplying information that led to 149 previous arrests and the seizure of nearly half a million pounds of marijuana .

    On Thursday night, the bartender saw three customers instead of the usual 30. Another woman's 19-year-old son lost his job when the fishing boat he worked on was seized.

    "Everybody acts like Everglades City is the only town that has smuggling," said one woman who thought the raid was blown out of proportion. "I guess I'm prejudiced right now because I have three brothers in jail."

    Everglades City 's was quiet Friday, but many residents were angry at the law enforcement invasion of what has been called "the private domain of smugglers."

    "It was like the Mod Squad came in, like they were making a movie," said Mayor Herm Askren, an outspoken opponent of the smuggling who nonetheless was upset by the military style of the raid.

    Askren and others worried that the confiscations of several fishing vessels Thursday would wreck the upcoming stone- crabbing season.

    "There won't be enough boats for the town to fish out of here," Askren said. "I think they got about three-fourths of the stone crab fleet."

    But National Park Ranger Robert Gibbs said many of the most industrious stone crab fishermen still have their boats.

    "There are some godly people here, some really honest people," said Gibbs. "Maybe this will restore their faith in the system."

    Rev. Clyde Martin of the First Baptist Church in Copeland also welcomed the roundup.

    "This is going to help them have more respect for the law," said Martin, who has been a preacher in the area for 24 years. "This is going to help the young people know you can't get away with wrong."

    Rusty Rupsis, publisher of the Everglades Echo, the town's newspaper, said the arrests shocked the townsfolk even though allegations of marijuana smuggling have long hung over the area.

    "The signs may have been there but we may have been too close to see them," Rupsis said. "The smugglers aren't stealing from you, they're nice people. They don't give you any trouble. You can live next door to most of them and never know the difference."

    Everglades City Councilman Don Barton said the typical local smuggler is not a common criminal. He described them as fishermen seduced by greed in the face of a dwindling industry.

    Tuesday, June 09, 2009


    The highly anticiapted Miami Herald local blog aggregator makes its debut next Monday.

    I've known about this since last January so it's nice to see that it's finally being rolled out.

    Herald online editor Shelley Acoca unveiled the beta version yesterday for a few local bloggers.

    You can see the aggregator here.

    The Herald and local bloggers are now finally partners. And as Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."

    Footnote: I was one of the bloggers invited to view the pages at the Herald Monday but due to a last minute scheduling conflict I had to cancel.

    New Times Best of Miami 2009

    The highly-anticipated, widely-imitated but never-duplicated New Times Best of Miami issue is set to hit the streets in a couple of days.

    But the online version is already up.

    It would be an understatement to say that the boys and girls at New Times have eclectic tastes.

    So we were more than just a little curious as to who would win Best Blog.

    And they didn't disappoint with their selection this year of The South Florida Watershed Journal as Best Blog. WTF???
    "[T]he journal is occasionally poetic, often funny, and always charming in its presentation of the watery world."
    (All kidding aside, "Watershed" is a very well done blog. And unlike a lot of South Florida blogs, it's run by two people (scientists) who actually know what they're talking about.)

    Need more proof that they're permanently out to lunch at New Times? Everyone knows that the Best Place to People-Watch in South Florida is Lincoln Road on a Sunday or Coconut Grove.

    The New Times choice? Cape Florida Lighthouse at Bill Baggs State Park. New Times says:
    "Check out families flocked inside the picnic areas, grilling hot dogs and carne asada."
    Travel to Cape Florida to watch people grilling hot dogs?? Whatever you say guys!

    And the Best Mile of Miami according to New Times? Biscayne Boulevard between 54th and 79th streets. It sure is...if you have a police escort! Thanks for the heads up New Times; but I think I'll pass!

    All that aside, The BOM issue is still one of the most popular issues of the paper with both readers and advertisers. Pick up your copy soon!

    Monday, June 08, 2009

    Why we hate the rain

    Miami Beach-based Playboy photographer Jarmo Pohjaniemi tells me an email that the recent rains "have cancelled 7 of our shoots so far. It blows!"

    But he does like these pictures.

    Blogging about blogging

    A story in the NY Times Sunday about bloggers who give up blogging contained this interesting fact:
    According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.
    More than a few of those former bloggers apparently thought they were going to get rich or have a huge following of readers hanging on their every word.
    “I was always hoping more people would read it, and it would get a lot of comments,” [Judy] Nichols said recently by telephone, sounding a little betrayed. “Every once in a while I would see this thing on TV about some mommy blogger making $4,000 a month, and thought, ‘I would like that.’ ”
    For the record, we here at Random Pixels blog for neither money nor fame. But if any of that should come our way....

    Saturday, June 06, 2009

    The Great Flood of 2009

    Yes, I was out in waist deep water yesterday following one of the worst storms I've ever seen in Miami Beach.

    Shot a bunch of pics that Jose Duran at Miami New times has
    organized into a slideshow.

    Friday, June 05, 2009

    L.A. crime story

    Veteran LAPD detective arrested in 1986 killing
    A veteran Los Angeles Police Department detective was arrested today in connection with the 1986 slaying of her ex-boyfriend's wife, marking one of the few times in the department's history that one of its own officers has been accused of murder.

    Stephanie Ilene Lazarus, 49, was arrested this morning at 8 while working at Parker Center, the LAPD's downtown headquarters. Police allege that Lazarus beat and fatally shot Sherri Rae Rasmussen, a hospital nursing director, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

    Random Pixels Quote of the Day

    from the Galveston County Daily News:

    In a story about a Texas man found not guilty for cursing in front of a neighbor and his daughter, the father of the girl, Michael Rainey, said:
    “A little piece of America died today when a jury of six says it’s OK to curse in front of a 13-year-old when asked not to.”
    Apparently Mr. Rainey has never heard of freedom of speech. Cue the music!

    Wednesday, June 03, 2009

    Koko Taylor - 1928-2009

    Chicago blues legend Koko Taylor dies at 80

    The Tank Man of Tiananmen

    Jeff Widener/ Associated Press

    The New York Times photo blog "Lens" has a fascinating look at how one of the most widely reproduced images from the Tiananmen Square uprisings of 20 years ago was made.

    As the Times blog post points out, there were three other versions of the famous photo made on June 5, 1989.

    But the photograph most closely associated with this event was shot by then AP photographer Jeff Widener who joined the AP after a stint with the now-defunct Miami News.

    South Beach Local adds more stops

    The South Beach Local has added several new stops.
    The local bus will now include stops at Island Avenue on Belle Isle and nearby the cultural campus at 21st Street, which includes the Miami City Ballet, the Bass Museum of Art and a local branch library. The extended route near the cultural campus will go up Washington Avenue to 21st Street, head east toward Park Avenue and south to 19th Street before jogging back to Washington Avenue, according to a map provided by Miami-Dade Transit.

    Service is expected to start on June 14.

    And it's still just a quarter! Oh boy!

    Tuesday, June 02, 2009

    Rock star hates MIA

    photo by Gerrit Wenz via Flickr

    The New York Times profiles Michael McKagan of the Velvet Revolvers in its "Frequent Fliers" column today.

    In a Q and A he's asked what his least favorite airport is.
    "Miami International. This airport has, hands down, the most sloppy baggage control. If you are returning from an international flight, good luck finding your bag in the pile. And I do mean 'pile.' "

    Monday, June 01, 2009

    Miami Herald Flashback

    From the New York Times, Oct. 14, 1998
    In the most painful of a series of recent belt-tightening moves, The Miami Herald's top editors said yesterday that the newspaper's Sunday feature magazine, Tropic, would close before year's end.

    The newspaper's executive editor, Douglas C. Clifton, said the move would save at least $2 million annually, more than half of which will be used to beef up the sports and business pages.
    ''When I got here in 1985,'' said Tom Shroder, the executive editor of Tropic, ''I was told, 'You're taking a job at a place that might not be here six months from now.' ''
    Today former Tropic editor Shroder - who joined the Washington Post after leaving the Herald - announced he's taking a buyout offer from the Washington Post, where he was editor of the Washington Post Magazine.

    Tweeting Brit twit meets his match

    Jogger Hits Tree While Tweeting

    Life Magazine Releases Just Discovered Marilyn Monroe Photos

    Photo: Ed Clark/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

    via Gawker.com
    In 1950 Life photographer Ed Clark received a call from an executive at 20th Century Fox lauding a "hot tomato" the studio had signed. She was an unknown named Marilyn Monroe. Clark photographed her later that year in Los Angeles' Griffith Park. Never-used negatives from the shoot were recently discovered.

    Life has put eighteen of the shots on their website, part of an ongoing effort to digitize their entire photo archive. Clark is quoted in one of the captions as saying because she was an unknown at the time, he got to spend a lot of time shooting her in the park, a shoot in which she read poetry during her breaks. The only clue to why the photos were never published comes via an editor's note found with the negatives in the archives that read, "this take was over-developed and poorly printed."

    GM reinvention?

    The New York Times asks "Can General Motors make up for decades of mistakes and misfires in a minute?

    "That is the ambitious goal of a 60-second commercial to begin running on television on Wednesday. The spot is already available on a Web site and YouTube.


    Or maybe they should get back to basics like they did in this 1950's commerical shot in South Florida.

    Obama "Date Night" Wrapup

    The Daily Kos reports "that [the] Republicans are apoplectic about President Obama's 'date night' in New York is pathetically predictable."

    I'm not quite sure what the Republicans are complaining about. Even maximum security prisoners on death row are let out of their cells for an hour a day.

    MSNBC's Chris Matthews calls the Republican criticism of the outing a "cheap shot."

    Is there anything the Republicans don't complain about?
    Obama can't even order a 'burger with mustard without the right-wing nuts getting their panties in a bunch and painting him as "foreign and elitist."

    But contrast Obama's night out with the vacation record of George W. Bush.

    The Daily Kos breaks it down:
    By March 2008, Bush had spent all or part of 879 days at his Crawford, Texas ranch or at Camp David, surpassing Reagan's mark of 866.

    By the time he left office, George W. Bush had made 149 trips to and spent 487 days at Camp David, with another 77 getaways to (and 490 days at) Crawford.

    Toss in 11 visits and 43 days at his folks' compound in Kennebunkport, Maine and President Bush spent 1020 days - 35% of his presidency - getting away from the White House.
    Some restaurant trivia: The Obamas visited the Blue Hill Restaurant in Greenwich Village.

    An Internet search reveals that the Blue Hill was inspected in July 2008 but that restaurant personnel interfered with the inspecting officer requiring a follow up visit in August 2008.

    All that aside, the New York Times' Frank Bruni rated the Blue Hill "excellent" in an August 2006 review.

    Bruni also says the Obama's choice of Blue Hill was a "smart money bet."